CHAPTER 3: THE KNOWN AND POSSIBLE BADARIAN SITES
The universal drawback in the study of prehistoric cultures is the lack of textual evidence. Thus the reliance on the demarcation of the initial civilisations has to be based purely on the material remains. The discovery of pottery like no other before at Badari became the benchmark for identifying the Badarian Culture as it became known. Subsequent to the discoveries by Brunton and Caton-Thompson at Qau-Badari, Hemamieh and later by Brunton at Mostagedda and Matmar, several other sites produced what the scholars deemed to be Badarian. A critical review of the evidence is undertaken. This is a very important segment of the study as it is used to determine the spatial distribution of the Badarian. It has an influence on its trade and cultural exchange mechanisms and is crucial in the determination of its temporal place in the early history of the formation of the Egyptian Culture (Figure 3.1)
In 1923–4 the British School of Archaeology became interested in the rock-cut tombs of the Middle Kingdom at Qau el-Kebir (Antaeopolis) in Middle Egypt, on the east bank of the Nile (Kamrin 1999:666), in what became known as the el-Badari district (26º 50ˊ – 27º 10ˊ N, 31º 16ˊ – 31º 31 E). The tombs were excavated in the beginning of the 20th century by the Italian Archaeological Mission (1905–6) and the Ernst von Sieglin Expedition (1913–14) before the advent of the BSA investigation (D’Amicone 1999:653). The expedition of 1923 was entrusted to Brunton and he selected the Qau region to begin excavating. He noted that a large number of predynastic artefacts turned up in the village shops, leading them to investigate further in case something was left in the cemeteries before further plunder took place (Brunton 1927:2). This was the beginning of the excavation of the culture later to be known as the Badarian
QAU AND BADARI
Although conflicting reports exist as to the division of the sites near Qau and Badari, it is clear that in the 1922–25 seasons Brunton and his wife, Winifred, worked on the cemeteries around Qau el Kebir with Petrie being the director of the excavations, spending most of his time in the 1923–24 season recording the rock-cut tombs (Drower 1995:359) while Brunton continued recording the cemeteries.22 In 1923, Petrie brought with him a number of students, among which was Gertrude Caton-Thompson. She was later to play a very important part in the excavations at Hemamieh. During the three seasons, 1922–3, 1923–4 and 1924–25, Brunton and his team recorded over 600 prehistoric graves in the cemeteries and a large number of settlement sites. About 308 of the graves could be assigned to known Predynastic periods, the rest contained artefacts never before discovered or recorded (Hoffman 1979:136). According to some sources, the ‘new’ artefacts (especially pottery) was named ‘Badarian’ by Petrie, after the district Badari where the work was being done in 1923 (Drower 1995:361; Petrie 1931:252).23 In her autobiography, Caton-Thompson (1983:91-2) writes the following:
The second of the two discoveries left over from the preceding season had been the find of some exquisitely fine sherds in the up throw from the looted cemetery. By common consent they were Predynastic, but fitted into none of the three categories of Petrie’s sequence dates. They were as thin as the finest china and the black or brown surface had been rippled and then burnished. JL Starkey, whose sharp eyes had first noticed them, was intent on finding out more about them. Irrespective of who named the different pottery found it gave rise to the pushing back of the predynastic to a much earlier date
Petrie at Qau and Badari
Apart from being the director of the excavation project at Qau, Petrie participated actively in the excavations at the predynastic cemeteries in the area of Qau and the village of Badari. The bulk of the work, however, was entrusted to Brunton who in 1923 was sent out by Petrie to excavate the cemeteries. Unfortunately, Petrie’s interpretation of the origins of the Badarian was misplaced (he considered them immigrants from the east), Petrie still controlled the excavations and his guidance proved invaluable (Petrie 1931:252). Petrie, together with Brunton and his team, was responsible for the recording of the graves, and with Brunton they were entrusted with doing the photographic work (Brunton 1927:1)
Brunton at Qau and Badari
After working with Petrie in the years following the end of the World War I, Brunton and his wife were given their own concession at Qau el-Kebir in 1922. Under the auspices of the British School of Archaeology, Brunton and his team worked in the Qau-Badari district for the three seasons of 1923, 1924 and 1925. Brunton selected the Qau region for a number of reasons, which he explained in the first volume (Brunton 1927:2). His focus was on the general cemetery, which he thought may prove to contain more objects not removed by the local population.
