Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-5f95dd588d-l872j Total loading time: 0.2 Render date: 2021-10-28T22:16:25.354Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

Article contents

Cultural convergence in the Neolithic of the Nile Valley: a prehistoric perspective on Egypt's place in Africa

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2015

David Wengrow
Affiliation:
Institute of Archaeology, University College London, 31–34 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PY, UK
Michael Dee
Affiliation:
Research Laboratory for Archaeology & the History of Art, University of Oxford, Dyson Perrins Building, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK
Sarah Foster
Affiliation:
Institute of Archaeology, University College London, 31–34 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PY, UK
Alice Stevenson
Affiliation:
Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, University College London, Malet Place, London WC1E 6BT, UK
Christopher Bronk Ramsey
Affiliation:
Research Laboratory for Archaeology & the History of Art, University of Oxford, Dyson Perrins Building, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK
Rights & Permissions[Opens in a new window]

Abstract

HTML view is not available for this content. However, as you have access to this content, a full PDF is available via the ‘Save PDF’ action button.

The African origins of Egyptian civilisation lie in an important cultural horizon, the ‘primary pastoral community’, which emerged in both the Egyptian and Sudanese parts of the Nile Valley in the fifth millennium BC. A re-examination of the chronology, assisted by new AMS determinations from Neolithic sites in Middle Egypt, has charted the detailed development of these new kinds of society. The resulting picture challenges recent studies that emphasise climate change and environmental stress as drivers of cultural adaptation in north-east Africa. It also emphasises the crucial role of funerary practices and body decoration.

