Social transformation in the Delta from the terminal predynastic to the early dynastic period : a comparative study
In this thesis I examine evidence for change in social and political organisation at four cemetery sites within the northeast Delta of Egypt. The time period with which I am concerned, the Terminal Predynastic to Early Dynastic, coincides with the final stages of a process of cultural and political development and integration from the early fourth to the early third millennium BC. The Delta has remained, until recent years, poorly researched, in comparison to the Nile Valley. This thesis makes an important contribution towards understanding the prehistory of this region through a comparative study of the mortuary evidence from the sites of Kafr Hassan Dawood, Kufur Nigm, Minshat Abu Omar and Tell Ibrahim Awad. This thesis research has two over-arching aims: 1) to elucidate change in social and political organisation as reflected through the mortuary evidence at the key sites in the northeast Delta, and how this relates to the funerary record throughout Predynastic and Early Dynastic Egypt; and 2) to assess how the evidence from the northeast Delta sites affects our consideration of previous hypotheses regarding the development of social complexity in early Egypt. In order to achieve this, the thesis gradually narrows its focus onto the Delta, following a discussion of previous hypotheses on the origins of state society in Egypt, and a review of temporal and geographic diversity in Predynastic and Early Dynastic burial trends. I have critically incorporated elements of socio-evolutionary theory within my theoretical approach, and evaluated aspects of previous research into mortuary contexts worldwide, to assess which elements I consider appropriate to include within my methodology. My methodology presents a new four-stage sequence of statistical analysis that seeks to maximise the analytical potential of mortuary data through investigation of a wide range of variables relating to the wealth and effort expended on the grave, and the changing relationship between these elements and the age and sex of the deceased. Geographical Information Systems technology is used for spatial analysis at the site of Kafr Hassan Dawood, to explore the data from a visual perspective. The results prove both revealing and are, in some instances, quite unexpected. The analysis of the key sites reveals societies expressing organisational characteristics ranging from ranked to stratified, and striking differences in terms of internal site development. The widest temporal scopes for development are observed at Kafr Hassan Dawood and Minshat Abu Omar, where we witness the change from the early importance of kin groups with clear variability within ideology, to increasing cohesion in the latter stages of the sites' histories, with the declining importance of kin groups seemingly in tandem with heightening external contact. The height of prosperity visible in the latter history of the sites, however, is short-lived, with three of the four cemeteries falling into disuse. This decline would appear due to the economic repercussions of the rise of the centralised state on their livelihood.