The Discovery Of Prehistoric Egypt

During the last ten years our conception of the beginnings of Egyptian

antiquity has profoundly altered. When Prof. Maspero published the

first volume of his great Histoire Ancienne des Peuples des l'Orient

Classique, in 1895, Egyptian history, properly so called, still began

with the Pyramid-builders, Sne-feru, Khufu, and Khafra (Cheops and

Chephren), and the legendary lists of earlier kings preserved at Abydos

and Sa
kara were still quoted as the only source of knowledge of the

time before the IVth Dynasty. Of a prehistoric Egypt nothing was known,

beyond a few flint flakes gathered here and there upon the desert

plateaus, which might or might not tell of an age when the ancestors

of the Pyramid-builders knew only the stone tools and weapons of the

primeval savage.

Now, however, the veil which has hidden the beginnings of Egyptian

civilization from us has been lifted, and we see things, more or less,

as they actually were, unobscured by the traditions of a later day.

Until the last few years nothing of the real beginnings of history in

either Egypt or Mesopotamia had been found; legend supplied the only

material for the reconstruction of the earliest history of the oldest

civilized nations of the globe. Nor was it seriously supposed that any

relics of prehistoric Egypt or Mesopotamia ever would be found. The

antiquity of the known history of these countries already appeared

so great that nobody took into consideration the possibility of our

discovering a prehistoric Egypt or Mesopotamia; the idea was too remote

from practical work. And further, civilization in these countries had

lasted so long that it seemed more than probable that all traces

of their prehistoric age had long since been swept away. Yet the

possibility, which seemed hardly worth a moment's consideration in 1895,

is in 1905 an assured reality, at least as far as Egypt is concerned.

Prehistoric Babylonia has yet to be discovered. It is true, for example,

that at Mukay-yar, the site of ancient Ur of the Chaldees, burials

in earthenware coffins, in which the skeletons lie in the doubled-up

position characteristic of Neolithic interments, have been found; but

there is no doubt whatever that these are burials of a much later date,

belonging, quite possibly, to the Parthian period. Nothing that may

rightfully be termed prehistoric has yet been found in the Euphrates

valley, whereas in Egypt prehistoric antiquities are now almost as well

known and as well represented in our museums as are the prehistoric

antiquities of Europe and America.

With the exception of a few palasoliths from the surface of the Syrian

desert, near the Euphrates valley, not a single implement of the Age

of Stone has yet been found in Southern Mesopotamia, whereas Egypt

has yielded to us the most perfect examples of the flint-knapper's

art known, flint tools and weapons more beautiful than the finest that

Europe and America can show. The reason is not far to seek. Southern

Mesopotamia is an alluvial country, and the ancient cities, which

doubtless mark the sites of the oldest settlements in the land, are

situated in the alluvial marshy plain between the Tigris and the

Euphrates; so that all traces of the Neolithic culture of the country

would seem to have disappeared, buried deep beneath city-mounds, clay

and marsh. It is the same in the Egyptian Delta, a similar country; and

here no traces of the prehistoric culture of Egypt have been found. The

attempt to find them was made last year at Buto, which is known to be

one of the most antique centres of civilization, and probably was one of

the earliest settlements in Egypt, but without success. The infiltration

of water had made excavation impossible and had no doubt destroyed

everything belonging to the most ancient settlement. It is not going too

far to predict that exactly the same thing will be found by any explorer

who tries to discover a Neolithic stratum beneath a city-mound of

Babylonia. There is little hope that prehistoric Chaldaea will ever be

known to us. But in Egypt the conditions are different. The Delta is

like Babylonia, it is true; but in the Upper Nile valley the river flows

down with but a thin border of alluvial land on either side, through the

rocky and hilly desert, the dry Sahara, where rain falls but once in two

or three years. Antiquities buried in this soil in the most remote

ages are preserved intact as they were first interred, until the modern

investigator comes along to look for them. And it is on the desert

margin of the valley that the remains of prehistoric Egypt have been

found. That is the reason for their perfect preservation till our own

day, and why we know prehistoric Egypt so well.

The chief work of Egyptian civilization was the proper irrigation of

the alluvial soil, the turning of marsh into cultivated fields, and the

reclamation of land from the desert for the purposes of agriculture.

Owing to the rainless character of the country, the only means

of obtaining water for the crops is by irrigation, and where the

fertilizing Nile water cannot be taken by means of canals, there

cultivation ends and the desert begins. Before Egyptian civilization,

properly so called, began, the valley was a great marsh through which

the Nile found its way north to the sea. The half-savage, stone-using

ancestors of the civilized Egyptians hunted wild fowl, crocodiles,

and hippopotami in the marshy valley; but except in a few isolated

settlements on convenient mounds here and there (the forerunners of the

later villages), they did not live there. Their settlements were on

the dry desert margin, and it was here, upon low tongues of desert hill

jutting out into the plain, that they buried their dead. Their simple

shallow graves were safe from the flood, and, but for the depredations

of jackals and hyenas, here they have remained intact till our own

day, and have yielded up to us the facts from which we have derived our

knowledge of prehistoric Egypt. Thus it is that we know so much of the

Egyptians of the Stone Age, while of their contemporaries in Mesopotamia

we know nothing, nor is anything further likely to be discovered.

But these desert cemeteries, with their crowds of oval shallow graves,

covered by only a few inches of surface soil, in which the Neolithic

Egyptians lie crouched up with their flint implements and polished

pottery beside them, are but monuments of the later age of prehistoric

Egypt. Long before the Neolithic Egyptian hunted his game in the

marshes, and here and there essayed the work of reclamation for the

purposes of an incipient agriculture, a far older race inhabited the

valley of the Nile. The written records of Egyptian civilization go back

four thousand years before Christ, or earlier, and the Neolithic Age of

Egypt must go back to a period several thousand years before that. But

we can now go back much further still, to the Palaeolithic Age of Egypt.

