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Content created: 080726
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Glossary

A-C, D-G, H-L, M-O, P-R, S-Z
Amratian [am-RAY-shun]
The period also called Naqada I, about 4000-3500.
Atum-Ra
A creator god, worshipped at Heliopolis, where his priests tried to make him prior to all other gods.
Badari
The type site, located about midway between Luxor and Cairo, for the Badarian assemblage of the Upper Egyptian early Neolithic.
Black Land
An ancient Egyptian term for the area along the Nile that was flooded. Because of the silt carried by the river, the annual flood acted both to moisturize and to fertilize the ground, providing the basis for the very productive Egyptian agriculture. See Red Land.
cartouche
A stylized knotted rope drawn around names of pharaohs in inscriptions. In earliest dynasties, a serekh was used instead.
cenotaph
Fake tomb, usually built when it is desirable to have a focal point for the cult of the dead, but when the body is unavailable. Some pharaohs had a tomb in one part of Egypt but a cenotaph in another. Modern cenotaphs are sometimes erected for people lost at sea or whose bodies are otherwise unavailable.
Cleopatra VII
Ruler of Egypt 51-30 BC, mistress of Julius Caesar, and mother of his son Caesarion (Ptolemy XV). After Julius Caesar's assassination, Cleopatra became the mistress of the Roman general Marc Anthony, with whom she committed suicide as Octavian's forces captured Egypt for Rome. Octavian, after becoming the first Roman emperor (Caesar Augustus) in 27 BC, ruled Egypt as his personal estate.

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desertification
A process of climate change in which decreasing moisture gradually results in desert conditions. The process of desertification in the Sahara was by no means uniform. Northern Africa has always been subject to long periods of drier and wetter weather, and the period from about 7000 to 2500 BC corresponded to a "pluvial," or wet period within the longer desertification process that continues even today, that is, the pluvial was a temporary and partial reversal in a longer period of drying, drawing some human population back into reestablished grasslands appropriate for a herding adaptation, and even offering the possibility of farming. Because these processes last thousands of years, we must assume that ancient populations were unaware that changes were occurring.
Djoser
Third dynasty pharaoh who built the step pyramid and arguably established once and for all the divine status of the pharaoh and the subordination of all regions to his authority. His second-in-command and constant adviser in this was the famously ingenious Imhotep.
dynasty
A ruling family occupying a throne over several generations.
Elephantine
The region around modern Aswan. Elephantine was the southernmost nome of the ancient Egyptian administration and was a thriving market as well as a critical military outpost and a center for the worship of the patron god Khnum. The Egyptian name was Abu, but it was also called Sunu in Egyptian (Syene in Greek), meaning "market." The modern name "Aswan" derives from this.
Gerzean [grrr-ZEE-an]
The period also called Naqada II, about 3500-3100. A distinction is made between early and late parts of the Gerzean period, the dividing line coming at roughly 3300.