Type
Research articles
Copyright
Copyright © Antiquity Publications Ltd. 2014

References

Bard, K. A. 2008. An introduction to the archaeology of ancient Egypt. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
Barth, F. (ed.). 1978. Scale and social organization. Oslo, Bergen & Tromso: Uníversítetsforlaget.Google Scholar
Boivin, N. 2004. Landscape and cosmology in the South Indian Neolithic: new perspectives on the Deccan ashmounds. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 14:235–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Briois, F., Midant-Reynes, B., Marchand, S., Tristant, Y., Wuttmann, M., De Dapper, M., Lesur-Gebremariam, J. & Newton, C.. 2012. Neolithic occupation of an artesian spring: KS043 in the Kharga Oasis (Egypt). Journal of Field Archaeology 37:178-91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bronk Ramsey, C. 1995. Radiocarbon calibration and analysis of stratigraphy: the Ox Cal program. Radiocarbon 37:425–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bronk Ramsey, C. 2009. Dealing with outliers and offsets in radiocarbon dating. Radiocarbon 51:1023–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brunton, G. 1937. Mostagedda and the Tasian culture: British Museum expeditions to Middle Egypt 1928, 1929. London: Bernard Quaritch.Google Scholar
Brunton, G. 1948. Matmar: British Museum expeditions to Middle Egypt, 1929-1931. London: Bernard Quaritch.Google Scholar
Brunton, G. & Caton-Thompson, G.. 1928. The Badarian civilization and prehistoric remains near Badari. London: Bernard Quaritch.Google Scholar
Butzer, K. W. 1976. Early hydraulic civilization in Egypt: a study in cultural ecology. Chicago (IL): University of Chicago press.Google Scholar
Butzer, K. W. 2002. Geoarchaeological implications of recent research in the Nile delta, in Brink, E. C.M. van den & Levy, T. E. (ed.) Egypt and the Levant: interrelations from the 4th through the early 3rd millennium BC: 8397. London: Leicester University press.Google Scholar
Caneva, I. 1991. Prehistoric hunters, herders and tradesmen in central Sudan: data from the Geili region, in Davies, WV. (ed.) Egypt and Africa: 615. London: British Museum.Google Scholar
Cappers, R.T.J. & Hamdy, R.. 2007. Ancient Egyptian plant remains in the Agricultural Museum (Dokki, Cairo), in Cappers, R. (ed.) Fields of change: progress in African archaeobotany (Groningen Archaeological Studies 5): 165214. Eelde: Barkhuis; Groningen: Groningen University Library.Google Scholar
Caton-Thompson, G. 1983. Mixed memoirs. Gateshead: Paradigm.Google Scholar
Close, A. E. 1996. Plus ça change: the Pleistocene—Holocene transition in northeast Africa, in Straus, L. G., Eriksen, B. V., Erlandson, J. M. & Yesner, D. R. (ed.) Humans at the end of the Ice Age: the archaeology of the Pleistocene—Holocene transition: 4357. New York & London: Plenum.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dee, M., Wengrow, D., Shortland, A., Stevenson, A., Brock, F., Flink, L. G. & Ramsey, C. Bronk. 2013. An absolute chronology for early Egypt using radiocarbon dating and Bayesian statistical modelling. Proceedings of the Royal Society A 469: no. 2159 20130395. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspa.2013.0395 CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Di Lernia, S. 2001. Dismantling dung: delayed use of food resources among early Holocene foragers of the Libyan Sahara. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 20:408-41. http://dx.doi.org/10.1006/jaar.2000.0384 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Di Lernia, S. 2006. Building monuments, creating identity: cattle cult as a social response to rapid environmental changes in the Holocene Sahara. Quaternary International 151:5062.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Drake, N. A., Blench, R. M., Armitage, S. J., Bristow, C. S. & White, K. H.. 2011. Ancient watercourses and biogeography of the Sahara explain the peopling of the desert. Proceedings ofthe National Academy of Sciences of the USA 108:458–62.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Dunne, J., Evershed, R. P., Salque, M., Cramp, L., Bruni, S., Ryan, K., Biagetti, S. & Lernia, S. Di. 2012. First dairying in green Saharan Africa in the fifth millennium BC. Nature 486:390–94.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Edwards, D. N. 2004. The Nubian past: an archaeology ofthe Sudan. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Edwards, D. N. 2007. The archaeology of Sudan and Nubia. Annual Review of Anthropology 36:211–28. Egyptian Radiocarbon Database. n.d. Available at https://c14.arch.ox.ac.uk/egyptdb/db.php (accessed 29 October 2013).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Eiwanger, J. 1982. Die neolithische Siedlung von Merimde-Benisalame. Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäobgischen Instituts, Abteilung Kairo 38:6782.Google Scholar