At a time when Europe was still covered by the ice and snows of the

Glacial Period, and man fought as an equal, hardly yet as a superior,

with cave-bear and mammoth, the Palaeolithic Egyptians lived on the

banks of the Nile. Their habitat was doubtless the desert slopes, often,

too, the plateaus themselves; but that they lived entirely upon the

plateaus, high up above the Nile marsh, is improbable. There, it is

true, we find their flint implements, the great pear-shaped weapons of

the types of Chelles, St. Acheul, and Le Moustier, types well known

to all who are acquainted with the flint implements of the "Drift" in

Europe. And it is there that the theory, generally accepted hitherto,

has placed the habitat of the makers and users of these implements.

The idea was that in Palaeolithic days, contemporary with the Glacial

Age of Northern Europe and America, the climate of Egypt was entirely

different from that of later times and of to-day. Instead of dry desert,

the mountain plateaus bordering the Nile valley were supposed to have

been then covered with forest, through which flowed countless streams

to feed the river below. It was suggested that remains of these streams

were to be seen in the side ravines, or wadis, of the Nile valley, which

run up from the low desert on the river level into the hills on either

hand. These wadis undoubtedly show extensive traces of strong water

action; they curve and twist as the streams found their easiest way

to the level through the softer strata, they are heaped up with great

water-worn boulders, they are hollowed out where waterfalls once fell.

They have the appearance of dry watercourses, exactly what any mountain

burns would be were the water-supply suddenly cut off for ever, the

climate altered from rainy to eternal sun-glare, and every plant and

tree blasted, never to grow again. Acting on the supposition that this

idea was a correct one, most observers have concluded that the climate

of Egypt in remote periods was very different from the dry, rainless one

now obtaining. To provide the water for the wadi streams, heavy

rainfall and forests are desiderated. They were easily supplied, on the

hypothesis. Forests clothed the mountain plateaus, heavy rains fell, and

the water rushed down to the Nile, carving out the great watercourses

which remain to this day, bearing testimony to the truth. And the

flints, which the Palaeolithic inhabitants of the plateau-forests made

and used, still lie on the now treeless and sun-baked desert surface.


This is certainly a very weak conclusion. In fact, it seriously damages

the whole argument, the water-courses to the contrary notwithstanding.

The palaeoliths are there. They can be picked up by any visitor. There

they lie, great flints of the Drift types, just like those found in the

gravel-beds of England and Belgium, on the desert surface where they

were made. Undoubtedly where they were made, for the places where

they lie are the actual ancient flint workshops, where the flints were

chipped. Everywhere around are innumerable flint chips and perfect

weapons, burnt black and patinated by ages of sunlight. We are taking

one particular spot in the hills of Western Thebes as an example, but

there are plenty of others, such as the Wadi esh-Shekh on the right bank

of the Nile opposite Maghagha, whence Mr. H. Seton-Karr has brought

back specimens of flint tools of all ages from the Palaeolithic to the

Neolithic periods.

The Palaeolithic flint workshops on the Theban hills have been visited of

late years by Mr. Seton-Karr, by Prof. Schweinfurth, Mr. Allen Sturge,

and Dr. Blanckenhorn, by Mr. Portch, Mr. Ayrton, and Mr. Hall. The

weapons illustrated here were found by Messrs. Hall and Ayrton, and are

now preserved in the British Museum. Among these flints shown we notice

two fine specimens of the pear-shaped type of St. Acheul, with curious

adze-shaped implements of primitive type to left and right. Below, to

the right, is a very primitive instrument of Chellean type, being merely

a sharpened pebble. Above, to left and right, are two specimens of the

curious half-moon-shaped instruments which are characteristic of

the Theban flint field and are hardly known elsewhere. All have the

beautiful brown patina, which only ages of sunburn can give. The

"poignard" type to the left, at the bottom of the plate, is broken off


From the desert plateau and slopes west of Thebes.]

In the smaller illustration we see some remarkable types: two scrapers

or knives with strongly marked "bulb of percussion" (the spot where the

flint-knapper struck and from which the flakes flew off), a very regular

coup-de-poing which looks almost like a large arrowhead, and on the

right a much weathered and patinated scraper which must be of immemorial


March, 1905.]

This came from the top plateau, not from the slopes (or subsidiary

plateaus at the head of the wadis), as did the great St. Acheulian

weapons. The circular object is very remarkable: it is the half of the

ring of a "morpholith "(a round flinty accretion often found in the

Theban limestone) which has been split, and the split (flat) side

carefully bevelled. Several of these interesting objects have been

found in conjunction with Palaeolithic implements at Thebes. No doubt the

flints lie on the actual surface where they were made. No later water

action has swept them away and covered them with gravel, no later human

habitation has hidden them with successive deposits of soil, no gradual

deposit of dust and rubbish has buried them deep. They lie as they were

left in the far-away Palaeolithic Age, and they have lain there till

taken away by the modern explorer.

But this is not the case with all the Palaeolithic flints of Thebes. In

the year 1882 Maj.-Gen. Pitt-Rivers discovered Palaeolithic flints in the

deposit of diluvial detritus which lies between the cultivation and the

mountains on the west bank of the Nile opposite Luxor. Many of these are

of the same type as those found on the surface of the mountain plateau

which lies at the head of the great wadi of the Tombs of the Kings,

while the diluvial deposit is at its mouth. The stuff of which the

detritus is composed evidently came originally from the high plateau,

and was washed down, with the flints, in ancient times.

This is quite conceivable, but how is it that the flints left behind

on the plateau remain on the original ancient surface? How is it

conceivable that if (on the old theory) these plateaus were in

Palaeolithic days clothed with forest, the Palaeolithic flints could even

in a single instance remain undisturbed from Palaeolithic times to the

present day, when the forest in which they were made and the forest soil

on which they reposed have entirely disappeared? If there were woods and

forests On the heights, it would seem impossible that we should find,

as we do, Palaeolithic implements lying in situ on the desert surface,

around the actual manufactories where they were made. Yet if the

constant rainfall and the vegetation of the Libyan desert area in

Palaeolithic days is all a myth (as it most probably is), how came the

embedded palaeoliths, found by Gen. Pitt-Rivers, in the bed of diluvial

detritus which is apparently debris from the plateau brought down by

the Palaeolithic wadi streams?

