Predynastic Period

Predynastic Period
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The Predynastic Period refers to a time in ancient Egyptian history before recorded history. Because we lack written records from this era, our knowledge of this time is completely reliant on the archaeological record. Excavations have revealed that two major cultures existed during this time period. The first is known as the Badarian culture, named after the Badari region, which had the largest concentration of settlement sites.

Evidence in the form of grave goods suggests that even at this time there was an unequal distribution of wealth, with the wealthiest members of society being buried separately from the graves of the poorer members of society. The Badarian culture is best distinguished by the fine pottery vessels that they buried with their dead. The pottery was made by hand from Nile silts. Often they went to a great deal of effort refining the clay and produced vessels with very thin walls—no later period of ancient Egyptian history ever matched the quality of Badarian vessels.

The second major culture of the Predynastic Period is the Naqada culture, named after the Upper Egyptian site of Naqada, where archaeologist Flinders Petrie discovered a large cemetery of Naqada culture graves in the nineteenth century. The graves of this prehistoric population were more elaborate than those of the Badarian culture. They often consisted of a body buried in the fetal position covered by an animal skin or reed mat and accompanied by grave goods such as black-topped pottery, stone palettes in the shape of various animals, flint knives, combs made of bone or ivory, and other various artifacts.

The Naqada culture originated in southern Egypt, but archaeological evidence indicates that it spread as far north as the Nile Delta and as far south as Nubia (modern Sudan). As time progressed, Naqada burials became increasingly elaborate in size and the amount of funerary offerings until eventually the very wealthiest members of society are buried in tombs. In the last stages of the Naqada culture, Egypt became united politically and the stage was set for the emergence of Egypt’s earliest dynasties.

- Amber Myers Wells, (2006)