Evans-Pritchard, E. E. 1940. The Nuer. A description ofthe modes oflivelihood and political institutions ofa Nilotic people. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Foster, S. Forthcoming. The Neolithic transition in the Nile Valley: modelling social networks. Unpublished PhD dissertation, University College London.Google Scholar
Frachetti, M. D. 2012. Multiregional emergence of mobile pastoralism and nonuniform institutional complexity across Eurasia. Current Anthropology 53:238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Friedman, R. F. & Hobbs, J. J.. 2002. A ‘Tasian’ tomb in Egypt's Eastern Desert, in Friedman, R. F. (ed.) Egypt and Nubia: gifts ofthe desert: 178–91. London: British Museum.Google Scholar
Fuller, D. Q. 2004. The central Amri to Kirbekan survey: a preliminary report on excavations and survey, 2003-2004. Sudan and Nubia 8:410.Google Scholar
Fuller, D. Q. 2011. Finding plant domestication in the Indian subcontinent. Current Anthropology 52:347-62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fuller, D. Q. & Hildebrand, E. A.. In press. Domesticating plants in Africa, in Mitchell, P. & Lane, P. (ed.) The Oxford handbook of African archaeology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Garcea, E.A.A. & Hildebrand, E.A.. 2009. Shifting social networks along the Nile: Middle Holocene ceramic assemblages from Sai Island, Sudan. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 28:304-22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gatto, M. C. 2002. Ceramic traditions and cultural territories: the ‘Nubian Group’ in prehistory. Sudan and Nubia 6:819.Google Scholar
Gatto, M. C. 2011a. The Nubian pastoral culture as link between Egypt and Africa: a view from the archaeological record, in Exell, K. (ed.) Egypt in its African context. Proceedings ofthe conference held at the Manchester Museum, University of Manchester, 2-4 October 2009. Oxford: Archaeopress.Google Scholar
Gatto, M. C. 2011b. The relative chronology of Nubia. Archéo-Nil 21:81100.Google Scholar
Geus, F. 1991. Burial customs on the Upper Main Nile: an overview, in Davies, W.V. (ed.) Egypt and Africa: 5773. London: British Museum.Google Scholar
Grigson, C. 2000. Bos africanus (Brehm)? Notes on the archaeozoology of the native cattle of Africa, in Blench, R. M. & MacDonald, K. C. (ed.) The origins and development of African livestock: archaeology, genetics, linguistics and ethnography: 3860. London: UCL Press.Google Scholar
Haaland, R. 1993. Aqualithic sites of the Middle Nile. Azania 28:4786.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Haaland, R. 1995. Sedentism, cultivation and plant domestication in the Holocene Middle Nile region. Journal of Field Archaeology 22:157–74.Google Scholar
Hanks, B.K. & Linduff, K. M. (ed.). 2009. Social complexityin prehistoric Eurasia: monuments, metals and mobility. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hassan, F. A. 1985. Radiocarbon chronology of Neolithic and predynastic sites in Upper Egypt and the delta. African Archaeological Review 3:95116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hassan, F. A. 1986. Chronology of the Khartoum ‘Mesolithic’ and ‘Neolithic’ and related sites in the Sudan: statistical analysis and comparisons with Egypt. African Archaeological Review 4:83102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hassan, F. A. 2000. Climate and cattle in North Africa: a first approximation, in Blench, R. M. & MacDonald, K. C. (ed.) The origins and development of African livestock: archaeology, genetics, linguistics and ethnography: 6186. London: UCL Press.Google Scholar
Hendrickx, S. & Vermeersch, P.. 2000. Prehistory: from the Palaeolithic to the Badarian culture, in Shaw, I. (ed.) The Oxford history of ancient Egypt: 1744. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Hendrickx, S., Midant-Reynes, B. & Van Neer, W.. 2001. Mahgar Dendera 2 (Haute Egypte): un site D'occupation Badarian. Leuven: Leuven University Press.Google Scholar
Hendrickx, S., Huyge, D. & Wendrich, W.. 2010. Worship without writing, in Wendrich, W. (ed.) Egyptian archaeology: 1535. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
