Burial Practices at Naqada

The changing burial patterns at Naqada through time are a large indication of social complexity at the site during inhabitation.  In prehistoric and historic societies around the world, people with high social status were buried in a special way, usually with more grave goods such as pottery, jewelry, etc.  For example, complex Native American societies buried their elite in mounds and with a plethora of grave goods to show their status and help them travel better through the afterlife.  Early burials in the Great New Race Cemetery were small in size and only had a few grave goods.  These Naqada I burials do not represent significant social complexity because they do not differ much from each other and the small amount of grave goods does not represent any hierarchy.  However, burials from Naqada II appear to have more social complexity.

Cemetery T was spatially separate from the other cemeteries and consisted of burials of a small elite group.  The graves were large and contained many grave goods.  These artifacts consisted of carved stone vessels and exotic imported materials made into jewelry.  Three of these burials were in elaborate structures that were lined in mud-brick.  This practice shows that more attention was paid to these burials, probably because of their high status.  Curiously, Naqada III shows a decrease in the number of burials along with a decrease in the amount of grave goods.  However, a very elaborate mud-brick tomb appeared which was thus named the royal tomb.  It ended up including the clay sealing of the first king of the first Dynasty, King Aha, and the name of his mother.  This tomb was a very significant burial which appeared at the beginning of the Dynastic period.  It represents how important the king was in society.  Even in death, he is superior to all of the other buried people.  The complexity of burial practices changes throughout time, which can be strongly seen at the Naqada site.  It shows how elites are portrayed in death, and it also helps contemporary people learn about both life and death of the ancient past.

One thought on “Burial Practices at Naqada

  1. Michele,
    I found myself wondering just as I did when I was watching the video lectures about the origin of the complex burial methods. The development of the social stratification, which was seen some in Naqada I, can be seen as the beginning of the social stratification between the Egyptian pharaohs and the common people. I also like how you note the importance of the discovery of the first dynastic king, which supports the point of the increasing in social stratification. From what I know of Egyptian burial methods they got more complex over time and it seemed that each pharaoh was trying to ‘out-do’ their predecessors. This can be seen with the elaborateness of the temples and the pyramids. Perhaps it may even be safe to say that Naqada II onward helped develop certain traditions in burial practices and eventually superstitions toward what could and could not be done. Do you believe that Naqada II was a kind of ‘revolutionary’ point that changed the dynamics of burial practices? If not, do you think it contributed any ideas?

    I found myself wondering a lot how much the predynastic sites affected the dynastic sites and even modern practices in Egypt. Of course, it isn’t exactly the same as it was, because as we know culture is not static.

    What are your thoughts?

    Great post! It really sparked something for me!

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