Water erosion has certainly formed the Theban wadis. But this water

erosion was probably not that which would be the result of perennial

streams flowing down from wooded heights, but of torrents like those

of to-day, which fill the wadis once in three years or so after heavy

rain, but repeated at much closer intervals. We may in fact suppose

just so much difference in meteorological conditions as would make it

possible for sudden rain-storms to occur over the desert at far more

frequent intervals than at present. That would account for the detritus

bed at the mouth of the wadi, and its embedded flints, and at the

same time maintain the general probability of the idea that the desert

plateaus were desert in Palaeolithic days as now, and that early man only

knapped his flints up there because he found the flint there. He himself

lived on the slopes and nearer the marsh.

This new view seems to be much sounder and more probable than the old

one, maintained by Flinders Petrie and Blanckenhorn, according to which

the high plateau was the home of man in Palaeolithic times, when the

rainfall, as shown by the valley erosion and waterfalls, must have

caused an abundant vegetation on the plateau, where man could live and

hunt his game. [*Petrie, Nagada and Ballas, p. 49.] Were this so, it

is patent that the Palaeolithic flints could not have been found on the

desert surface as they are. Mr. H. J. L. Beadnell, of the Geological

Survey of Egypt, to whom we are indebted for the promulgation of the

more modern and probable view, says: "Is it certain that the high

plateau was then clothed with forests? What evidence is there to show

that it differed in any important respect from its present aspect? And

if, as I suggest, desert conditions obtained then as now, and man merely

worked his flints along the edges of the plateaus overlooking the

Nile valley, I see no reason why flint implements, dating even from

Palaeolithic times should not in favourable cases still be found in

the spots where they were left, surrounded by the flakes struck off in

manufacture. On the flat plateaus the occasional rains which fall--once

in three or four years--can effect but little transport of material, and

merely lower the general level by dissolving the underlying limestone,

so that the plateau surface is left with a coating of nodules and blocks

of insoluble flint and chert. Flint implements might thus be expected

to remain in many localities for indefinite periods, but they would

certainly become more or less 'patinated,' pitted on the surface, and

rounded at the angles after long exposure to heat, cold, and blown

sand." This is exactly the case of the Palaeolithic flint tools from the

desert plateau.

IMPLEMENTS ARE FOUND, Thebes: 1,400 leet above the Nile.]

We do not know whether Palaeolithic man in Egypt was contemporary with

the cave-man of Europe. We have no means of gauging the age of the

Palaeolithic Egyptian weapons, as we have for the Neolithic period.

The historical (dynastic) period of Egyptian annals began with the

unification of the kingdom under one head somewhere about 4500 B.C. At

that time copper as well as stone weapons were used, so that we may say

that at the beginning of the historical age the Egyptians were living

in the "Chalcolithic" period. We can trace the use of copper back for

a considerable period anterior to the beginning of the Ist Dynasty,

so that we shall probably not be far wrong if we do not bring down the

close of the purely Neolithic Age in Egypt--the close of the Age of

Stone, properly so called--later than +5000 B.C. How far back in the

remote ages the transition period between the Palaeolithic and Neolithic

Ages should be placed, it is utterly impossible to say. The use of stone

for weapons and implements continued in Egypt as late as the time of

the XIIth Dynasty, about 2500-2000 B.C. But these XIIth Dynasty stone

implements show by their forms how late they are in the history of the

Stone Age. The axe heads, for instance, are in form imitations of

the copper and bronze axe heads usual at that period; they are stone

imitations of metal, instead of the originals on whose model the metal

weapons were formed. The flint implements of the XIIth Dynasty were

a curious survival from long past ages. After the time of the XIIth

Dynasty stone was no longer used for tools or weapons, except for the

sacred rite of making the first incision in the dead bodies before

beginning the operations of embalming; for this purpose, as Herodotus

tells us, an "Ethiopian stone" was used. This was no doubt a knife of

flint or chert, like those of the Neolithic ancestors of the Egyptians,

and the continued use of a stone knife for this one purpose only is a

very interesting instance of a ceremonial survival. We may compare the

wigs of British judges.

We have no specimen of a flint knife which can definitely be asserted to

have belonged to an embalmer, but of the archaistic flint weapons of the

XIIth Dynasty we have several specimens. They were found by Prof. Petrie

at the place named by him "Kahun," the site of a XIIth Dynasty town

built near the pyramid of King Usertsen (or Senusret) II at Illahun,

at the mouth of the canal leading from the Nile valley into the

oasis-province of the Payyum. These Kahun flints, and others of probably

the same period found by Mr. Seton-Karr at the very ancient flint

works in the Wadi esh-Shekh, are of very coarse and poor workmanship

as compared with the stone-knapping triumphs of the late Neolithic and

early Chalcolithic periods. The delicacy of the art had all been lost.

But the best flint knives of the early period--dating to just a little

before the time of the Ist Dynasty, when flint-working had attained its

apogee, and copper had just begun to be used--are undoubtedly the most

remarkable stone weapons ever made in the world. The grace and utility

of the form, the delicacy of the fluted chipping on the side, and

the minute care with which the tiny serrations of the cutting edge,

serrations so small that often they can hardly be seen with the naked

eye, are made, can certainly not be parallelled elsewhere. The art

of flint-knapping reached its zenith in Ancient Egypt. The specimen

illustrated has a handle covered with gold decorated with incised

designs representing animals.

The prehistoric Egyptians may also fairly be said to have attained

greater perfection than other peoples in the Neolithic stage of culture,

in other arts besides the making of stone tools and weapons. Their

pottery is of remarkable perfection. Now that the sites of the Egyptian

prehistoric settlements have been so thoroughly explored by competent

archaeologists (and, unhappily, as thoroughly pillaged by incompetent

natives), this prehistoric Egyptian pottery has become extremely well

known. In fact, it is so common that good specimens may be bought

anywhere in Egypt for a few piastres. Most museums possess sets of this

pottery, of which great quantities have been brought back from Egypt

by Prof. Petrie and other explorers. It is of very great interest,

artistically as well as historically. The potter's wheel was not yet

invented, and all the vases, even those of the most perfect shape, were

built up by hand. The perfection of form attained without the aid of the

wheel is truly marvellous.

