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The prehistory of Egypt spans the period from the earliest human settlement to the beginning of the Early Dynastic Period around BC, starting with the first Pharaoh , Narmer for some Egyptologists, Hor-Aha for others, with the name Menes also possibly used for one of these kings.
This Predynastic era is traditionally equivalent to the final part of the Neolithic period beginning c. The dates of the Predynastic period were first defined before widespread archaeological excavation of Egypt took place, and recent finds indicating very gradual Predynastic development have led to controversy over when exactly the Predynastic period ended.
Thus, various terms such as " Protodynastic period ", "Zero Dynasty" or "Dynasty 0"  are used to name the part of the period which might be characterized as Predynastic by some and Early Dynastic by others. The Predynastic period is generally divided into cultural eras, each named after the place where a certain type of Egyptian settlement was first discovered.
However, the same gradual development that characterizes the Protodynastic period is present throughout the entire Predynastic period, and individual "cultures" must not be interpreted as separate entities but as largely subjective divisions used to facilitate study of the entire period.
The vast majority of Predynastic archaeological finds have been in Upper Egypt , because the silt of the Nile River was more heavily deposited at the Delta region , completely burying most Delta sites long before modern times. Excavation of the Nile has exposed early stone tools from the last million or so years. Originally reported as early Mousterian c.
The 4. An Egyptian version of the Aterian technology was also located. Some of the oldest known structures were discovered in Egypt by archaeologist Waldemar Chmielewski along the southern border near Wadi Halfa , Sudan in Arkin 8 site.
Many are lined with flat sandstone slabs. They are called tent rings, because the rocks supported a dome-like shelter of skins or brush. This type of dwelling provided a place to live, but if necessary, could be taken down easily and moved. They were mobile structures—easily disassembled, moved, and reassembled—providing hunter-gatherers with semi-permanent habitation.
Aterian tool-making reached Egypt c. The Khormusan industry in Egypt began between 42, and 32, BP. Halfan sites are found in the far north of Sudan, whereas Kubbaniyan sites are found in Upper Egypt. For the Halfan, only four radiocarbon dates have been produced. Schild and Wendorf discard the earliest and latest as erratic and conclude that the Halfan existed c. Greater concentrations of artifacts indicate that they were not bound to seasonal wandering, but settled for longer periods. The primary material remains of this culture are stone tools, flakes, and a multitude of rock paintings.
In Egypt, analyses of pollen found at archaeological sites indicate that the Sebilian culture also known as the Esna culture were gathering wheat and barley. The Sebilian culture began around 13, B. C and vanished around 10, B.
C [ citation needed ] Domesticated seeds were not found modern wheat and barley originated in Asia Minor and Canaan . It has been hypothesized that the sedentary lifestyle used by farmers led to increased warfare , which was detrimental to farming and brought this period to an end.
The Qadan culture 13,—9, BC was a Mesolithic industry that, archaeological evidence suggests, originated in Upper Egypt present-day south Egypt approximately 15, years ago. It was characterized by hunting , as well as a unique approach to food gathering that incorporated the preparation and consumption of wild grasses and grains. Around twenty archaeological sites in Upper Nubia give evidence for the existence of the Qadan culture's grain - grinding culture.
Its makers also practiced wild grain harvesting along the Nile during the beginning of the Sahaba Daru Nile phase, when desiccation in the Sahara caused residents of the Libyan oases to retreat into the Nile valley. Qadan peoples were the first to develop sickles and they also developed grinding stones independently to aid in the collecting and processing of these plant foods prior to consumption.
This assimilation led to the Circum-Arabian Nomadic Pastoral Complex, a group of cultures that invented nomadic pastoralism , and may have been the original culture which spread Proto-Semitic languages throughout Mesopotamia. Continued expansion of the desert forced the early ancestors of the Egyptians to settle around the Nile more permanently and adopt a more sedentary lifestyle during the Neolithic. The period from to BC has left very little in the way of archaeological evidence.
Around BC, Neolithic settlements appear all over Egypt. Jared Diamond, in a non-scholarly work, proposes other regions in Africa independently developed agriculture at about the same time: the Ethiopian highlands , the Sahel , and West Africa. Some morphological and post-cranial data has linked the earliest farming populations at Fayum, Merimde, and El-Badari, to Near Eastern populations. Weaving is evidenced for the first time during the Faiyum A Period. People of this period, unlike later Egyptians, buried their dead very close to, and sometimes inside, their settlements.
Although archaeological sites reveal very little about this time, an examination of the many Egyptian words for "city" provide a hypothetical list of reasons why the Egyptians settled.
In Upper Egypt, terminology indicates trade, protection of livestock, high ground for flood refuge, and sacred sites for deities. From about to BC the Merimde culture, so far only known from a big settlement site at the edge of the Western Delta, flourished in Lower Egypt. The culture has strong connections to the Faiyum A culture as well as the Levant. People lived in small huts, produced a simple undecorated pottery and had stone tools.
