Evidence of Buto-Ma’adi Cultural Transition

I’m interested in knowing more about the predynastic history of lower Egypt. While it was interesting to read about the excavations at Buto and Ma’adi, the overview of the culture uncovered seems lacking in comparison with the presentation of Naqada culture. Naqada culture is interesting because it is so closely related to later dynastic cultures, but Buto-Ma’adi are just as interesting because they aren’t. What exactly happened to the cultures of Buto-Ma’adi? Were they assimilated into the Naqada culture that is evidenced in the archeological record at Buto, or was there some kind of interaction between the two cultures? The evidence of domesticated donkeys at Ma’adi, reportedly the earliest evidence suggests, along with copper sources, that this culture was trading with Palestine. Did the Buto-Ma’adi culture move to the east through displacement by northern moving Naqada peoples? What exactly were the interactions between the Naqada people and the Buto-Ma’adi people as they began to interact. At the very least I’d imagine that the Naqada people adopted the donkey as a beast of burden, so it likely wasn’t a completely one-sided cultural interaction. It would be interesting though to look at the ceramic assemblage, as well as the evidence of tools and nutrition to see how culture changed in Buto with the presence of Naqada peoples, as well as to what extent this influence was taken back to Naqada people further up the river (maybe look at how donkey use moved along the river).

It seems like part of the reason that less is known about the Buto-Ma’adi culture, along with the fact that it is seemingly less important because it didn’t directly lead to the dynastic cultures, is the fact that the sites with evidence of this culture are for the most part unexcavatable. The reading talked about the difficulties in excavating below the water-table at Buto and I can only sympathize, having had to deal with rain and rising water-table at the Morton Village excavation. It seems like a lot is being assumed though, about the interactions between the Naqada and Buto-Ma’adi cultures though, without very much evidence, the map on page 93 of the reading only shows five sites, and only Buto is mentioned as having evidence of transition to Naqada culture. I think it would be interesting to look at sites between Ma’adi and Abydos and see what culture was in evidence and to find out what level of interaction the two cultures had (if any) and to see when exactly the Naqada peoples began moving into the delta. One way to do this would be through looking at sources of raw materials, such as copper, as well as looking at ceramic assemblages, and even bioarcheological remains, especially evidence of the donkey domestication.

One last thing I’d like to mention that intrigued me was the evidence of animal burials in Naqada burials and how odd this seems. It could potentially also be used as a way of tracing Naqada cultural movements. It is interesting though because both domesticated animals and undomesticated animals were buried, with and without humans, presumably both undomesticated and domesticated bones were buried with humans. The reading isn’t completely clear, but it would be especially interesting if these were burials of animals and not just remains.

1 thought on “Evidence of Buto-Ma’adi Cultural Transition

  1. Ben,

    Thank you for writing about the Buto-Ma’adi culture and addressing the issue of their contributions to the pre-dynastic cultural transition. I think that you hit on something important when you say that:

    “Naqada culture is interesting because it is so closely related to later dynastic cultures, but Buto-Ma’adi are just as interesting because they aren’t.”

    The reason that I liked this statement was that it made me realize that after the readings this week, I had this perception that predynastic-to-dynastic transition looked something like:

    Buto-Ma’adi——–> XXX
    Naqada————–> Beginings of Egyptian Civilization

    Obviously, this perception isn’t entirely accurate, even if Naqadan cultural is percieved to contribute “more” to later dynastic culture.

    Your suggestions of further investigating the fate of the Buto-Ma’adi culture and the interactions they had with the Naqada could help to not only uncover further information about the Buto-Ma’adi, but also to find out more about the transition from pre-dynastic to dynastic culture. It could also help to uncover more information about the contributions of Buto-Ma’adi and Naqada cultures to cultures other than ancient Egypt.

    In particular, I think that investigating Buto-Ma’adi burial traditions, such as ritualistic burial of domesticated and non-domesticated animals, and using evidence of these traditions as a possible way of tracing the movements and cultural interactions of the Buto-Ma’adi, could be especially interesting and intellectually fruitful.

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