Who Lived In Egypt Before The Pharaohs?

The known, Dynastic Egypt began around 3,100 BCE. But the magnificent, complex civilization we still learn about in elementary school did not suddenly emerge, fully-formed. What came before? Archaeologists know that roughly between 9,300 BCE and 4,000 BCE, an enigmatic Neolithic people built a proto civilization in Egypt. But there has been little research on them, so a new excavation of six burial sites has the possibility of adding greatly to the understanding of how ancient Egypt became, well, ancient Egypt.

During the Neolithic, Egypt was much greener, allowing ancient herders to populate what is now the middle of a barren desert. During the Final Neolithic (4,600 - 4,000 BCE) they began to bury the dead in formal cemeteries. We know this from excavations at three burial sites which were not lone graves but large cemeteries housing over 100 burials each.

One cemetery appears to be for the elite. It had a low childhood mortality rate, tall stature, and relatively long lifespans for the Neolithic. Men averaged about 170 cm tall (5'7"), and women about 160 cm (5'3"). Most had lived beyond 40, and some even into their 50s. That's not old today, but for the Neolithic, that's nothing to scoff at. And most tellingly, those in this cemetery were buried with many artifacts including ornamental pottery, jewellery from stones and ostrich eggshells, sea shells far from the sea, and animal remains. Two other cemeteries appear to be for lower-status individuals. They had few artifacts, high child mortality, were physically shorter, and had shorter lifespans. The larger of the two cemeteries had a separate burial area for children under 3 years old, although most of the remains were infants and late-term fetuses. It is the earliest known infant cemetery.

These three very different burial sites suggest that by 4,600 BCE, Neolithic society had developed stratified social hierarchies. It also suggests that age 3 is when children became "people" and were included in adult cemeteries. Finally, there was evidence of respect for those previously buried, because when coming across old skeletons in reused graves, they often carefully repositioned their ancestors' bones, sometimes even replacing teeth that had fallen out! The archaeological evidence suggests a sophisticated herding society, one slowly evolving towards what would become Dynastic Egypt.

There's A Bishop of the Moon?

During a 1968 visit with the Pope, William D. Borders, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Orlando, Florida, observed that arguably he was now bishop of the moon. According to the 1917 Code of Canon Law, which was in force at the time, any newly discovered territory fell under the jurisdiction of the diocese from which the discovering expedition had left. And Borders’ diocese included Brevard County, home of Cape Canaveral, where the Apollo missions took off.

Can You Guess What This Is?

It is a knife! Specifically, a Tantric Buddhist ritual curved knife dating to the 1600s or 1700s. Such knives are both a common attribute for wrathful deities and a ritual object used symbolically to destroy negative forces. The form is modelled after Indian butcher's knives, with a crescent-shaped blade designed for flaying an animal’s skin and a sharp hook to make the initial incision. As a tool of enlightenment, it severs and strips away the layers of false knowledge inherent to ordinary existence, revealing a greater truth. On the copper relief, a horned animal is depicted to make the knife even more powerful, and aid in wardng off dangerous forces. Courtesy of the Walters Art Museum.

A Lofty Goal

In 1760, Horace Benedict de Saussure, a naturalist hoping to gain scientific information, offered a reward to anyone who could make the full climb up Mont Blanc, the highest mountain peak in Europe. It was 26 years before Dr. Michel Paccard was able to complete the climb and earn the reward.

Literal Translations of Country Names: Oceania

Here's the history behind my favorites: New Zealand is a mash-up of English (New) and Dutch (Zeeland), but it should also be called “Aotearoa,” its Māori name, which means "Land of the Long White Cloud". And Nauru may derive from the Nauruan word "anáoero", which means "I go to the beach."

A team of archaeologists excavating a Bronze Age cemetery in the region of Karaganda, in central Kazakhstan, has unearthed the remains of a man and a woman who were buried facing one another. Their exact relationship is unclear, and the archaeologists did not speculate on whether they were a romantic couple or held some other relationship, such as siblings. The two were buried with varied, high-quality grave goods including beads, large ceramic pots, knives, and gold jewelry. Together the grave goods suggest the two came from wealthy families. The couple are believed to have been buried sometime around 2000 BCE. In this part of Kazakhstan, that time was marked by increasing conflict, as well as the introduction of the chariot.

Eharo mask worn during ritual dances before formal sacred rituals from the Elema culture of Papua New Guinea. The eharo masks were intended to be humorous figures, not solemn, and were made of hammered bark, rattan, vegetable fiber, and various pigments for color. 1800-1882.

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    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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