Honegger, M. 2001. Fouilles préhistoriques et prospection dans la région de Kerma. Genava 49:221–28.Google Scholar
Honegger, M. 2004. Settlement and cemetery of the Mesolithic and Early Neolithic at el-Barga (Kerma region). Sudan and Nubia 8:2732.Google Scholar
Honegger, M. 2005. Kerma et les debuts du Néolithique Africain. Genava 53:239–49.Google Scholar
Honegger, M. 2010. La Nubie et le Soudan: un bilan des vingt dernières années de recherche sur la pré- et protohistoire. Archéo-Nil 20:7786.Google Scholar
Kindermann, K., Bubenzer, O., Nussbaum, S., Riemer, H., Darius, F., Pollath, N. & Smettan, U.. 2006. Palaeoenvironment and holocene land use of Djara, western desert of Egypt. Quaternary Science Reviews 25:1619-37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kobusiewicz, M., Kabacinski, J., Schild, R., Irish, J. D. & Wendorf, F.. 2004. Discovery of the first Neolithic cemetery in Egypt's western desert. Antiquity 78:566–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kobusiewicz, M. 2009. Burial practices of the Final Neolithic pastoralists at Gebel Ramlah, Western Desert of Egypt. British Museum Studies in Ancient Egypt and Sudan 13:147–74.Google Scholar
Kobusiewicz, M., Kabacinski, J., Schild, R., Irish, J. D., Gatto, M. C. & Wendorf, F.. 2010. Gebel Ramlah: Final Neolithic cemeteries from the Western Desert of Egypt. Poznan: Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Polish Academy of Sciences.Google Scholar
Krzyzaniak, L. 1991. Early farming in the Middle Nile Basin: recent discoveries at Kadero. Antiquity 65:515-32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kuper, R. & Kroepelin, S.. 2006. Climate-controlled Holocene occupation in the Sahara: motor of Africa's evolution. Science 313:803807.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Lecointe, Y. 1987. Le site néolithique D'El Ghaba: deux anneées D'activiteé (1985-6). Archeéologie du Nil Moyen 2:6987.Google Scholar
Le Quellec, J.-L. 2011. Provoking lactation by the insufflation technique as documented by the rock images ofthe Sahara. Anthropozoologica 46:65125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Linseele, V. 2012. Animal remains from the Early Holocene sequence at Wadi el-Arab, in Honegger, M. (ed.) Kerma, Soudan, 2011-12: 1618. Neuchatel: Institut D'archeologie, Universitede Neuchatel.Google Scholar
Majer, J. 1992. The Eastern Desert and Egyptian prehistory, in Friedman, R. F. & Adams, B. (ed.) The followers of Horus: studies dedicated to Michael Allen Hoffman: 227-34. Oxford: Oxbow.Google Scholar
Marshall, F. & Hildebrand, E.A.. 2002. Cattle before crops: the beginnings of food production in Africa. Journal of World Prehistory 16:99143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mccorriston, J. & Martin, L.. 2009. Southern Arabia's early pastoral population history: some recent evidence, in Petraglia, M.D. and Rose, J. I. (ed.) The evolution ofhuman populations in Arabia: 237-50. London & New York: Springer.Google Scholar
Mccorriston, J., Harrower, M., Martin, L. & Oches, E.. 2012. Cattle cults of the Arabian Neolithic and early territorial societies. American Anthropologist 114:4563.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Midant-Reynes, B. 2000. The prehistory of Egypt: from first Egyptians to the first Pharaohs. Translated by Shaw, I.. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
Midant-Reynes, B. & Buchez, N.. 2002. Ada'ima I: economie et habitat.Cairo:IFAO.Google Scholar
Murray, G. & Derry, D.. 1923. A pre-dynastic burial on the Red Sea coast of Egypt. Man 23:129–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nicoll, K. 2001. Radiocarbon chronologies for prehistoric human occupation and hydroclimatic change in Egypt and northern Sudan. Geoarchaeology 16:4764.3.0.CO;2-P>CrossRefGoogle Scholar
O'Connor, , D. & A. REID (ed.). 2003. Ancient Egypt in Africa. London: UCL Press.Google Scholar
Phillipps, R., Holdaway, S., Wwendrich, & Cappers, R.. 2012. Mid-Holocene occupation of Egypt and global climatic change. Quaternary International 251:6476.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Reinold, J. 2001. Kadruka and the Neolithic in the Northern Dongola Reach. Sudan & Nubia 5:210.Google Scholar
Reinold, J. 2006. Les cimetières préhistoriques au Soudan—coutumes funéraires et systèmes sociaux, in Caneva, I. & Roccati, A. (ed.) Acta Nubica: 139-62. Rome: Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca della Stato.Google Scholar