The commonest type of this pottery is a red polished ware vase with

black top, due to its having been baked mouth downward in a fire, the

ashes of which, according to Prof. Petrie, deoxidized the haematite

burnishing, and so turned the red colour to black. "In good examples

the haematite has not only been reduced to black magnetic oxide, but

the black has the highest polish, as seen on fine Greek vases. This is

probably due to the formation of carbonyl gas in the smothered fire.

This gas acts as a solvent of magnetic oxide, and hence allows it to

assume a new surface, like the glassy surface of some marbles subjected

to solution in water." This black and red ware appears to be the most

ancient prehistoric Egyptian pottery known. Later in date are a red

ware and a black ware with rude geometrical incised designs, imitating

basketwork, and with the incised lines filled in with white. Later again

is a buff ware, either plain or decorated with wavy lines, concentric

circles, and elaborate drawings of boats sailing on the Nile, ostriches,

fish, men and women, and so on.

before 4000 B.C.]

These designs are in deep red. With this elaborate pottery the Neolithic

ceramic art of Egypt reached its highest point; in the succeeding period

(the beginning of the historic age) there was a decline in workmanship,

exhibiting clumsy forms and bad colour, and it is not until the time of

the IVth Dynasty that good pottery (a fine polished red) is once more

found. Meanwhile the invention of glazed pottery, which was unknown to

the prehistoric Egyptians, had been made (before the beginning of the

Ist Dynasty). The unglazed ware of the first three dynasties was bad,

but the new invention of light blue glazed faience (not porcelain

properly so called) seems to have made great progress, and we possess

fine specimens at the beginning of the Ist Dynasty. The prehistoric

Egyptians were also proficient in other arts. They carved ivory and they

worked gold, which is known to have been almost the first metal worked

by man; certainly in Egypt it was utilized for ornament even before

copper was used for work. We may refer to the illustration of a flint

knife with gold handle, already given. [* See illustration.]

The date of the actual introduction of copper for tools and weapons into

Egypt is uncertain, but it seems probable that copper was occasionally

used at a very early period. Copper weapons have been found in

pre-dynastic graves beside the finest buff pottery with elaborate red

designs, so that we may say that when the flint-working and pottery of

the Neolithic Egyptians had reached its zenith, the use of copper was

already known, and copper weapons were occasionally employed. We can

thus speak of the "Chalcolithic" period in Egypt as having already begun

at that time, no doubt several centuries before the beginning of the

historical or dynastic age. Strictly speaking, the Egyptians remained

in the "Chalcolithic" period till the end of the XIIth Dynasty, but in

practice it is best to speak of this period, when the word is used, as

extending from the time of the finest flint weapons and pottery of the

prehistoric age (when the "Neolithic" period may be said to close) till

about the IId or IIId Dynasty. By that time the "Bronze," or, rather,

"Copper," Age of Egypt had well begun, and already stone was not in

common use.

The prehistoric pottery is of the greatest value to the archaeologist,

for with its help some idea may be obtained of the succession of periods

within the late Neolithic-Chalcolithic Age. The enormous number of

prehistoric graves which have been examined enables us to make an

exhaustive comparison of the different kinds of pottery found in

them, so that we can arrange them in order according to pottery they

contained. By this means we obtain an idea of the development of

different types of pottery, and the sequence of the types. Thus it is

that we can say with some degree of confidence that the black and red

ware is the most ancient form, and that the buff with red designs is one

of the latest forms of prehistoric pottery. Other objects found in the

graves can be classified as they occur with different pottery types.

With the help of the pottery we can thus gain a more or less reliable

conspectus of the development of the late "Neolithic" culture of Egypt.

This system of "sequence-dating" was introduced by Prof. Petrie, and is

certainly very useful. It must not, however, be pressed too far or be

regarded as an iron-bound system, with which all subsequent discoveries

must be made to fit in by force. It is not to be supposed that all

prehistoric pottery developed its series of types in an absolutely

orderly manner without deviations or throws-back. The work of man's

hands is variable and eccentric, and does not develop or evolve in an

undeviating course as the work of nature does. It is a mistake, very

often made by anthropologists and archaeologists, who forget this

elementary fact, to assume "curves of development," and so forth, or

semi-savage culture, on absolutely even and regular lines. Human culture

has not developed either evenly or regularly, as a matter of fact.

Therefore we cannot always be sure that, because the Egyptian black and

red pottery does not occur in graves with buff and red, it is for

this reason absolutely earlier in date than the latter. Some of the

development-sequences may in reality be contemporary with others instead

of earlier, and allowance must always be made for aberrations and

reversions to earlier types.

This caveat having been entered, however, we may provisionally

accept Prof. Petrie's system of sequence-dating as giving the best

classification of the prehistoric antiquities according to development.

So it may fairly be said that, as far as we know, the black and red

pottery ("sequence-date 30--") is the most ancient Neolithic Egyptian

ware known; that the buff and red did not begin to be used till about

"sequence-date 45;" that bone and ivory carvings were commonest in the

earlier period ("sequence-dates 30-50"); that copper was almost unknown

till "sequence-date 50," and so on. The arbitrary numbers used range

from 30 to 80, in order to allow for possible earlier and later

additions, which may be rendered necessary by the progress of discovery.

The numbers are of course as purely arbitrary and relative as those

of the different thermometrical systems, but they afford a convenient

system of arrangement. The products of the prehistoric Egyptians are, so

to speak, distributed on a conventional plan over a scale numbered from

30 to 80, 30 representing the beginning and 80 the close of the term,

so far as its close has as yet been ascertained. It is probable that

"sequence-date 80" more or less accurately marks the beginning of the

dynastic or historical period.

This hypothetically chronological classification is, as has been said,

due to Prof. Petrie, and has been adopted by Mr. Randall-Maclver and

other students of prehistoric Egypt in their work. [*El Amra and

Abydos, Egypt Exploration Fund, 1902.] To Prof. Petrie then is due the

credit of systematizing the study of Egyptian prehistoric antiquities;

but the further credit of having discovered these antiquities

themselves and settled their date belongs not to him but to the

distinguished French archaeologist, M. J. de Morgan, who was for several

years director of the museum at Giza, and is now chief of the French

archaeological delegation in Persia, which has made of late years so many

important discoveries. The proof of the prehistoric date of this class

of antiquities was given, not by Prof. Petrie after his excavations at

Dendera in 1897-8, but by M. de Morgan in his volume, Recherches sur

les Origines de l'Egypte: l'Age de la Pierre et les Metaux, published

in 1895-6. In this book the true chronological position of the

prehistoric antiquities was pointed out, and the existence of an

Egyptian Stone Age finally decided. M. de Morgan's work was based on

careful study of the results of excavations carried on for several years

by the Egyptian government in various parts of Egypt, in the course

of which a large number of cemeteries of the primitive type had been

discovered. It was soon evident to M. de Morgan that these primitive

graves, with their unusual pottery and flint implements, could be

nothing less than the tombs of the prehistoric Egyptians, the Egyptians

of the Stone Age.

Objects of the prehistoric period had been known to the museums for many

years previously, but owing to the uncertainty of their provenance and

the absence of knowledge of the existence of the primitive cemeteries,

no scientific conclusions had been arrived at with regard to them; and

it was not till the publication of M. de Morgan's book that they were

recognized and classified as prehistoric. The necropoles investigated

by M. de Morgan and his assistants extended from Kawamil in the north,

about twenty miles north of Abydos, to Edfu in the south. The chief

cemeteries between these two points were those of Bat Allam, Saghel

el-Baglieh, el-'Amra, Nakada, Tukh, and Gebelen. All the burials were

of simple type, analogous to those of the Neolithic races in the rest

of the world. In a shallow, oval grave, excavated often but a few inches

below the surface of the soil, lay the body, cramped up with the knees

to the chin, sometimes in a rough box of pottery, more often with only

a mat to cover it. Ready to the hand of the dead man were his flint

weapons and tools, and the usual red and black, or buff and red, pots

lay beside him; originally, no doubt, they had been filled with the

funeral meats, to sustain the ghost in the next world. Occasionally a

simple copper weapon was found. With the body were also buried slate

palettes for grinding the green eye-paint which the Egyptians loved even

at this early period. These are often carved to suggest the forms of

animals, such as birds, bats, tortoises, goats, etc.; on others are

fantastic creatures with two heads. Combs of bone, too, are found,

ornamented in a similar way with birds' or goats' heads, often double.

And most interesting of all are the small bone and ivory figures of men

and women which are also found. These usually have little blue beads for

eyes, and are of the quaintest and naivest appearance conceivable. Here

we have an elderly man with a long pointed beard, there two women with

inane smiles upon their countenances, here another woman, of better work

this time, with a child slung across her shoulder. This figure, which

is in the British Museum, must be very late, as prehistoric Egyptian

antiquities go. It is almost as good in style as the early Ist Dynasty

objects. Such were the objects which the simple piety of the early

Egyptian prompted him to bury with the bodies of his dead, in order that

they might find solace and contentment in the other world.

All the prehistoric cemeteries are of this type, with the graves pressed

closely together, so that they often impinge upon one another. The

nearness of the graves to the surface is due to the exposed positions,

at the entrances to wadis, in which the primitive cemeteries are

usually found. The result is that they are always swept by the winds,

which prevent the desert sand from accumulating over them, and so have

preserved the original level of the ground. From their proximity to

the surface they are often found disturbed, more often by the agency of

jackals than that of man.

Contemporaneously with M. de Morgan's explorations, Prof. Flinders

Petrie and Mr. J. Quibell had, in the winter of 1894-5, excavated in

the districts of Tukh and Nakada, on the west bank of the Nile opposite

Koptos, a series of extensive cemeteries of the primitive type, from

which they obtained a large number of antiquities, published in their

volume Nagada and Dallas. The plates giving representations of the

antiquities found were of the highest interest, but the scientific value

of the letter-press is vitiated by the fact that the true historical

position of the antiquities was not perceived by their discoverers, who

came to the conclusion that these remains were those of a "New Pace" of

Libyan invaders. This race, they supposed, had entered Egypt after the

close of the flourishing period of the "Old Kingdom" at the end of the

VIth Dynasty, and had occupied part of the Nile valley from that time

till the period of the Xth Dynasty.

This conclusion was proved erroneous by M. de Morgan almost as soon

as made, and the French archaeologist's identification of the primitive

remains as pre-dynastic was at once generally accepted. It was obvious

that a hypothesis of the settlement of a stone-using barbaric race in

the midst of Egypt at so late a date as the period immediately preceding

the XIIth Dynasty, a race which mixed in no way with the native

Egyptians themselves, and left no trace of their influence upon the

later Egyptians, was one which demanded greater faith than the simple

explanation of M. de Morgan.

The error of the British explorers was at once admitted by Mr. Quibell,

in his volume on the excavations of 1897 at el-Kab, published in 1898.*

Mr. Quibell at once found full and adequate confirmation of M. de

Morgan's discovery in his diggings at el-Kab. Prof. Petrie admitted

the correctness of M. de Morgan's views in the preface to his volume

Diospolis Parva, published three years later in 1901.** The preface to

the first volume of M. de Morgan's book contained a generous recognition

of the method and general accuracy of Prof. Petrie's excavations, which

contrasted favourably, according to M. de Morgan, with the excavations

of others, generally carried on without scientific control, and with

the sole aim of obtaining antiquities or literary texts.*** That M. de

Morgan's own work was carried out as scientifically and as carefully

is evident from the fact that his conclusions as to the chronological

position of the prehistoric antiquities have been shown to be correct.

To describe M. de Morgan's discovery as a "happy guess," as has been

done, is therefore beside the mark.

* El-Kab. Egyptian Research Account, 1897, p. 11.

** Diospolis Parva. Egypt Exploration Fund, 1901, p. 2.

*** Recherches: Age de la Pierre, p. xiii.

Another most important British excavation was that carried on by

Messrs. Randall-Maclver and Wilkin at el-'Amra. The imposing lion-headed

promontory of el-'Amra stands out into the plain on the west bank of the

Nile about five miles south of Abydos. At the foot of this hill M. de

Morgan found a very extensive prehistoric necropolis, which he examined,

but did not excavate to any great extent, and the work of thoroughly

excavating it was performed by Messrs. Randall-MacIver and Wilkin for

the Egypt Exploration Fund. The results have thrown very great light

upon the prehistoric culture of Egypt, and burials of all prehistoric

types, some of them previously unobserved, were found. Among the most

interesting are burials in pots, which have also been found by Mr.

Garstang in a predynastic necropolis at Ragagna, north of Abydos. One

of the more remarkable observations made at el-'Amra was the progressive

development of the tombs from the simplest pot-burial to a small brick

chamber, the embryo of the brick tombs of the Ist Dynasty. Among the

objects recovered from this site may be mentioned a pottery model of

oxen, a box in the shape of a model hut, and a slate "palette" with what

is perhaps the oldest Egyptian hieroglyph known, a representation of the

fetish-sign of the god Min, in relief. All these are preserved in the

British Museum. The skulls of the bodies found were carefully preserved

for craniometric examination.

In 1901 an extensive prehistoric cemetery was being excavated by Messrs.

Reisner and Lythgoe at Nag'ed-Der, opposite Girga, and at el-Ahaiwa,

further north, another prehistoric necropolis has been excavated by

these gentlemen, working for the University of California.


The cemetery of Nag'ed-Der is of the usual prehistoric type, with its

multitudes of small oval graves, excavated just a little way below the

surface. Graves of this kind are the most primitive of all. Those at

el-'Amra are usually more developed, often, as has been noted, rising to

the height of regular brick tombs. They are evidently later, nearer to

the time of the Ist Dynasty. The position of the Nag'ed-Der cemetery is

also characteristic. It lies on the usual low ridge at the entrance to a

desert wadi, which is itself one of the most picturesque in this

part of Egypt, with its chaos of great boulders and fallen rocks. An

illustration of the camp of Mr. Reisner's expedition at Nag'ed-Der is

given above. The excavations of the University of California are carried

out with the greatest possible care and are financed with the greatest

possible liberality. Mr. Reisner has therefore been able to keep an

absolutely complete photographic record of everything, even down to

the successive stages in the opening of a tomb, which will be of the

greatest use to science when published.

For a detailed study of the antiquities of the prehistoric period the

publications of Prof. Petrie, Mr. Quibell, and Mr. Randall-Maclver are

more useful than that of M. de Morgan, who does not give enough details.

Every atom of evidence is given in the publications of the British

explorers, whereas it is a characteristic of French work to give

brilliant conclusions, beautifully illustrated, without much of the

evidence on which the conclusions are based. This kind of work does not

appeal to the Anglo-Saxon mind, which takes nothing on trust, even

from the most renowned experts, and always wants to know the why and

wherefore. The complete publication of evidence which marks the British

work will no doubt be met with, if possible in even more complete

detail, in the American work of Messrs. Reisner, Lythgoe, and Mace (the

last-named is an Englishman) for the University of California, when

published. The question of speedy versus delayed publication is a very

vexing one. Prof. Petrie prefers to publish as speedily as possible; six

months after the season's work in Egypt is done, the full publication

with photographs of everything appears. Mr. Reisner and the French

explorers prefer to publish nothing until they have exhaustively studied

the whole of the evidence, and can extract nothing more from it. This

would be admirable if the French published their discoveries fully, but

they do not. Even M. de Morgan has not approached the fulness of

detail which characterizes British work and which will characterize Mr.

Reisner's publication when it appears. The only drawback to this method

is that general interest in the particular excavations described tends

to pass away before the full description appears.

Prof. Petrie has explored other prehistoric sites at Abadiya, and Mr.

Quibell at el-Kab. M. de Morgan and his assistants have examined a large

number of sites, ranging from the Delta to el-Kab. Further research has

shown that some of the sites identified by M. de Morgan as prehistoric

are in reality of much later date, for example, Kahun, where the late

flints of XIIth Dynasty date were found. He notes that "large numbers

of Neolithic flint weapons are found in the desert on the borders of

the Fayyum, and at Helwan, south of Cairo," and that all the important

necropoles and kitchen-middens of the predynastic people are to be found

in the districts of Abydos and Thebes, from el-Kawamil in the North to

el-Kab in the South. It is of course too soon to assert with confidence

that there are no prehistoric remains in any other part of Egypt,

especially in the long tract between the Fayyum and the district of

Abydos, but up to the present time none have been found in this region.

This geographical distribution of the prehistoric remains fits in

curiously with the ancient legend concerning the origin of the ancestors

of the Egyptians in Upper Egypt, and supports the much discussed theory

that they came originally to the Nile valley from the shores of the Red

Sea by way of the Wadi Hammamat, which debouches on to the Nile in the

vicinity of Koptos and Kus, opposite Ballas and Tukh. The supposition

seems a very probable one, and it may well be that the earliest

Egyptians entered the valley of the Nile by the route suggested and

then spread northwards and southwards in the valley. The fact that their

remains are not found north of el-Kawamil nor south of el-Kab might

perhaps be explained by the supposition that, when they had extended

thus far north and south from their original place of arrival, they

passed from the primitive Neolithic condition to the more highly

developed copper-using culture of the period which immediately preceded

the establishment of the monarchy. The Neolithic weapons of the Fayyum

and Hel-wan would then be the remains of a different people, which

inhabited the Delta and Middle Egypt in very early times. This people

may have been of Mediterranean stock, akin to the primitive inhabitants

of Palestine, Greece, Italy, and Spain; and they no doubt were identical

with the inhabitants of Lower Egypt who were overthrown and conquered by

Kha-sekhem and the other Southern founders of the monarchy (who belonged

to the race which had come from the Red Sea by the Wadi Hammamat), and

so were the ancestors of the later natives of Lower Egypt. Whether the

Southerners, whose primitive remains we find from el-Kawamil to el-Kab,

were of the same race as the Northerners whom they conquered, cannot

be decided. The skull-form of the Southerners agrees with that of the

Mediterranean races. But we have no necropoles of the Northerners to

tell us much of their peculiarities. We have nothing but their flint


But it should be observed that, in spite of the present absence of all

primitive remains (whether mere flints, or actual graves with bodies and

relics) of the primeval population between the Fayyum and el-Kawamil,

there is no proof that the primitive race of Upper Egypt was not

coterminous and identical with that of the lower country. It

might therefore be urged that the whole Neolithic population was

"Mediterranean" by its skull-form and body-structure, and specifically

"Nilotic" (indigenous Egyptian) in its culture-type. This is quite

possible, but we have again to account for the legends of distant origin

on the Red Sea coast, the probability that one element of the Egyptian

population was of extraneous origin and came from the east into the Nile

valley near Koptos, and finally the historical fact of an advance of the

early dynastic Egyptians from the South to the conquest of the North.

The latter fact might of course be explained as a civil war analogous

to that between Thebes and Asyut in the time of the IXth Dynasty, but

against this explanation is to be set the fact that the contemporary

monuments of the Southerners exhibit the men of the North as of foreign

and non-Egyptian ethnic type, resembling Libyans. It is possible that

they were akin to the Libyans; and this would square very well with the

first theory, but it may also be made to fit in with a development of

the second, which has been generally accepted.

According to this view, the whole primitive Neolithic population of

North and South was Miotic, indigenous in origin, and akin to the

"Mediterraneans "of Prof. Sergi and the other ethnologists. It was not

this population, the stone-users whose necropoles have been found by

Messrs. de Morgan, Petrie, and Maclver, that entered the Nile valley by

the Wadi Hammamat. This was another race of different ethnic origin,

which came from the Red Sea toward the end of the Neolithic period,

and, being of higher civilization than the native Nilotes, assumed the

lordship over them, gave a great impetus to the development of their

culture, and started at once the institution of monarchy, the knowledge

of letters, and the use of metals. The chiefs of this superior tribe

founded the monarchy, conquered the North, unified the kingdom, and

began Egyptian history. From many indications it would seem probable

that these conquerors were of Babylonian origin, or that the culture

they brought with them (possibly from Arabia) was ultimately of

Babylonian origin. They themselves would seem to have been Semites,

or rather proto-Semites, who came from Arabia to Africa by way of

the straits of Bab el-Mandeb, and proceeded up the coast to about the

neighbourhood of Kuser, whence the Wadi Hammamat offered them an open

road to the valley of the Nile. By this route they may have entered

Egypt, bringing with them a civilization, which, like that of the other

Semites, had been profoundly influenced and modified by that of the

Sumerian inhabitants of Babylonia. This Semitic-Sumerian culture,

mingling with that of the Nilotes themselves, produced the civilization

of Ancient Egypt as we know it.

This is a very plausible hypothesis, and has a great deal of evidence in

its favour. It seems certain that in the early dynastic period two

races lived in Egypt, which differed considerably in type, and also,

apparently, in burial customs. The later Egyptians always buried the

dead lying on their backs, extended at full length. During the period of

the Middle Kingdom (XIth-XIIIth Dynasties) the head was usually turned

over on to the left side, in order that the dead man might look through

the two great eyes painted on that side of the coffin. Afterward the

rigidly extended position was always adopted. The Neolithic Egyptians,

however, buried the dead lying wholly on the left side and in a

contracted position, with the knees drawn up to the chin. The bodies

were not embalmed, and the extended position and mummification were

never used. Under the IVth Dynasty we find in the necropolis of Medum

(north of the Payyum) the two positions used simultaneously, and the

extended bodies are mummified. The contracted bodies are skeletons, as

in the case of most of the predynastic bodies. When these are found with

flesh, skin, and hair intact, their preservation is due to the dryness

of the soil and the preservative salts it contains, not to intentional

embalming, which was evidently introduced by those who employed the

extended position in burial. The contracted position is found as late as

the Vth Dynasty at Dashasha, south of the Eayyum, but after that date it

is no longer found.

The conclusion is obvious that the contracted position without

mummification, which the Neolithic people used, was supplanted in the

early dynastic period by the extended position with mummification, and

by the time of the VIth Dynasty it was entirely superseded. This points

to the supersession of the burial customs of the indigenous Neolithic

race by those of another race which conquered and dominated the

indigenes. And, since the extended burials of the IVth Dynasty are

evidently those of the higher nobles, while the contracted ones are

those of inferior people, it is probable that the customs of extended

burial and embalming were introduced by a foreign race which founded the

Egyptian monarchical state, with its hierarchy of nobles and officials,

and in fact started Egyptian civilization on its way. The conquerors of

the North were thus not the descendants of the Neolithic people of the

South, but their conquerors; in fact, they dominated the indigenes both

of North and South, who will then appear (since we find the custom of

contracted burial in the North at Dashasha and Medum) to have originally

belonged to the same race.

The conquering race is that which is supposed to have been of Semitic or

proto-Semitic origin, and to have brought elements of Sumerian culture

to savage Egypt. The reasons advanced for this supposition are the


(1) Just as the Egyptian race was evidently compounded of two elements,

of conquered "Mediterraneans" and conquering x, so the Egyptian language

is evidently compounded of two elements, the one Nilotic, perhaps

related in some degree to the Berber dialects of North Africa, the other

not x, but evidently Semitic.

