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Chapter 3 Chapter 6
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Egyptian Origins (4 Abridged)
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Neolithic Upper Egypt: Badari and Naqada

In the north, the marshy delta lands of Lower Egypt, with the deposit of silt and the high water table, are not conducive to the preservation of archaeological materials. Although sites like Merimde and Maadi are immensely useful to understanding Neolithic (and later) Egypt, we know far more about Upper Egypt, where conditions for archaeology have been far more favorable.

Until late in the XXth century one of the most important Neolithic sites in Upper Egypt was Badari, perched on the border between the fertile Black Land (the part flooded each year and farmed) and the dreaded Red Land (the edge of the desert). Badari is located slightly south of the half-way point between modern Cairo and Luxor.

Because Badari and Merimde have been so important in our initial understanding of the Neolithic in Egypt, the terms "Badarian" and "Merimden" have been adopted by archaeologists to refer to the earliest clearly recognized Neolithic adaptations in Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt, respectively. Of the two, however, archaeologists know far more about the Upper Egyptian Badarian adaptation than about the Lower Egyptian Merimden one.


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Egyptian Origins (5 Abridged)
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Badarian Neolithic Settlements of Upper Egypt
(5000-4000 BC)

Badari Graves & Social Class. Excavations at Badari itself revealed a cemetery. Other "Badarian" sites contained more cemeteries. Archaeologists often analyze cemeteries by comparing the variation in graves and interpreting the differences as potential pointers to differences in wealth or status in the community.

Not all Badarian graves were equally rich. On the contrary, the variations in the opulence of the grave goods makes archaeologists feel confident that there were already substantial differences in wealth among the Badarians: the dawn of social class. We shall see this trend growing in subsequent periods.

Badarian sites sometimes include tombs for animals, animals that would later be associated with particular gods in the Egyptian pantheon. The later goddess Hathor was associated with cows, for example, the god Khnum with rams, the god Anubis with jackals. Apparently even in pre-Badarian times, these animals were totems representing various local populations (tribes?) living along the Upper Egyptian Nile. Making tombs for some of them suggests that their special symbolic significance was already great by Badarian times, just as it was centuries later.

But the admixture of new knowledge and understandings from new Saharan immigrants was constantly and gradually transforming the Badarian cultural repertoire. By 3800 BC the Badarian configuration of artifacts had been displaced by something else, something that becomes vividly evident at a site called Naqada and at several sites similar to it, and so it is called by the name Naqada.

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