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hebsed
A rebirthing rite performed to symbolize the renewed youth and vigor of the monarch. In later Egyptian history, when divine kingship had been clearly established, and among some other peoples with traditions of divine kingship, such as the Nyoro of Uganda, the physical strength of the monarch was considered directly connected to the health of the nation, and all possible means were taken to avoid allowing his illness or death to interfere with the notion that he was immune to illness and death. The Egyptian hebsed was intended to reset the clock and restore the Pharaoh to youth and strength. It probably didn't fool anybody very much, but the sentiment was surely appreciated.
Heliopolis
A town near Memphis, Hor-Aha's new capital, which it considered a rival. The priesthood of Heliopolis is associated with the cult of Atum-Ra and the associated complex of myths. (Egyptian: On)
Hor-Aha
Narmer's son and the builder of Memphis, the "city of the white wall" intended to serve as a joint capital of Upper and Lower Egypt.
Horus
The falcon or hawk god, worshipped as the totem of some of the Lower Egyptian nomes, and as the patron of Nekhen. In later Egyptian times, the king was routinely identified with Horus and his father, the dead king, with Osiris. In the Lower Egyptian myth cycle, Horus is the son of Osiris and his wife Isis. In another version his mother is the cow-headed goddess Hathor.
Imhotep
Grand vizier to King Djoser, credited with innovations in many fields. He was deified in later times as a god of medicine and was sometimes identified with the ibis-headed god of writing, which was sometimes used as his emblem. His cult spread even beyond Egypt, and he later was identified with the Greek god of medicine Asklepios. A Greek temple was even built over his putative tomb at Saqqara, where nearly half a million mummified ibises have also been found, apparently votive offerings of hundreds of later generations.
intangible value added
Additional value placed upon an object because of its place of manufacture, its age, its creator, or other facts of its history not visible in the object itself. We do not know how much prestige may have been attached to the simple fact of funerary items being produced in Nekhen. In modern Japan the better sort of wooden paddle for serving rice into bowls nearly always comes from the same tiny region, which specializes in producing "proper" (and expensive) rice paddles, even though cheaper ones made elsewhere would work as well and not be archaeologically distinguishable. Some archaeologists have reasoned that a few centers of early trade may have increased the "value added" quality of their exports through the sanctity or other culturally defined attractiveness of the site in the minds of outsiders; in other words, through what today we might call "hype."
Khnum
The patron god of the Elephantine region, in the area around modern Aswan.

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Maadi
Lower Egyptian site not far from Cairo. Predynastic levels show evidence of exchange of products and ideas both from Upper Egypt and from the Mediterranean coast of Palestine.
mace
A club with a heavy stone on the end used to smash an enemy's skull. Maces are symbols of order and authority in many parts of the world. (A mace is normally carried at the head of the UCSD graduation processions, for example.) In early Egypt, bas-relief carvings on early mace heads may represent the conquests involved with the unification of Egypt.
Macedonia
A region of southern Europe, including northern Greece, southwestern Bulgaria, and the Republic of Macedonia (formerly part of Yugoslavia). Alexander the Great was born in this region.
Manetho [man-ETH-o]
A Greek historian of Egypt. Although his work does not survive, much is known of it through quotations in the works of other ancient authors. Particularly important was his effort to create a coherent and exhaustive list of Egyptian rulers.
Memphis
The city, located near modern Cairo, founded by Hor-Aha as an administrative capital for united Egypt. The priesthood of Memphis was associated with the cult of the god Ptah and associated mythology. (Arabic: Mit Rahina)
Menes
The name given by Manetho to the unifier of Egypt. It is possible that Menes is the same as Narmer, but it is also probable that he was Hor-Aha, Narmer's son.
Merimde
A major Neolithic site in Lower Egypt which provides a particularly clear view of Lower Egyptian life. (Also spelled Marimda.)
mortuary cult
The sum of all attentions paid to the dead. It is clear that even in earliest times more attention was paid to the treatment of the dead in Egypt than in most parts of the world, and we know that by historical times they were furnished with a very wide range of objects and with texts addressed to demons and deities that they might expect to meet in the underworld. It is probable that much of the religious understanding about death that we know about from historical times had prehistoric ancestry, but if we are strict about the term, "mortuary cult" in prehistoric materials means simply materials deliberately provided to the dead. It appears that by Naqada I there was wide class variation in these materials, and that long-distance trade was stimulated by the desire to provide the dead with the most prestigious artifacts possible.
Naqada [KNOCK-ah-dah]
The archaeological site of Naqada (called Nubt, "gold," in Egyptian), located south of modern Luxor (slightly north of modern Edfu); the name of an artifact inventory (and hence a style of life) illustrated by the Naqada finds. The Naqada cemeteries cover a period of almost 1,500 years, and have given the name "Naqada" to this whole long post-Badarian period in Upper Egypt. The terms Naqada I, Naqada II, and Naqada III are sometimes used, as here, in place of the earlier terms Amratian, Gerzean, and Protodynastic.
Narmer
The name given by later Egyptian writers to the unifier of Egypt.
Nekhen
The largest prehistoric archaeological site in Egypt, located near to and contemporary with Naqada. It appears that the ultimate unification of the country may have been initiated by people from Nekhen. (Greek: Hierakonpolis, Arabic: Kom el Ahmer). See Naqada.
nome
Administrative district. "Nome" is a Greek word referring to a province or "district" in modern Greece. It has been applied since the time of Manetho to the thirty-six administrative districts of Pharaonic Egypt in his time (called spt in Egyptian), 22 in Upper Egypt and 14 in Lower Egypt. The word "nome" apparently derives from ancient Greek nomos (νομος), "law." When speaking of Egypt in dynastic times, the powerful "governor" who ran a nome, theoretically on behalf of the Pharaoh, is referred to as a "nomarch" (NOME-ark). The probable association of totemic symbols — animal heads especially — with Upper Egyptian nomes seems to be reflected in some paintings on ceramics of the Naqada II period, which probably suggests that the original "nomes" were small, independent mini-states headed by local warlords and engaged in trade and war with each other.
Nubia
The region immediately to the south of ancient Egypt occupying what is today the south of Egypt and the northern portion of Sudan. Nubians are painted black in Egyptian art, in contrast to Egyptians, who are painted red (male) or yellow (female), so there is reason to believe that they represented a physically different population. Modern Nubia is sadly divided by the international boundary, but also by the enormous reach of Lake Nasser. When the lake was created by the Aswan Dam, it produced a substantial physical barrier between northern and southern Nubian populations, and a dislocation of many Nubians into refugee camps in Egypt and Sudan. From about 2000 BC to 1500 BC Nubia was home to the kingdom of Kush, a land rich in gold exercising control of the Nile valley from the First Cataract at about Aswan on the north to its southern border about a hundred miles south of modern Khartoum. In the early XXIst century intense archaeological study is in progress in remote areas about to be flooded by Sudan's new Merowe dam being constructed at the Fourth Cataract.
Osiris
A major figure of the Egyptian pantheon, associated with the dead, and particularly in early times specifically with a dead pharaoh. In the Lower Egyptian myth cycle, Osiris and his wife Isis are the parents of Horus, associated with the living pharaoh.

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palette
A flat stone used as an abrasive surface used as a small grinding surface for colored minerals or other coloring matter that could be mixed with water to make paint or with fat to make body ointments. Although palettes were everyday items, luxury ones were often made of worked slate, and extremely elaborate ones, probably not intended for actual use, were produced with elaborate scenes of hunting and conquest. Some palettes are among our most important "historical" sources bearing on the unification of Egypt.
Pe
A town in Lower Egypt, symbolized by a cobra, that was apparently successfully gaining control over other towns and rapidly becoming the "capital" of Lower Egypt in the Naqada III period.
pharaoh [FAIR-ro ]
The supreme ruler of Egypt. The word "pharaoh" comes, through the Greek, from Egyptian pr-ʿo, which simply means "great house," somewhat the way we refer to the President and all that surrounds him as the "White House." Any Egyptian king could therefore be called a Pharaoh. In practice, the word is not applied to monarchs before the creation of a unified Egyptian state or after the conquest of Egypt by the Romans.
Philae
An island in the Nile near Aswan. It was sacred to the goddess Isis and was her most important shrine center. The original shrine was flooded by the construction of the Aswan Dam in the 1960s and the remains of the shrine were removed and reassembled on higher ground.
Plum Red Ware
A kind of Naqada I luxury funerary pottery produced for export at the site of Nekhen.
powerfact
An object intended as a symbol of the owner's social position. As interpreted in archaeological contexts, a typical powerfact is a tool or weapon made of precious materials too fragile or too clumsy for actual use, but intended only (or almost only) for display.
Protodynastic
The period also called Naqada III, about 3200-3100. (This overlaps with Naqada II because not all areas changed artifact inventories simultaneously.)
Ptah
The patron god of Memphis and the surrounding area. The patron of artists and embalmers. In the mythology of Memphis, Ptah is worshipped with his lion-headed consort Sekhmet and his son Nefertum, previously separate patron gods of towns in the vicinity.
Ptolemy
A friend of Alexander the Great assigned by Alexander to govern Egypt from 323-305 BC. When Alexander's empire disintegrated after his death and Egypt became "independent" in 305, Ptolemy continued to rule it as Pharaoh under the name "Ptolemy I" (in Greek) or "Soter I" (in Egyptian) until his death in 282, when he was succeeded by his son, who took the throne name Ptolemy II. A succession of pharaohs named Ptolemy continued up to Ptolemy XV, infant son of Anthony and Cleopatra.
Ptolemy XV (Caesarion)
The son of Cleopatra VII by Julius Caesar. Although he bore the title Ptolemy XV, and apparently was a child monarch from 36-30, he did not survive to govern Egypt as an adult.
Red Land
An ancient Egyptian term for the desert. (Contrast: Black Land). In fact, one can distinguish between the open desert and a small strip of desert along the edge of the Black Land that was actually where villages were sited. Nobody really wanted to live very far into the dry and dusty Red Land, obviously, but the good agricultural use that could be made of the Black Land made it wasteful to build houses on it, and furthermore, that was where the flood occurred. For these reasons villages tended to be located a few feet over the line into the desert. (Today the flood control provided by the Aswan dam has changed this to some extent.) Because of the dry conditions, Egypt has produced good archaeological material from all periods from Upper Egyptian "Red Land" sites (especially tombs) just off the flood plane.

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Sahara
A large desert occupying much of northern Africa. It appears that much of the prehistoric Egyptian population moved into the Nile Valley as grasslands in this area were gradually destroyed in the desertification associated with late Paleolithic climate change.
Sahel
A strip of savannah grass land running along the south edge of the Sahara desert.
Saïte Period
The 26th dynasty, a period of Assyrian domination of Egypt. Saïs was a town in the west central Delta coast that served as the capital for the Assyrian puppet government in Egypt. Located on the Rosetta (Canopic) branch of the Nile, it provided a major stop in the trade between Africa and southwestern Asia, as well as trade along the Mediterranean coast and between Egypt itself and the worlds to the north. (It is not the same as Port Saïd, the northern terminus town of the Suez canal.)
Saqqara
A massive cemetery near Memphis, site of Djoser's "step pyramid."
Scorpion
A name given to a figure on a broken mace head shown in the act of ceremonial plowing and accompanied by standard-bearers, possibly representing nomes. It is possible that "Scorpion" is the same as Narmer. In the last few years excavations at Abydos have revealed an eight-room tomb (Tomb U-j) dating to over a century before the first dynasty. It is richly furnished and is interpreted as the tomb of a significant warlord of the region. Many of the pots bear representations of a scorpion, suggesting that it may be an error to interpret the Scorpion on the Mace Head of Scorpion as a proper name.
serekh
A square design, derived perhaps from a representation of a palace, used to contain the names of early Egyptian monarchs in the same way that a cartouche was used to enclose the names of later ones.
Seth
An Egyptian god, the patron of Naqada, represented in the Osiris myth as Osiris' envious and evil brother.
Shabaka Stone
A stone bearing remains of the text of the ritual performed at Memphis and presenting mythology in such a way as to make Memphis ritually more important than its rival Heliopolis. The stone was in use as a millstone when it was rescued by modern Egyptologists and its inscription is in very poor condition.
wadi
A streambed which remains dry except during heavy rains or a rainy season. This Arabic borrowing is widely applied to such gullies in northern Africa and southwestern Asia. A wadi is comparable to a "wash" or "arroyo" in North America.


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