In the first year, 1922–1923, only one camp was required and the personnel for the season’s excavation consisted of Brunton and his wife, CHG Bach and JL Starkey. Work started on 1 December 1922 and ended on 4 April 1923. In addition to the above personnel, H Frankfort joined the party for six weeks on 14 December. Prof DE Derry spent four days with the group from 26 January in order to give them his opinion on the mineralised human bones. The following year Petrie occupied his own camp at Qau and he was assisted by new students, S Yeivin, TR Duncan Green, NF Wheeler with Mrs WJ Benson, and Gertrude Caton-Thompson. Excavations started around the beginning of December 1923 and lasted until April 1924. Petrie returned to Britain in March 1924.
Brunton’s own party consisted of the same personnel as the previous year with the addition of a Mrs G B Aitken and Miss Irene Donne. The 1925 expedition was on a limited scale and consisted only of Brunton and his wife. They were later joined by Caton-Thompson.
Excavations concerning the dynastic periods were described in the three volumes entitled Qau and Badari (1927, 1928 & 1930). The Badarian is described in Brunton & Caton-Thompson (1928). It is the excavations done as presented in this volume that I will concentrate on.
Brunton focused on the cemeteries near Qau el-Kebir (Etmanieh), close to the houses of Ezbet Ulad el Hagg (See Figure 3.2). It was here that they found a number of hand-made pottery sherds unlike any other found in Egypt at that time. The pottery had a different finish than any other found to date and its rippled appearance suggests that it was combed in some way or the other. The sherds were found in the rubbish of the much used area (Brunton 1928:1).
The search was on to find more of the Badarian sherds. A few graves were found to contain some objects of Badarian age. The low desert strip was investigated by JL Starkey as far north as the town of Badari about 16 km away. During his search, Starkey found a number of rippled sherds indicating the presence of the Badarian people in a number of cemeteries or settlements (Brunton 1928:2). During the course of his investigations Brunton cleared over fifty Badarian settlements with almost 750 burials.
Brunton had an ingenious way of numbering the tombs to enable anyone to recognise the site, year, and the excavator with the number of the grave (Brunton 1927:3). They are:
Numbers 100 and 200 for isolated cemeteries;
Numbers 300-1200 for the main Etmanieh cemeteries;
1300 for the isolated hill with “Pan” graves; 1400 for tombs on the hillside under the cliffs;
1450 for tombs in the level ground at the foot of the hill;
1500-2100 for the Hemamieh site;
3000-6000 for the various cemeteries near Badari running from north to south; and 6500 for the few graves found by Caton-Thompson in the settlement north of Hemamieh;
7000 for Petrie’s graves from the cemeteries in the centre of the Qau Bay.
The topography of the Qau area can be described as being a great desert bay extending for about 10 km or more from point to point. The limestone mountains surrounding the bay recede from the cultivation some 16 km to the east and is roughly bisected by a shallow wadi. To the north where the wadi meets the cultivated fields lies the village of el-Etmanieh, which used to be called Qau el Kebir. The terrain of the desert is flat, pebbly, flint strewn and interspersed with low hillocks. Overall the terrain is not suitable for graves and therefore the main Qau cemeteries are to be found on the rise to the north of the main wadi, there being no high ground available. The graves were generally in poor state because of rising damp, but an absence of salt made things somewhat easier. The Nile also changed its course during the hundred years preceding the excavations (Brunton 1927:3).
The northern limestone cliffs dominate the landscape with a narrow strip of desert running north for about 8 km with series if spurs or foothills of limestone detritus. The village of Hemamieh is south of a wadi that is found in the centre. Another feature to identify the area is the sculptured rock-tombs of the fourth dynasty close to Hemamieh. The ancient cemeteries lie to the north and south of the wadi.