Riemer, H., Kindermann, K. & Atallah, M.. 2009. Die “Schminkpaletten” des 6. Jahrtausends v. Chr. aus der agyptischen Westwuste. Ein Beitrag zu den Kulturbeziehungen zwischen Wuste und Niltal in prahistorische Zeit. Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archaologischen Instituts, Abteilung Kairo 65:355–71.Google Scholar
Sadig, A. M. 2010. The Neolithic of the Middle Nile Region: an archaeologyofcentral Sudan and Nubia. Kampala: Fountain.Google Scholar
Sadr, K. 1997. The Wadi Elei finds: Nubian desert gold mining in the 5th and 4th millennium BC? Cahiers de Recherches de l Institut de Papyrologie et d Egyptologie de Lille 17:6776.Google Scholar
Salvatori, S. & Usai, D.. 2008. A Neolithic cemetery in the Northern Dongola Reach. Oxford: Archaeopress.Google Scholar
Salvatori, S., Usai, D. & Zerboni, A.. 2011. Mesolithic site formation and palaeoenvironment along the White Nile (central Sudan). African Archaeological Review 28:177211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sherratt, A. G. 1981. Plough and pastoralism: aspects of the Secondary Products Revolution, in Hodder, I., Isaac, G. & Hammond, N. (ed.) Pattern of the past: studiesin honour of David Clarke: 261305. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Stevenson, A. 2009. Palettes, in Wendrich, W (ed.) UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology. Available at: http://escholarship.org/uc/item/7dh0x2n0#page-1 (accessed 25 October 2013).Google Scholar
Trigger, B. G. 1983. The rise of Egyptian civilization, in Trigger, B. G., Kemp, B. J., O'Connor, D. & B.|Lloyd, A. (ed.) Ancient Egypt:a socialhistory: 170. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Usai, D. 2005. Early Holocene seasonal movements between the desert and the Nile valley: details from the lithic industry of some Khartoum variant and some Nabta/Kiseiba sites. Journal of African Archaeology 3:103-15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Usai, D. & Salvatori, S.. 2005. The Is.I. A.O. archaeological project in the el-Salha area (Omdurman south, Sudan): results and perspectives. Africa 60:544–54.Google Scholar
Vermeersch, P. M. (ed.). 2008. A Holocene prehistoric sequence in the Egyptian Red Sea area: the Tree Shelter. Leuven: Leuven University Press.Google Scholar
Vogel, J. C., Visser, E. & Fuls, A.. 2001. Suitability of ostrich eggshell for radiocarbon dating. Radiocarbon 43:133–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Welsby, D. A. 2000. South from Kadruka: the Neolithic in the Northern Dongola Reach, in Krzyzaniak, L., Kroeper, K. & Kobusiewicz, M. (ed.) Recent research into the Stone Age in northeastern Africa: 129-36. Poznan: Poznan Museum.Google Scholar
Wendorf, F. 1968. The prehistory of Nubia. Dallas (TX): Fort Burgwin Research Center & Southern Methodist University Press.Google Scholar
Wendorf, F. & Schild, R.. 1998. Nabta Playa and its role in northeastern African prehistory. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 17:97123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wengrow, D. 2001. Rethinking ‘cattle cults’ in early Egypt: towards a prehistoric perspective on the Narmer palette. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 11:91104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wengrow, D. 2003. Landscapes of knowledge, idioms ofpower: the African foundations of ancient Egyptian civilisation reconsidered, in O'Connor, D. & Reid, A. (ed.) Ancient Egypt in Africa: 121–35. Walnut Creek (CA): Left Coast.Google Scholar
Wengrow, D. 2006. The archaeology of early Egypt. Social transformations in north-east Africa, 10,000 to 2650 BC. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Wetterstrom, W 1993. Foraging and farming in Egypt: the transition from hunting and gathering to horticulture in the Nile Valley, in Shaw, T., Sinclair, P., Andah, B. & Okpoko, A.(ed.) The archaeology of Africa: food, metals and towns: 165226. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
You have Access
26
Cited by

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Cultural convergence in the Neolithic of the Nile Valley: a prehistoric perspective on Egypt's place in Africa
Available formats
×

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Cultural convergence in the Neolithic of the Nile Valley: a prehistoric perspective on Egypt's place in Africa
Available formats
×

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Cultural convergence in the Neolithic of the Nile Valley: a prehistoric perspective on Egypt's place in Africa
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *