Naqada IIc (IIC) - IIIa2 (IIIA2)
by Francesco Raffaele
You can find an authorized Spanish Translation of the present page* in the website Egiptomania.com
(*as it is in 23 November 2002 and with some differences in the images)
| PART 0 - PRELIMINARY NOTE (On
the Terms "Dynasty 0" and "Dynasty 00"
- Cf. also text below)|
"Dynasty 00" is a term which has not gained general acceptance in Egyptology (see below); some authors use it to indicate the rulers of the period before Dynasty 0; but, alike for this latter term, there isn't any family relation among many of the rulers within "Dynasty 00", because they are local chiefs of different centers and they did not consider themselves as being part of the same ruling family except at the single local levels.
Although unproper (but this also applies to most of the later "true" dynasties), the term provides a useful subdivision of or distinction between the sovereigns or chiefs of the period when Egypt was in the process of cultural unification (late Naqada II- early III) and the kings of Naqada IIIB ('Dynasty 0'), when the political unification of the whole Egypt was accomplished.
In the former period Upper Egyptian independent regional chiefdoms, then proto-states (Hierakonpolis, Naqada, Abydos) shared similar cultural traits, and probably had some kind of relations (trade, marriages, warfare) among each others.
The period covered starts with the ruler (?) buried with the Gebelein cloth kept at present in Turin Museum (early Naqada II), the owner of HK tomb 100 (loc. 33, Naqada IIC period), those of some (possibly royal) tombs in Naqada cem. T (Kemp, JEA 59, 1973, 36-43 ; Wilkinson, 1999 p. 52) and finally those buried in Abydos cem. U (tombs of local chieftains in late Naqada IID- to late IIIA, especially some of the mudbrick ones of Naqada IIIa2) and the contemporary ones from Hierakonpolis loc.6 (tomb 11); of the end of this period should be also the tomb L24 at Qustul and 137,1 at Seyala in Nubia (end Naqada IIIa2 for B. Williams; but these have been recently considered slightly later, in Naqada IIIB).
A far more correct terminology would be one involving the period and geographical designation of the ruling lines: e.g. ...Scorpion I, a late Naqada IIIA1 (middle stufe IIIa2 in Kaiser's chronology) ruler of Abydos (... buried in tomb U-j, Umm el-Qaab, Abydos)...
A new series of possible royal names has been recently evidenced and reconstructed by Günter Dreyer from inscriptions on some bone tags and ceramic vessels deriving from the U cemetery of Abydos, on certain Naqada IId1-IIIa2 sealings, on the Tehenu Palette, and on the graffiti incised on the Coptos Colossi.
The complete (still provisional) list and discussion of Dreyer (Umm el Qaab I, 1998 p. 173-180) includes the following probable royal names or rulers' indicators (loc. cit. p. 178; also see TABLE 1, below) : Oryx, Shell, Fish, Elephant, Bull, Stork, Canid (?), Cattle-head standard, Scorpion I, Falcon I, Min standard + plant, ?, Falcon II (?), Lion, Double Falcon, Irj-Hor, Ka, Scorpion II, Narmer. More local rulers (mostly of dynasty 0, Naqada III pariod) are Nb (or R ?), Hedjw(-Hor), Pe + Elephant, Nj-Hor, Hat-Hor, Crocodile (the Subduer), Falcon + Mer (Tarkhan, also read as P.N. 'Mer Djehwty'), and Qustul L2 Pe-Hor. The last ones (from Double Falcon on) are discussed in Dynasty 0 page; the older ones will be dealt with below.
Within the time interval covered by "Dynasty 00" there are enormous differencies (the socio-political situation in which did live the mentioned chiefs of Gebelein and Hierakonpolis t. 100 on one hand, and that of the Naqada IIIA2 Abydene kings of cemetery U on the other one, is somewhat large); we are considering a period of c. 300 years; certainly further findings and studies will bring into this phase more order and new criteries of chrono-geo-political subdivision are going to be provided.
The first serious use of the term "Dynasty 00", by van den Brink (in id. ed 'The Nile Delta in Transition' 1992 p. vi, n. 1) was related to the 'members of the ruling class buried in cemetery U at Abydos Umm el Qaab' who were 'possibly the predecessors of the Dynasty 0 Kings'.
G. Dreyer had already jokingly used the term to indicate the rulers earlier than Naqada IIIB Dynasty 0.
Also "Dynasty 0" is either used to designate only the Abydos dynasty buried in cemetery B, or the whole Egypt Naqada III B kings; moreover others apply this term to all the rulers of the Late Predynastic period (= "Dynasty 00 + 0").
