Egypt and Nubia in the 5th–4th millennia BC: A view from the First Cataract and its surroundings

Maria Carmela Gatto

Yale University, New Haven, USA

The reconceptualization of frontiers as zones of cultural interface and fluidity in group affiliations is here taken into consideration when analysing the prehistoric sites found in the First Cataract region.

In the past those sites were assigned to the A-Group culture, but new studies are questioning this relation in favour of a Naqada affiliation. Indeed, a Nubian component is always present in the archaeological record of the area, but it is consistently low in percentage compared to the Egyptian contribution.

The location of these sites on the boundary zone between Egypt and Nubia does not aid our understanding of the cultural dynamics between the two cultural units. Following the assumption that frontiers are socially charged places where innovative cultural constructs are created and transformed, the Naqada affiliation mentioned above may be overturned in support of a third hypothesis. In fact, the cultural fluidity between Egypt and Nubia in their borderland may have produced an integrated new entity.

We should expect that the Egyptian and Nubian groups modified, created and syncretized emblemic elements, or cultural markers (such as pottery or lithic artifacts), to produce an integrated new entity in their culture contact situation. In Anthopology, this process is called “creolization.”

In this respect, it is important to bring to light which aspects of their social life (corresponding to symbolic principles) are hybrid elements and which are elements of the two original identities. Several studies of frontiers emphasize the need for both macro- and micro-scale analyses, as well as the availability of funerary, domestic and ritual sites. Thus, three types of site are here described: a settlement found at Nag el-Qarmila, a small valley to the north of Kubbaniya; its associated cemetery and an isolated tumulus found in the desert east of Kom Ombo; and a ritual site with rock art found in Wadi Abu Subeira. 

Download PDF: Egypt and Nubia in the 5th–4th millennia BC: A view from the First Cataract and its surroundings

To reference this article we suggest:

Gatto, M. C. 2009. Egypt and Nubia in the 5th–4th millennia BC: A view from the First Cataract and its surroundings. BMSAES 13: 125–45. http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/online_journals/bmsaes/issue_13/gatto.aspx

Contact the author
maria.gatto@yale.edu