Ancient History

Egypt’s Golden Sands Reveal the Origins of Ancient Egypt

Map and archaeological site in Egypt. Image Credit: (Czekaj-Zastawny et al., African Archaeological Review, 2019).

Pre-pharaonic Egypt is s great enigma for historians and Egyptologists. To understand the origin of ancient Egypt, we must dive into history before the great Pharaohs ruled a country that we would come to call Egypt.

Thousands of years ago before the pyramids of Egypt were built, a mysterious people inhabited parts of both Upper and Lower Egypt. Before massive, prosperous cities were built along the Nile river, different cultures came and went to different parts of the Nile.

Slowly but steady, these people developed, transitioning from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle into a more permanent one. Tools were developed, agriculture evolved, and people slowly obtained the necessary requirements that would allow them to create more permanent settlements.

The creation of permanent settlements would then give rise to commerce, religion, and the very first traces of evolved architecture in the region.

Hatshepsut's trading expedition to the Land of Punt. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hatshepsut’s trading expedition to the Land of Punt. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Recent Excavations

Egypt’s golden sands hide many mysterious beneath its surface.

Preserving history for thousands of years, there are many secrets that remain hidden beanth the surface, waiting for archeologists to unearth.

One such site, hiding incalculable treasures beneath the sand is located near Gebel Ramlah in Southern Egypt.

Archeological missions have revealed six burials which date back from pre-pharaonic times in Egypt.

The discoveries have allowed scholars to better understand the enigmatic Neolithic culture of the people who lived in the Nile plain before the ancient Egyptians came into the picture, and who laid the very foundations for their civilization.

Pre-Dynastic Egypt

The dynastic period of Egypt is thought to have begun around 3100 B.C. But long before the first Pharaoh ruled the land, Egypt was already rich in history.

Before dynastic Egypt, between 9300 and 4000 B.C., the Nile plain was inhabited by different groups of Neolithic peoples.

These villages and early settlements have not been well investigated, at least in relation to their successors, mainly because most of these archeological sites are often poorly accessible and located in places which could be considered unsafe. Furthermore, many remains of these ancient settlements are located under the old Nile flood plain or in peripheral deserts.

But the quest to understand the origin of ancient Egypt is much stronger than obstacles in the way.

Arrowheads from Al Fayum. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Arrowheads from Al Fayum. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

That’s why scientists from the Combined Prehistoric Expedition, with permission from the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt (SCA), have begun studying the Neolithic sites of the western desert of Egypt.

Although not lush, the Neolithic was more humid than today, which allowed the former shepherds to populate areas that are now located in the middle of nowhere.

The scientists have found that during the last part of the Neolithic period, the ancient settlers began burying the dead in ancient tombs. These skeletons are precisely what provides experts with unprecedented, critical information that can reveal a lot about their history and lifestyle.

Decades of long studies

Between 2001 and 2003, the scientist’s members of the expedition unearthed three cemeteries comprising of 68 skeletons. The tombs contained objects with ornamental ceramics, seashells, stone jewelry, and ostrich eggshells.

In addition to the above, archaeologists also found ornamental jewelry and stone weapons.

These people were tall, and most likely enjoyed a long life, healthy life, and showed low rates of infant mortality.

The men measured about 170 cm in height, while women around 160 cm. The majority of men and women lived for more than 40 years, some up to 50 years, an advanced age for a period in history with much lower rates.

Recent archeological expeditions, between 2009 and 2016, found two cemeteries that told a very different ancient story.

Scientists analyzed around 130 skeletons discovering that they were accompanied by few artifacts and that they suffered from increased infant mortality, as well as a shorter life and stature.

This raised numerous questions among experts; Why were there so many differences between the two burials?

One theory is that they may have been different populations, but it is unlikely based on general physical similarities.

Therefore, experts argued that they might differ by status, with one cemetery representing the elite and the other one workers and lower class.

This, experts have revealed, may be the first proof of such a phenomenon in Egypt. But in addition to cemeteries, tombs and countless ancient artifacts dating back to a time before ancient Egypt came into existence, the archeologists reported discovering a number of structures dating back thousands of years.

The researchers revealed that the people they studied were the very same culture that erected megaliths, shrines, and calendar circles made of stone, some of which resemble, although in a smaller size, the popular ancient site of Stonehenge.

These people were in fact, one of the cultures that would eventually evolve and give rise to the land of Pharaohs, mummies, and pyramids.

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