Cattle, sheep, goats and pigs were held. Wheat, sorghum and barley were planted. The Merimde people buried their dead within the settlement and produced clay figurines.
The El Omari culture is known from a small settlement near modern Cairo. People seem to have lived in huts, but only postholes and pits survive. The pottery is undecorated.
Stone tools include small flakes, axes and sickles. Metal was not yet known. The culture is best known from the site Maadi near Cairo, but is also attested in many other places in the Delta to the Faiyum region. This culture was marked by development in architecture and technology. It also followed its predecessor cultures when it comes to undecorated ceramics. Copper was known, and some copper adzes have been found.
The pottery is simple and undecorated and shows, in some forms, strong connections to the southern Levant. The dead were buried in cemeteries, but with few burial goods. The Maadi culture was replaced by the Naqada III culture; whether this happened by conquest or infiltration is still an open question.
The Tasian culture was the next in Upper Egypt. This culture group is named for the burials found at Der Tasa , on the east bank of the Nile between Asyut and Akhmim. The Tasian culture group is notable for producing the earliest blacktop-ware, a type of red and brown pottery that is painted black on the top and interior.
Because all dates for the Predynastic period are tenuous at best, WMF Petrie developed a system called sequence dating by which the relative date, if not the absolute date, of any given Predynastic site can be ascertained by examining its pottery. As the Predynastic period progressed, the handles on pottery evolved from functional to ornamental. The degree to which any given archaeological site has functional or ornamental pottery can also be used to determine the relative date of the site.
Since there is little difference between Tasian ceramics and Badarian pottery, the Tasian Culture overlaps the Badarian range significantly. It followed the Tasian culture, but was so similar that many consider them one continuous period. The Badarian Culture continued to produce the kind of pottery called blacktop-ware albeit much improved in quality and was assigned Sequence Dating numbers 21— Badarian flint tools continued to develop into sharper and more shapely blades, and the first faience was developed.
The Naqada culture is an archaeological culture of Chalcolithic Predynastic Egypt ca. El-Amra is the first site where this culture group was found unmingled with the later Gerzean culture group, but this period is better attested at the Naqada site, so it also is referred to as the Naqada I culture.
The Amratian period falls between S. Newly excavated objects attest to increased trade between Upper and Lower Egypt at this time. A stone vase from the north was found at el-Amra, and copper, which is not mined in Egypt, was imported from the Sinai, or possibly Nubia. Obsidian  and a small amount of gold  were both definitely imported from Nubia. Trade with the oases also was likely. New innovations appeared in Amratian settlements as precursors to later cultural periods.
For example, the mud-brick buildings for which the Gerzean period is known were first seen in Amratian times, but only in small numbers. It was the next stage in Egyptian cultural development, and it was during this time that the foundation of Dynastic Egypt was laid.
Gerzean culture is largely an unbroken development out of Amratian Culture, starting in the delta and moving south through upper Egypt, but failing to dislodge Amratian culture in Nubia. Gerzean culture coincided with a significant decline in rainfall ,  and farming along the Nile now produced the vast majority of food,  though contemporary paintings indicate that hunting was not entirely forgone. With increased food supplies, Egyptians adopted a much more sedentary lifestyle and cities grew as large as 5, It was in this time that Egyptian city dwellers stopped building with reeds and began mass-producing mud bricks, first found in the Amratian Period, to build their cities.
Egyptian stone tools, while still in use, moved from bifacial construction to ripple-flaked construction. Copper was used for all kinds of tools,  and the first copper weaponry appears here. The first tombs in classic Egyptian style were also built, modeled after ordinary houses and sometimes composed of multiple rooms. Although the Gerzean Culture is now clearly identified as being the continuation of the Amratian period, significant amounts of Mesopotamian influences worked their way into Egypt during the Gerzean which were interpreted in previous years as evidence of a Mesopotamian ruling class, the so-called Dynastic Race , coming to power over Upper Egypt.
This idea no longer attracts academic support. Distinctly foreign objects and art forms entered Egypt during this period, indicating contacts with several parts of Asia.
Objects such as the Gebel el-Arak knife handle, which has patently Mesopotamian relief carvings on it, have been found in Egypt,  and the silver which appears in this period can only have been obtained from Asia Minor. In addition, Egyptian objects are created which clearly mimic Mesopotamian forms, although not slavishly. The route of this trade is difficult to determine, but contact with Canaan does not predate the early dynastic, so it is usually assumed to have been by water.
The fact that so many Gerzean sites are at the mouths of wadis which lead to the Red Sea may indicate some amount of trade via the Red Sea though Byblian trade potentially could have crossed the Sinai and then taken to the Red Sea. Despite this evidence of foreign influence, Egyptologists generally agree that the Gerzean Culture is still predominantly indigenous to Egypt.
Naqada III is notable for being the first era with hieroglyphs though this is disputed by some , the first regular use of serekhs , the first irrigation, and the first appearance of royal cemeteries. The relatively affluent Maadi suburb of Cairo is built over the original Naqada stronghold. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.