There is no need to further remark that these terms are both nearly ridiculous (although Dynasty 0 is rather more accepted by scholars than "Dynasty 00", yet equally misleading) and applied here only in a distinction, temporary (?) and Internet search-engines purpose/reasons.
Summarizing, 'Dynasty 00' (less misleading would be «DYNASTIES 00») is henceforth used here as a descriptive term which indicates a period in the protodynastic, not a single line of rulers from a specific place; the period covered is Naqada IIC-IIIA2 (Kaiser's stufen IIc, d1-2 and IIIa1-2).
A discussion on the term 'Dynasty 0' will appear on the EEF archives (October 2002 zip file).
See also the Synthesis page in this site, the discussion below and the Table 2 at the bottom of this page.
The proto-states of Naqada IIC-IIIA2 period
(c. 3500-3220 BC)
PART I - INTRODUCTION
In a very summary way, Naqada I (formerly 'Amratian')
was characterized by some diagnostic pottery types and by a large production
of crafts-objects like human figurines, amulets, decorated ivory combs,
animal shaped cosmetic palettes; to this 'figurative' repertory we must
add stone vessels, flint blades, weapons and other tools which suggest
a transparent progress in technology (division of labour, advanced food
production, artifacts masterpieces) and, above all, in the broader ambit
of thought. It's important to precise that Naqada I-II are main phases
of the same cultural Unit (further divided into more subphases): therefore
the elements of continuity between respectively phase I-II, II-III
and III-Early Dynastic (= Naqada IIIC1/D) are to be considered much more
relevant than the detected breaks between contiguous phases; and the 'cold'
terms Naqada I-III are actually more apt to render the idea of one civilization
in evolution than Petrie's terminology.
the following phase II (Petrie's Gerzean) the impact of the Naqadian influence
had already reached the Upper Nubia, the East Fayum region (Gerzeh) and
the Delta (Buto); the period IID-IIIA marks the culmination of the cultural
superimposition of this southern civilization into the Delta, where
it definitively replaced the local (Maadi-Buto) tradition; the following
phases (IIIA2-IIIB) are an age of political contrasts, a long series (about
two centuries) of struggles and alliances which led to the supremacy of
the Thinite regional (proto-) state that finally realized the Unification
There is not yet a univoque terminology (cf. above, Preliminary note) for the Late Predynastic phases; "Protodynastic" is employed as a synonym for Dynasty 00 and 0, which are in turn not true dynastic lines as those of Manetho, but rather designations of periods or of the contemporary local ruling lineages thereof; for distinction purposes I will provisionally follow the (playful) indication of Dreyer, labelling the Naqada IIC-IIIA2 sovereigns as "Dynasty 00" and the Naqada IIIB ones as "Dynasty 0" (but note that most of the Egyptologist means 'Dynasty 0' as either all the late predynastic kings or only the Abydos line buried in cemetery B and -eventually- U). The denomination of "Dynasty 00" is however still very rarely adopted in Egyptology.
The emergence of the earliest rulers is only one aspect
of the State formation in Egypt; kingship has its roots in the archaic
African folklore substratum, although some accessory elements of the Dynasty
00-0 sovereignty and culture were borrowed from ancient Uruk and Susa
civilizations. Scholars have individuated two main periods of Near
Eastern influence on the emerging Egyptian proto-state(s): one during
Dynasty 0 (c. 3200-3050 BC) culminating with Narmer and Aha's reigns,
and an older one around 3500/3400 BC, thus in the middle-late Naqada II.
The divine kingship and its ideological background was
one of the pillars of the Egyptian state, and the union of secular and
supernatural power within a single individual was a decisive factor for
Someone has tried to compare on a general level, early
Naqada III polities with Archaic Greece or classic Maya city-states; both
the Greek as well as the Maya situations are better known than the Late
Predynastic Egyptian one. Certainly there must have been a hierarchy in
the cities around each Egyptian proto-nome capital, and some interrelation
among the different regional states. At one point some of them (especially
those with bordering territories) must have been engaged into military
competition, for territorial exploitment, trade monopoly or further reasons,
while others possibly united through alliances stipulated by gifts exchanges,
cross-marriages, construction of monuments, celebration of public ceremonies
A similar depiction with boats processions, struggles, hippo hunting and fishing scenes is found on the painted fragments of a textile from Gebelein (Turin Mus., suppl. 17138) dated to Naqada Ic-IIb (fig. >).
Naqada I and II witness the origin of many beliefs connected with the later Dynastic era: in particular the first signs diagnostic of a coherent (?) tradition of the Kingship seem to remount to these two phases: a recently found C-ware vessel from Abydos tomb U-239 (Naqada Ic-IIa) shows a ruler smiting groups of enemies (the same pictorial symbol present -more than a century later- in tomb 100 and -nearly half a millennium later- on Narmer palette); a B-ware sherd with a red crown in relief was found by Petrie in tomb 1610 at Naqada; whole series of traits, emblems, attributes and ritual actions of the ruler as the false tail, penis sheath, crowns, maces, reed, sceptres, ritual race, gazelle- and hippopotamus-hunt and further ones have been since long time identified [Fattovich, in: RSO 45, 1970, 133-149]; these are the African-log backbone of the divine kingship institution.
Therefore we know a good number of constitutive elements of the Pharaonic state which were inherited from late prehistory; one could try to excerpt similar patterns of developments of kingship, administration and iconography into other sectors of the archaic Egyptian civilization as mortuary beliefs and practices, cult/religion/myths, 'art', technology, economy and trade, subsistence.
Among the most important recent achievements in our knowledge
of the 'history' of the early Naqada III period ("Dynasty 00") there are
Dreyer's excavation and publication of king Scorpion I's tomb U-j at Abydos
and the Darnells' discovery of some graffiti of the Gebel Tjauty, in the
Desert west of Thebes (recently discussed by Friedman and Hendrickx).
But it must be rehearsed that (in my opinoion) the political Unification was really brought to completion only with Narmer, when the sparse and relatively few regional powers were probably subjugated or annihilated by the Thinite family; however the incipit of this process is undoubtedly to be found in the so called 'Dynasty 00'.
In this respect it assumes a great value the evidence
of the Gebel Tjauty graffiti, with their possible narration of
a military victory by Scorpion I over the ruler of a nearby regional state
(Naqada ?) whom he captured (the defeated personal name or region/city
name was possibly written with a Bull head over a standard, an emblem
also recurring on tomb U-j ink inscribed jars).
All this tells us relatively few on the organization of
the proto-states previously to the 'Unification'; perhaps a pattern of
rough correspondence between the Nile Valley macro-regions in Naqada III
and the later subdivision into Nomes could reasonably be followed (the
emblems of many of the later nomes already appear in the late IIIrd Dyn
early IVth oldest "Biographies" as those in the tombs of Metjen and Pehernefer;
some of the D-ware vessels standards on the boats and some of those on
the Hunters-, Battlefield-, Bull-, Narmer- palettes and Scorpion- and
Narmer-Maceheads have been tentatively interpreted as proto-nomes or ruling
lineages' emblems). This would depend on the strategic location of the
early settlements which can be explained by the presence of easily accessible
resources (minerals in the Desert widian as at Nubt and Nekhen, wide flood-plain
as at Abydos), factors that we can assume to have continued to be relevant
in the following periods; the religious/cultual importance of settlements
and cemeteries of ancient local chiefs would be another reason for the
later (Nome-) capitals to arise nearby or upon the old ones.
The reconstruction provided by Dreyer [in:
Umm el-Qaab I, 1998, 173-180; id., in: SDAIK 28, 1995] of a possible
line of about 15 rulers from early Naqada IIIA1 to late IIIA2 (nine kings
before and five after Scorpion I; cf. below, table 1) is still tentative
and to be checked with/against further evidence; this argument is a central
one for the history of this period and is the object of the following
discussion. For a different view and in particular a possible total of
only 2 or 3 reigns between Scorpion I and Iry-Hor cf. A. Jimenez-Serrano,
Los reyes del predinàstico Tardìo, in: BAEDE 10, 2000, 33-52.
colossal limestone statues of Min were found by Petrie in the temple of
Koptos in 1894; they had been fashioned with hammering technique (no chiselling)
and represented the god standing with erected phallus; only the torso
and part of the legs was preserved and the head of one of the statues
in Oxford, although almost entirely effaced; some signs
in relief were noted on the statues showing animals, plants, shells and
In 1995 Dreyer (loc. cit. above) proposed that the graffiti
on the statues were the names of older rulers, and Narmer had been the
last one to make his name be carved on those statues; therefore the colossi
probably dated well before his reign, down to Naqada IIIa, and the signs
carved onto them would be perhaps something similar to a king list. I
must notice that the Nar-fish and the Mer-chisel are very
fragmentary -only the left end preserved- and, as suggested by Kemp, the
upper sign is rather the tail of a bird than that of the Nar cat-fish,
thus suggesting a falcon on a perch or on a standard [cf.