Brunton and his team investigated the spurs from the north. They numbered the spurs from 1 in the north to number 24 in the south. North of number 1 was too far from their camp and in any event did not look promising. According to Brunton (1927:4), many of the South Cemetery graves of Qau, although being of great extent, was well worked over by the local villagers. Cemetery 400, adjoining the houses of Ezbet Ulad el Hagg Ahmed, produced the first few sherds of handmade pottery with the peculiar rippled or combed surface. This cemetery was completely turned over by Brunton. Starting from the south and clearing right up to the houses. A fresh line was started from the east clearing toward their first clearance. In the low areas where the graves were marked 800, they left some ground without exploring them.
Intermittent sections were cleared by Brunton and Petrie working from the east end, but the results were poor and they started from the west side. Overall the results were poor even though Petrie, working toward the north, cleared many graves.
At Badari they completely cleared Spur 6, 15 and 16. Cemeteries 4800, 5100, and 5300–5800 were also completely cleared. Cemetery 5200 and 6000 were found to have been badly plundered and the other spurs did not produce much.
The Hemamieh North Spur, examined by Caton-Thompson, will be discussed separately.
The third season was a short season and for most of the time Brunton and his wife was alone or with Caton-Thompson. Caton-Thompson divided her work between the Fayum and Hemamieh with the latter lying between Qau and Badari. Her work at Hemamieh was, however, quite independently of the Brunton’s work at Badari. This season was important in the sense that Brunton focused his attention exclusively to the excavation of the Badarian sites
Caton-Thompson was convinced that Predynastic studies were not fully covered by research based only on the excavation of cemeteries. She approached Petrie with the idea of excavating a village site and he gave her permission to go ahead and find a suitable area to investigate. He gave her three Qufti workman to help with the excavation.
Caton-Thompson spent a few days studying the talus slopes between cliffs and the cultivated flood-plain. She decided on this area where a few Badarian sherds had been found (Caton-Thompson 1983:92). The site she decided on became known as the North-Spur and was about two miles from their camp. The area excavated by Caton-Thompson was very small, only some 35 m x 45 m (approx. 1600 m2), with only 26 burials (Caton-Thompson & Whittle 1975:90).
After one full day’s excavation, the site turned up decorated, blacktopped, white-cross-lined, and combed-ware sherds, as well as flints and other objects. In her autobiography (1983:92), she describes the site: ‘It was even more promising than I had hoped, providing a more or less stratified succession of the two main Predynastic periods underlain by the Badarian, over 6 feet in depth in all.’
Caton-Thompson, in her own words, preferred the investigation at Hemamieh to be from a settlement-stratigraphy rather than from a cemetery-typology angle (Brunton & Caton-Thompson 1928:70).
One of the more important objectives of Caton-Thompson was the necessity to obtain data for the correlation of flint types with pottery types. She was of the opinion that by approaching the Predynastic periods in Egypt from an historical point of view other than Egyptologist she would achieve more. It is understood that on average only I in 20 Predynastic graves contained flint work at all and then it was restricted in type (Brunton & Caton-Thompson 1928:70).24
Caton-Thompson already in 1928 asked the important questions of regional distributions and people movements (Brunton & Caton-Thompson 1928:70).
For instance, to take an example, at about SD 4025 we know that a radically new conception of pottery form and decoration was filtering into Egypt – by what route we do not yet feel certain – and gradually supplanting old indigenous styles. Is this due to culture-drift, racial-drift, or invasion? How far does the flint work change to at this period, and if so in what particulars? Is the overlap of changing pottery and flint types more apparent in Upper Egypt or in the North?
Adding to Caton-Thompson’s resolve to elevate the settlement theories, was the discovery of the Badarian pottery. This gave her a second motive for testing her convictions that the information gathered by excavating only cemeteries, will not provide enough answers to formulate a proper movement model for early Egyptian Prehistory.
