Early Bronze Egypt: Rise of the Pharaoh

Early Bronze Egypt: Rise of the Pharaoh

Early Bronze Egypt: Rise of the Pharaoh

Before 8000 BC – Palaeolithic – sites found in the Nile River valley – scattered into desert areas to the west and some more close together along Upper Egypt Nile zone as far back as 100,000 BCE. By 40,000 BCE number of sites expand drastically in previously occupied regions, plus some new regions are beginning to see settlements. Between 19,000-10,000 BCE distinct regions are developing – concentration of sites in Upper Egypt region (by far more than the north) and Middle Egypt – All Sites are Along the Nile. 10,000-7,000 BCE – the number of sites appear to decrease and spread out – Perhaps the flow of the Nile was altered or regression of sort occurred –There’s no strong evidence of any major events.

8000-5200 BC - Epipalaeolithic (Tarifian ; Qarunian - Fayum B - 6000-5000 BC) – distinct cultures based on tool production and Pottery.

6000-5000 BC - Nabta Playa – Site of long occupation – really early hunting and domestication activities –grinders (Barley production) stone tools. Major Center of the region into 5000 BCE.

5200-4000 BC - Fayum Neolithic (Fayum A) – more advanced productions of pottery – contemporary with Merimde. Palettes, bone, stone, and silos….

4800-4200 BC – Merimde

4600-4400 BC - El Omari - Near Cairo

4400-4000 BC – Badarian – Earliest evidence of farmers in Upper Egypt

4000-3300 BC – Maadi – Origins in Lower Egypt – burials outside of settlement areas…Copper Adzes and importing from Sinai and Levant – Contemporary with Naqqada I and II periods.

The Naqqada cultures of Egypt are coincide with the Chalcolithic period in the Levant. Each region of the Ancient Near East developed independently and has its own periodization. In Egypt, the Naqqada periods are divided into:

  1. Naqqada I (c. 4400-3500 BCE)
  2. Naqqada II (c. 3500-3200 BCE)
  3. Naqqada III (c. 3200-3000 BCE)


Naqqada I – Predynastic:

- Black-Topped and Painted Pottery

- Trade with Nubia, Western Desert Oases, and Eastern Mediterranean

- Obsidian from Ethiopia

- Nekhen tomb remains of Lebanon Cedar (possibly from Naqqada II)

What do these characteristics tell us about early Predynastic Egypt? Why level of socio-complexity is required for inter-regional trade, and pottery?

Societies with portable storage devices nearly always practice at least horticulture or a similar form of land modification. In addition, long distance trade isn’t usually found in nomadic cultures. These people also practiced burials, but no grave goods are found in this period.

Naqqada references a specific area in Egypt along the Nile, so the culture is centered in a specific region. There are three known Naqqada I tombs – some pottery was found within indicating funerary goods actually did exist…..

Naqqada II:

New pottery styles, Metal products, stone pots, and perfected flint knives.

Naqada III – Dynasty 0

The formative years of Egyptian political structure that was developed in Upper Egypt. Rulers controlled large areas for the first time in history. Three primary cities of Upper Egypt emerged – Naqqada, Heirakonpolis, and This (Abydos).

There were kings of these regions prior to this period, not much is known about them, but some were considered demigods and heroes. Upper Egypt was the primary activity center of the time.

Hierakonpolis – (Nekhan) –Horus was the primary god, known as the falcon city. Very wealthy rulers emerged from this city. All tombs have been looted long ago. Towns had separate administrative structures called Nome. These were ruled by the king of the nearby cities. Each Nome had its own symbol or emblem, usually related to an animal, and typically the chief deity.

There were 13 known rulers of Hierakonpolis (named after animal personification of gods. White crown was for the ruler of Upper Egypt.) Kings were superhuman and warlike, some writing.

Kings from Dynasty 0 - Dynasty 2 (before 3000-c 2650 BC)






Dynasty 1 (about 3000-2750 BC)




Queen Merytneit





Dynasty 2 (about 2750-2650 BC)










Position uncertain:


Ba (two different writings, possibly two separate kings)

Serekhs – representation of the king’s name, which was composed of an animal god on top of a palace square with the name inside of the square.

King Crocodile found in Tarkham, which is considered Lower Egypt so likely shows they were on the move to take Lower Egypt or this style of administration existed in other regions.

Abydos – Zawiyed al-Aryan, serekh of King Iry-Hor was found. This is the oldest king known by an actual name.

King KA – found in Tarkhan, Ka=soul.

King Scorpion – Known originally from an ornamental Mace head. The depiction shows his name in front of face which is typical. Depicted holding hoe, with man kneeled laying sand down.

Evidence found that indicates other Nomes were being conquered and consolidated by this time.

Tomb U-J is of the scorpion king, many scorpion depictions all over tomb.

Palettes were used to paint but also to mix and make the paint.

Cylinder seals – Used to roll into clay to make symbols.

Foreign relations Pre- and early dynasty Egypt.

Direct trade with many surrounding nations, including Palestine and Mesopotamia. Artifacts found in both regions.

Lapis Materie – Blue rock like mineral, found in Afghanistan which Mesopotamians mined, found in Egypt.

The Early dynastic Period (3000 BCE – 2686 BCE)

Unification of Egypt occurred under King Narmer.

King NarMer (Menes) Catfish and a chisel is his sarekh – Manetho said Narmer not the first unifying king of Egypt, says the name is Menes, it has been accepted mostly that Menes is Narmer. Arguments persist today about this. Manetho says Menes lead the army against Lower Egypt for 62 years and was killed by a hippo.

Herodotus, mentions Menes in an older text than Manetho, says he built Memphis and it becomes an administrative center at this time.

Narmer Palette – Taken as an historical document, tells the story of conquest. The pose in this becomes famous and all future kings are depicted this way. He’s standing above his opponent about ready to whack with a mace with the enemy’s hair in his fist.

Hor-Aha (2nd) – Some believes he is Menes. Also believed to be son of Narmer. Tomb at Abydos (This) Memphis was his administrative center. Some advance in Saqqara.

Den (4th) – first king to use title of king of Upper and Lower Egypt. First to use double crown, this becomes the standard. Largest tomb from period up until now, first with steps. Writing is improving greatly.

DYNASTY 2 –New family in control!

Peribsen –Jacolare – Seth – Brother of Horus often seen as god of chaos, but chaos was used to balance out order. Later was considered evil. First king to use Seth on sarekh. Reunited the kingdom at this time. Suspected that war broke out between Seth and Horus followers. “Hope of all hearts”

Khasekhemwy – had Horus and Seth on top of his sarekh. More success with empire, manetho claims a king between Peribsen and Khasekhmwy.

Ma’at – Quality or concept, name of deity, translation is Justice Righteousness, and truth. Divine force that bring harmony to the universe, if you don’t do right chaos ensues and society unravels.

Heb-Sed Festival – Held in the 30th year of a pharaoh. Creation re-enactments, tests and challenges the pharaoh does to prove his virility and strength. This shows his worth as the ruler. “Feats of Strength” every 3 years after the first this is done again…at the end there’s a re-coronation ceremony.

Horus –Falcon – will become part man and part falcon in later depictions. God of “order” vs. Brother Seth that is the God of “chaos”…Horus is really a god for the kings, not the common.

Dynasty 3 – Old Kingdom (3-6)

Netjenkhet Djoser (2686-2600)– 2nd king of Dynasty and most famous. Great warrior and extended border of Egypt to 1st cataract and became part of Egypt from then on. Buried in Step Pyramid at Saqqarra. 1st of the pyramids and designed by Imhotep. First monumental building of stone in the world. Mostaba Tomb was the old design prior to this and it began to be designed in this way.

Imhotep – Most famous person of the Ancient world, “one who comes in peace”. First architect, first doctor, sage priest, astrologer, and chief minister of Djoser. May have lived under 4 different kings. Medical text written by him used throughout Egyptian history.