Week 2 Blog Post

During this week’s reading I was intrigued by the various differences of the Predynastic civilizations Buto-Ma’adi culture of Lower Eqypt and Naqada culture of Upper Egypt. Although these cities were approximately 600km away from each other along the Nile they exhibited differences in culture, settlement size, economic trade and ceramic traditions. Buto-Ma’adi areas showed less evidence of major settlement and the burial sites were far fewer than in Naqada.

The Buto-Ma’adi settlement sites were better preserved while the Naqada settlement sites were not and their culture was greatly depicted through excavation of burial sites.  Through analysis of burial sites the differences between the cultures became apparent. Buto-Ma’adi sites were very simple and showed little cultural significance. This differed from the Naqada burial sites which showed higher levels of social complexity and varying social levels. These differences in burial sites represent a continuation of the Predynastic culture into ones that were more material based, evident in the Naqada culture. The materials being referred to are agricultural items, ceramics, pottery, mud-brick architecture and others that were used to develop a trade between civilizations.

As depicted earlier there were many differences between Buto-Ma’adi and Naqada cultures, however even in the Naqada culture itself there were varying degrees of social complexity. In the Naqada area there were several cemeteries, the Great New Race cemetery, Cemetery B and Cemetery T. These began with very small burial sites with few grave goods ranging to the social elite burial sites of Cemetery T which possessed many grave goods and any artifacts.

As I continued to read more about these cultures I found it very interesting to find that from burial sites archaeologist were able to depict so much of the society and the status of the burial inhabitants. Although not much has been preserved and many areas have been tarnished through robbery and weathering we can still learn a great deal about historic cultures from archeology.


3 thoughts on “Week 2 Blog Post

  1. As you mentioned there are many interesting differences between the civilizations that developed in Buto and Ma’adi compared to that of Naqada. Given the different ways in which each area has been preserved over the years, archaeologist are able to learn many things about ancient Egypt from these civilizations. The main source of these ancient goods comes from the examination of burials and the related grave goods.

    One of the most important things archaeologist are able to learn by comparing these sites is the differences in material cultures and social status. Most of the graves in the Buto-Ma’adi culture had few grave goods which shows that there was little difference between the individuals of the society. However, when these graves are compared to those of Naqada graves there is a shocking difference. Many of the graves in Naqada culture are accumulating more and more grave goods at certain sites. This shows archaeologist that there was a change in social values that placed more importance on material goods as a way of showing one status. This shift in social norms raises many questions for archaeologist. What caused the social structure of Naqada to change? How long did it take for this change to take place? What was the purpose of this shift to a more materialistic society? Luckily archaeologist are able to answer these questions by examining the many burial sites and grave goods that have survived through to the present.

  2. The differences between the two cultures of Buto-Ma’adi and Naqada also struck me as interesting especially when referring to the burial sites. It is always fascinating to see what kind of information you can get from the excavations of burial sites about the culture and how they are different from the cultures around them. It can show archaeologists and scholars the importance of the deceased to the living, their beliefs in the afterlife and sometimes even how the deceased died. With the case of Buto-Ma’adi and Naqada, the differences in burial sites show a lot about the distinctions between the two cultures. The simple and usually unadorned burial sites in Ma’adi vary greatly with the multiple cemeteries and the garnished burial sites of the Naqada that even show social status differentiation. These changes in the ways they buried their dead may even give reason as to why the Ma’adi site was eventually abandoned as many people believe the cause was because the Ma’adi were intimidated by the Naqada and their diverse culture.

    Matt also asked many great questions as to why these changes occurred in these cultures with them shifting from being so simple to the increase in the significance of material goods. He also made a good point that we are lucky that archaeologists are able to answer those questions through excavating these sites and are able to attain more knowledge about these cultures and why they appear to be so different.

  3. It is true that much information can be gleaned about a people and their belief structure from their mortuary practices. The interesting case with Egypt comes that while we have a great wealth of knowledge supplemented by writing in later times, for many of the Dynastic sites the only resource available is what is left in the archaeological record in the form of grave goods. While it can be informative I think there is also some danger in extrapolating too much of the beliefs that emerged and developed with pharaonic Egypt and applying them to their predecessors.

    There are still clearly several different cultural groups at play across a large expanse of time and geography. The A-Group in Lower Nubia differed from their Naqada counterparts and sometimes buried their dead with “fringed leather garments, bags, and caps” as well as “a large number of animal burials”. (No author listed, The Rise of Complex Society and Early Civilization, 102) At the Naqada site in the Wadi Abu el-Suffian we also see animal burial with not only domesticated animals but also wild species such as “auroch, baboon, crocodile, elephant, gazelle, hare, hartebeest, and hippopotamus”. (No author listed, The Rise of Complex Society and Early Civilization, 100) One of these tombs, Tomb 24, shows some attempt at preservation of an animal carcass that was placed on its left side, perhaps in a treatment similar to humans. We also see a variation from Naqada burials that Petrie recorded as typically being buried “resting on the left side facing west, with the head to the south” which is the “opposite of what was recorded for the Ma’adi burials.” (No author listed, The Rise of Complex Society and Early Civilization, 97)

    While it seems like these practices carry great significance to their people, the absence of a written record at this time makes it very difficult to interpret exactly what meaning it held for them. While certainly we see the roots of later Egyptian mortuary practices in some of these acts, it is difficult to even infer that it held the same meaning for later Egyptians as it did for their Predynastic brethren.

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