starting with the first Pharaoh Narmer (also known
The Predynastic Period is traditionally equivalent to the
Neolithic period, beginning ca. 6000 BC and including the
Protodynastic Period (Naqada III).
The dates of the Predynastic period were first defined before widespread archaeological excavation of Egypt took place, and recent finds indicating very gradual Predynastic development have led to controversy over when exactly the Predynastic period ended. Thus, the term “Protodynastic period,” sometimes called the “Zero Dynasty,” has been used by scholars to name the part of the period which might be characterized as Predynastic by some and Early Dynastic by others.
The Predynastic period is generally divided into cultural periods, each named after the place where a certain type of Egyptian settlement was first discovered. However, the same gradual development that characterizes the Protodynastic period is present throughout the entire Predynastic period, and individual “cultures” must not be interpreted as separate entities but as largely subjective divisions used to facilitate study of the entire period.
The vast majority of Predynastic archaeological finds have been in Upper Egypt, because the silt of the Nile River was more heavily deposited at the Delta region, completely burying most Delta sites long before modern times.
Qadan and Sebilian cultures
About twenty archaeological sites in upper Nubia give evidence for the existence of a grain-grinding Mesolithic culture called the Qadan Culture, which practiced wild grain harvesting along the Nile during the beginning of the Sahaba Daru Nile phase, when desiccation in the Sahara caused residents of the Libyan oases to retreat into the Nile valley.
Qadan peoples developed sickles and grinding stones to aid in the collecting and processing of these plant foods prior to consumption. However there are no indications of the use of these tools after around 10,000 BC, when hunter-gathers replaced them.
In Egypt, analyses of pollen found at archaeological sites indicate that the Sebilian culture (also known as Esna culture) were gathering wheat and barley. Domesticated seeds were not found (modern wheat and barley originated in Asia Minor and Palestine). It has been hypothesized that the sedentary lifestyle used by farmers led to increased warfare, which was detrimental to farming and brought this period to an end.
The Khormusan industry in Egypt began between 40,000 and 30,000 BC. Khormusans developed advanced tools not only from stone but also from animal bones and hematite.They also developed small arrow heads resembling those of Native Americans, but no bows have been found. The end of the Khormusan industry came around 16,000 B.C. with the appearance of other cultures in the region, including the Gemaian.
The Halfan culture flourished along the Nile Valley of Egypt and Nubia between 18,000 and 15,000 BC, though one Halfan site dates to before 24,000 BC. They survived on a diet of large herd animals and the Khormusan tradition of fishing. Greater concentrations of artifacts indicate that they were not bound to seasonal wandering, but settled for longer periods. They are viewed as the parent culture of the Ibero-Maurusian industry, which spread across the Sahara and into Spain. The Halfan culture was derived in turn from the Khormusan, which depended on specialized hunting, fishing, and collecting techniques for survival. The primary material remains of this culture are stone tools, flakes, and a multitude of rock paintings.
Neolithic Lower Egypt Faiyum A culture
The Harifians are viewed as migrating out of the Fayyum and the Eastern Deserts of Egypt during the late Mesolithic to merge with the Pre-Pottery Neolithic culture, whose tool assemblage resembles that of the Harifian. This assimilation led to the Circum-Arabian Nomadic Pastoral Complex, a group of cultures that invented nomadic pastoralism, and may have been the original culture which spread Proto-Semitic languages throughout Mesopotamia.
The Mushabian culture may have emerged from along the Nile Valley but could also have originated in the Azraq basin of eastern Jordan, and is related to the Natufian culture, which is associated with early agriculture. Epipalaeolithic Natufians carried parthenocarpic figs from Africa to the southwestern corner of the Fertile Crescent, c. 10,000 BC. The Mushabians are considered to have migrated to the Levant, merging with the Kebaran.
Continued desertification forced the early ancestors of the Egyptians to settle around the Nile more permanently and adopt a more sedentary lifestyle.
The period from 9000 to 6000 BC has left very little in the way of archaeological evidence. Around 6000 BC, Neolithic settlements appear all over Egypt. Studies based on morphological genetic, and archaeological data have attributed these settlements to migrants from the Fertile Crescent returning during the Egyptian and North African Neolithic, possibly bringing agriculture to the region. However, other regions in Africa independently developed agriculture at about the same time: the Ethiopian highlands, the Sahel, and West Africa. Moreover, some morphological and post-cranial data has linked the earliest farming populations at Fayum, Merimde, and El-Badari, to local North African Nile populations. The archaeological data suggests that Near Eastern domesticates were incorporated into a pre-existing foraging strategy and only slowly developed into a full-blown lifestyle, contrary to what would be expected from settler colonists from the Near East. Finally, the names for the Near Eastern domesticates imported into Egypt were not Sumerian or Proto-Semitic loan words] which further diminishes the likelihood of a mass immigrant colonization of lower Egypt during the transition to agriculture.
Weaving is evidenced for the first time during the Faiyum A Period. People of this period, unlike later Egyptians, buried their dead very close to, and sometimes inside, their settlements.
Although archaeological sites reveal very little about this time, an examination of the many Egyptian words for “city” provide a hypothetical list of reasons why the Egyptians settled. In Upper Egypt, terminology indicates trade, protection of livestock, high ground for flood refuge, and sacred sites for deities.
Some of the oldest known buildings were discovered in Egypt by archaeologist Waldemar Chmielewski along the southern border near Wadi Halfa. They were mobile structures — easily disassembled, moved, and reassembled — providing hunter-gatherers with semi-permanent habitation.
The Late Paleolithic in Egypt started around 30,000 BC.The Nazlet Khater skeleton was found in 1980 and dated in 1982 from nine samples ranging between 35,100 to 30,360 years. This specimen is the only complete modern human skeleton from the earliest Late Stone Age in Africa.