It is important at this time to illuminate the work done at this site further as it proved to be the most important work done for placing the early pre-dynastic sequence in perspective. The geological strata found on the site contains two distinct markers above and below the midden earth forming the greater part of the excavation activities. The topmost layer consists of a layer of wash of clean limestone scree of variable thickness, but nowhere exceeding 275 mm (11 in) deposited on the slope since Old Kingdom times. Below the midden material at approximately 1.8 m (6 ft) is a layer of limestone scree, cemented by percolating mineral rich water to such a hardness that Caton-Thompson calls it a ‘breccia’. This deposit is nowhere thicker than 250-300 mm (10 to 12 in), but is of such hardness that even the Old Kingdom grave shafts did not penetrate it (Brunton & Caton-Thompson 1928:72). It contains no archaeological artefacts. The midden and the material below the breccia deposits are very important for several reasons. Initially Caton-Thompson thought that the hard layer constituted the bedrock of the settlement and made some preliminary soundings without finding any signs of archaeological deposits. It was during the second season that they again removed some of the breccias to find Badarian sherds in the ground beneath. In all she collected thirty-six Badarian sherds, as well as three sherds of uncombed polished red ware and also three worked flints (Brunton & Caton-Thompson 1928:72).
Caton-Thompson (1928:73) does raise the question of the relation in point of time between the Badarian sherds below the breccias and those found above the breccias. At the time she considered the formation of the breccia to have taken place in a relatively quick time, and therefore the Badarian sherds above and below are close in a relative time-span. What is interesting is that she makes the following remark: ‘It is quite clear that the site in its pre-breccia days was not used by the Badarian as a settlement. The rarity of their sherds and flints and the cleanness of the ground point to no more than a passing presence. Perhaps their settlement proper was lower down, in the now alluvial plain’ (Brunton & Caton-Thompson 1928:73).
In 1975 Caton-Thompson and Whittle published a series of thermoluminescence dates for the Badarian. This will be discussed in Chapter 4
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS AND ACRONYMS
LIST OF TABLES
LIST OF FIGURES
CHAPTER 1: THE BADARIAN CIVILISATION
1.2. RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1.5 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 GENERAL OVERVIEW
2.2 MAJOR REFERENCE WORK ON THE EGYPTIAN-SAHARA PREHISTORY
CHAPTER 3: THE KNOWN AND POSSIBLE BADARIAN SITES
3.2 QAU AND BADARI
3.3 HEMAMIEH NORTH-SPUR
3.6 OTHER POSSIBLE BADARIAN SITES
CHAPTER 4: CHRONOLOGY OF THE BADARIAN
4.2 SEQUENCE DATING
4.3 SEQUENCE DATING OF THE BADARIAN
4.4 CHRONOMETRIC DATING OF THE BADARIAN
4.5 QUANTITATIVE ANALYSIS OF THE BADARIAN
CHAPTER 5: BADARIAN POTTERY
5.2 BADARIAN POTTERY CLASSIFICATION
5.3 POSSIBLE SPATIAL DISTRIBUTION OF BADARIAN POTTERY
5.4 SUMMARY OF POTTERY MANUFACTURE IN THE SAHARA AND SURROUNDING AREAS
5.5 THE DISTRIBUTION OF BADARIAN CULTURE: APPROACH BY OTHER SCHOLARS
5.6 CAN CERAMIC ETHNOARCHAEOLOGY BE APPLIED TO THE BADARIAN CERAMIC CORPUS?
CHAPTER 6: BADARIAN LITHICS
6.2 STONE IMPLEMENTS FROM QAU AND BADARI
6.3 LITHICS FROM THE PREDYNASTIC SETTLEMENT, NORTH-SPUR HEMAMIEH
6.4 BADARIAN LITHICS FROM THE SITE OF MOSTAGEDDA
6.5 BADARIAN LITHICS FROM THE SITE OF MATMAR
6.6 LITHICS FROM THE BADARIAN CULTURES AT ARMANT
CHAPTER 7: BADARIAN GRAVE GOODS
7.2 BADARIAN AMULETS
7.3 BADARIAN BEADS
7.4 OTHER BODY ADORNMENTS
7.5 INTERPRETATION OF BEADS AND OTHER OBJECTS IN PREDYNASTIC BURIALS
CHAPTER 8: SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT