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International Conference
Origin of the State. Predynastic and Early Dynastic Egypt

(Cracow, Poland: 28th August - 1st September 2002)
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Egyptian Predynastic Ivories decorated with Anthropomorphic Motifs

Edyta Maria NOWAK

Instytut Archeologii, Uniwersytet Jagiellonski, Kraków (Poland)


The wide variety of objects in bone and ivory seems to be characteristic of the Predynastic period. The following five categories of ivories decorated with anthropomorphic motifs can be distinguished: figures, tusks, tags, combs and pins.

In the presented paper the last mentioned four categories will be taken into consideration as they represent relatively homogeneous groups, characterised by their internal integrity. Moreover, all these categories, are exclusively represented in the Nagadian assemblages and do not continue into later epochs of Egyptian history, with the exception of pins which occur again in Roman times.

The presented conclusions are based on the study of twenty seven tusks, twenty one tags, six combs and one pin surmounted by a human head or the upper part of a human body. Stylistic analyses and a detailed examination of the archaeological context of excavated specimens revealed the common dating for the majority of tusks, tags and combs. Considering this, it seems probable that at the turn of the Nagada I and Nagada II periods, the decoration of ivories and miscellaneous artefacts in other materials with anthropomorphic figures became remarkably popular. At the same time a great variety of objects share the common, highly geometrized and schematic manner of representing the human form.

It will be the purpose of this paper to determine the chronological position of the discussed categories, typological parallels, stylistic analogies with Predynastic figurative art and the contemporary archaeological assemblages of adjacent territories. The usage of these objects is still open to discussion so the latest hypotheses and theories concerning their possible meaning will be presented as well.


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