B.J. Kemp, CAJ 10.2, 2000, 211-242, fig. 10; H. Goedicke, MDAIK 58, 2002,
In the earlier part of the period in object, other iconographic
devices were adopted to convey the idea of sovereignty, but we are still
unable to detect them with full confidence.
element which preceded the serekh (and in part coexisted with it, as in
Lower Nubia) was the rosette; this symbol appears since late Naqada
II on seal impressions [cem. U: Dreyer, op. cit., 1998,
fig. 72c], gold and ivory knife-handles, an ivory comb, the Scorpion
II mace-head and the Qustul tomb 24 incense burner
[cf. the author's website page on Dynasty 0]. The
rosette/flower/star has been linked by H.S. Smith to the concept of (divine)
kingship and to the Sumeric and especially Elamite glyptic [id.,
in: Friedman-Adams eds., The Followers of Horus, 1992, 235-246].
I must once again stress the central role of the royal cemetery U of Abydos (especially for the importance of the in-situ finds which can provide useful means of datation of already known unprovenanced and thus undated objects) [cf. G. Dreyer, in: C. Ziegler (ed.) "L' Art de l'Ancien Empire ègyptien..." 1999, 195-226; H. Whitehouse, in: MDAIK 58, 2002]; cemetery U was started in Naqada I but it became the local élite burial ground only by late Naqada IId; the first (anonymous or plain) serekhs known in Egypt come from the early Naqada IIIa tombs U-s and U-t, which are located 40-50m N.E. of Iry-Hor's chambers B1-2; also the modern excavations in the Delta sites and those at Hierakonpolis have a key role, as well as the revisions, systematizations and publications of old unpublished excavations and material.
Tehenu palette (or Towns palette) in Cairo (C.G. 14238) is named after
a sign on its verso: this shows three registers with domestic animals
files and a fourth lower one with plants (trees) and the hieroglyph of
the throwing stick on an oval (which means 'region', 'place', 'island'),
thus a toponym of Libya or Western Delta (THnw, Tjehenw). The recto of
the palette is of great importance, showing the feet of some persons and,
below the register line, two rows of four and three groups respectively;
each group is constituted by an animal grasping the Mer-hoe on
the crenellated wall of a town; the name of each town is is written within
the wall [see my Corpus
of Late Predynastic Decorated Palettes].
Dreyer has postulated that, given the mentioned late-Dynasty 0 manufacture of the Tehenu palette (which in my opinion is in fact later than the Battlefield and Bull palettes but earlier than the Plover and Narmer palettes), it could never neither celebrate nor narrate the foundation of the towns by those kings: the town of the Heron (Djebawty), probably Buto, which is currently being excavated by T. Von der Way, was founded much earlier than Naqada IIIA. Therefore the action performed by the royal entities on the palette could eventually be the foundation of fortresses in the respective centers (cf. the example from Elephantine), or more probably it was the (symbolic ?) destruction of the centers after their defeat by the Southern Kings; this progressive military expansionism and submission of the Delta by the Thinite sovereigns, which is echoed in the scenes of battle and of their aftermath represented on Naqada III palettes and ivories, was probably a relatively common scenario until the country unification (cf. M. Campagno 2002). As quoted above, and always with the due cautions, it can be supposed that a parallel warfare-pattern should have been followed by the Dynasty 00-0 kings in respect of the Nubian antagonists; perhaps also in the Delta the Maadi-Buto decline hadn't happened (Naqada IIC-D) without some conflict; the EB I Canaan colonization is instead a different matter (although some scholars hypothesized, in the past, massive military interventions of the Egyptians there): the difference between Egypt and Canaan at that time was too large to favour the assumption of any possible competition between them; Egyptians must have found no resistance in their infiltration into those territories, contributing to their evolution towards the EB II Urbanization [cf. the interesting and still valid synthesis 'The relations between Early Bronze I age Canaanites and Upper Egyptians' by Branislav Andelkovic, 1995].
PART III - CONCLUSIONS
We have rapidly passed by some of the "faces" of the Egyptian Predynastic and through the ages of the most ancient kings of Egypt and of the whole humanity. I have tried to outline in this paper the way in which the Neolithic villages acquired more and more aspects diagnostic of a progress towards complex associative units to finally become regional states governed by the paramount leaders of Dynasty 00, on which I've focussed the discussion. Many factors contributed to the constitution of the Dynastic Egypt tradition. The kingship and 'arts' canons (the rules of J. Baines' concept of decorum), religious, philosophical and funerary beliefs, first appeared before, during and few after the Dynasty 00; early Naqada III provides the link between the more egalitarian and less developed societies of the previous periods and the rise of the warrior kings that opened up the path leading to the State of Dynasties 0-2.
The civilization which developed since this period, through
the reign of "Menes" and up to the time of the great pyramids, saw heavy
transformations and achievements, obscure ages of crisis, brilliant reprises;
but along these phases the underlying continuity and the "archetypal"
elements of the "Dynastic culture" can be followed as I have tried to
do in this article; Dynasty "00" and "0" are metaphorically
the foundation stones of that magnificient monument which Ancient
Egypt was; maybe they are for most part hidden beneath the sands, not
as apparent as the Old and New Kingdom 'constructions' above them, but
at least as much fascinating and mysterious.
--- --- ---
1 - It has been hypothesized that the serekh
device might have originated from some of the representations on the tags
from cem. U, or that they had the same referent (cf. Dreyer, Umm el-Qaab
I, tags 127, 128,129, X188). The earliest
ones known are from tombs U-s, U-t,
but some motifs which resemble serekhs are much older (as the one painted
on a C-ware sherd from Hierakonpolis loc. 6: cf. B. Adams, in CCdE 3/4,
2002, p. 8, fig. 5; this one has been considered as a 'proto-serekh' by
the late Adams and some dotted patterns beside it as fences; but it is
hard IMO to credit hers more than one of the possible interpretations).
-Essential Bibliography (recent studies)-
J. Baines, Origins of Egyptian Kingship, in: D. 'Connor - D. Silverman (eds.), Ancient Egyptian Kingship 1995, 95-156
K. Bard, The Egyptian Predynastic: A review of the Evidence, JFA 21/3, 1994, 265-288
K. Cialowicz, La naissance d'un royaume,
F. Hassan, The Predynastic of Egypt, JWP 2, 1988, 135-185
S. Hendrickx, Arguments for an Upper Egyptian Origin of the Palace-Facade and the Serekh during Late ..., GM 184, 2001, 85-110
M. Hoffman, Egypt before the Pharaohs, New York 1979 (1990²)
A. Jiménez Serrano, Chronology and local traditions: the Representations of Power and the Royal name in the Late Predynastic Period, in: Archéo-Nil 12, 2003, in press
W. Kaiser, Einige Bemerkungen zur ägyptischen Frühzeit, ZÄS 91, 1964, 86-125
id., Zur Entstehung des gesamtägyptischen Staates, MDAIK 46, 1990, 287-299
L.D. Morenz, Bild-Buchstaben und symbolische Zeichen. Die Herausbildung der Schrift in der hohen Kultur Altägyptens, Fribourg/Göttingen, 2004
F. Raffaele, Early Dynastic Egypt (Internet site) http://xoomer.virgilio.it/francescoraf/
id., La fin de la période pré-dynastique et la Dynastie 0, TM 1, 2001, 20-23; TM 2, 2002, 26-29; TM 3, 26-29
A.J. Spencer (ed.), Aspects of Early Egypt, London 1996
J. Vercoutter, L'Egypte et la vallée du Nil, vol. I, Paris 1992
S. Vinci, La Nascita dello stato nell' Antico Egitto: La Dinastia "Zero", Bologna 2002
T.A.H. Wilkinson, Early Dynastic Egypt, London/New York 1999
id., Political Unification: towards a reconstruction, MDAIK 56, 2000, 377-395.
Text © Francesco Raffaele, 2002
Images © of the respective authors
Hierakonpolis Loc. 6, tombs 3, 6
B-, P-, C- class pottery
Gebelein painted textile (Turin Museum)
Naqada tombs 1411, T4
Hierakonpolis tomb 100
Brooklyn, Carnarvon knife handles (Naqada IIc-IIIa)
(NOTE: Abu Zeidan t.32, which contained the Brooklyn knife-handle, dates early Naqada III) .
Abydos t. U-q, U-547; knife handle in t. U-503 and fragments from U-127
(fishes, turtles, mammals)
Abydos U-cemetery kings (cf. TABLE 1)
Abydos tomb U-j (Scorpion I ?)
Anonymous Serekhs, Double Falcon,
Ny-Hor, Pe-Hor, Hat-Hor, Hedj-Hor; (Iry-Hor)
Gebel Sheikh Suleiman graffito
Hierakonpolis Loc. 6, tomb 10
Battlefield (Vultures) palette
(end of Narmer's reign c.3000)
Tarkhan Crocodile, Hk (?) Scorpion (II), Abydos: Iry Hor, Ka, Narmer
Hierakonpolis Loc. 6, tomb 1