(2) Certain elements of the early dynastic civilization, which do not

appear in that of the earlier pre-dynastic period, resemble well-known

elements of the civilization of Babylonia. We may instance the use of

the cylinder-seal, which died out in Egypt in the time of the XVIIIth

Dynasty, but was always used in Babylonia from the earliest to the

latest times. The early Egyptian mace-head is of exactly the same

type as the early Babylonian one. In the British Museum is an Egyptian

mace-head of red breccia, which is identical in shape and size with

one from Babylonia (also in the museum) bearing the name of

Shargani-shar-ali (i.e. Sargon, King of Agade), one of the earliest

Chaldaean monarchs, who must have lived about the same time as the

Egyptian kings of the IId-IIId Dynasties, to which period the Egyptian

mace-head may also be approximately assigned. The Egyptian art of the

earliest dynasties bears again a remarkable resemblance to that of early

Babylonia. It is not till the time of the IId Dynasty that Egyptian art

begins to take upon itself the regular form which we know so well, and

not till that of the IVth that this form was finally crystallized. Under

the 1st Dynasty we find the figure of man or, to take other instances,

that of a lion, or a hawk, or a snake, often treated in a style very

different from that in which we are accustomed to see a man, a lion, a

hawk, or a snake depicted in works of the later period. And the striking

thing is that these early representations, which differ so much from

what we find in later Egyptian art, curiously resemble the works of

early Babylonian art, of the time of the patesis of Shirpurla or the

Kings Shargani-shar-ali and Naram-Sin. One of the best known relics

of the early art of Babylonia is the famous "Stele of Vultures" now in

Paris. On this we see the enemies of Eannadu, one of the early rulers

of Shirpurla, cast out to be devoured by the vultures. On an Egyptian

relief of slate, evidently originally dedicated in a temple record of

some historical event, and dating from the beginning of the Ist Dynasty

(practically contemporary, according to our latest knowledge, with

Eannadu), we have an almost exactly similar scene of captives being cast

out into the desert, and devoured by lions and vultures. The two reliefs

are curiously alike in their clumsy, naive style of art. A further

point is that the official represented on the stele, who appears to be

thrusting one of the bound captives out to die, wears a long fringed

garment of Babylonish cut, quite different from the clothes of the later


(3) There are evidently two distinct and different main strata in the

fabric of Egyptian religion. On the one hand we find a mass of myth and

religious belief of very primitive, almost savage, cast, combining

a worship of the actual dead in their tombs--which were supposed

to communicate and thus form a veritable "underworld," or, rather,

"under-Egypt"--with veneration of magic animals, such as jackals, cats,

hawks, and crocodiles. On the other hand, we have a sun and sky worship

of a more elevated nature, which does not seem to have amalgamated with

the earlier fetishism and corpse-worship until a comparatively late

period. The main seats of the sun-worship were at Heliopolis in the

Delta and at Edfu in Upper Egypt. Heliopolis seems always to have been

a centre of light and leading in Egypt, and it is, as is well known,

the On of the Bible, at whose university the Jewish lawgiver Moses is

related to have been educated "in all the wisdom of the Egyptians." The

philosophical theories of the priests of the Sun-gods, Ra-Harmachis and

Turn, at Heliopolis seem to have been the source from which sprang the

monotheistic heresy of the Disk-Worshippers (in the time of the XVIIIth

Dynasty), who, under the guidance of the reforming King Akhunaten,

worshipped only the disk of the sun as the source of all life, the door

in heaven, so to speak, through which the hidden One Deity poured

forth heat and light, the origin of life upon the earth. Very early

in Egyptian history the Heliopolitans gained the upper hand, and the

Ra-worship (under the Vth Dynasty, the apogee of the Old Kingdom) came

to the front, and for the first time the kings took the afterwards

time-honoured royal title of "Son of the Sun." It appears then as a

more or less foreign importation into the Nile valley, and bears most

undoubtedly a Semitic impress. Its two chief seats were situated, the

one, Heliopolis, in the North on the eastern edge of the Delta,--just

where an early Semitic settlement from over the desert might be expected

to be found,--the other, Edfu, in the Upper Egyptian territory south

of the Thebaid, Koptos, and the Wadi Ham-mamat, and close to the chief

settlement of the earliest kings and the most ancient capital of Upper


(4) The custom of burying at full length was evidently introduced into

Egypt by the second, or x race. The Neolithic Egyptians buried in the

cramped position. The early Babylonians buried at full length, as far

as we know. On the same "Stele of Vultures," which has already been

mentioned, we see the burying at full length of dead warriors. [* See

illustration.] There is no trace of any early burial in Babylonia in

the cramped position. The tombs at Warka (Erech) with cramped bodies

in pottery coffins are of very late date. A further point arises with

regard to embalming. The Neolithic Egyptians did not embalm the dead.

Usually their cramped bodies are found as skeletons. When they are

mummified, it is merely owing to the preservative action of the salt

in the soil, not to any process of embalming. The second, or x race,

however, evidently introduced the custom of embalming as well as that

of burial at full length and the use of coffins. The Neolithic Egyptian

used no box or coffin, the nearest approach to this being a pot, which

was inverted over the coiled up body. Usually only a mat was put over

the body.


Now it is evident that Babylonians and Assyrians, who buried the dead at

full length in chests, had some knowledge of embalming. An Assyrian king

tells us how he buried his royal father:--

"Within the grave, the secret place,

In kingly oil, I gently laid him.

The grave-stone marketh his resting-place.

With mighty bronze I sealed its entrance,

And I protected it with an incantation."

The "kingly oil" was evidently used with the idea of preserving the body

from decay. Salt also was used to preserve the dead, and Herodotus

says that the Babylonians buried in honey, which was also used by the

Egyptians. No doubt the Babylonian method was less perfect than the

Egyptian, but the comparison is an interesting one, when taken in

connection with the other points of resemblance mentioned above.

We find, then, that an analysis of the Egyptian language reveals a

Semitic element in it; that the early dynastic culture had certain

characteristics which were unknown to the Neolithic Egyptians but are

closely parallelled in early Babylonia; that there were two elements in

the Egyptian religion, one of which seems to have originally belonged to

the Neolithic people, while the other has a Semitic appearance; and that

there were two sets of burial customs in early Egypt, one, that of the

Neolithic people, the other evidently that of a conquering race, which

eventually prevailed over the former; these later rites were analogous

to those of the Babylonians and Assyrians, though differing from them

in points of detail. The conclusion is that the x or conquering race

was Semitic and brought to Egypt the Semitic elements in the Egyptian

religion and a culture originally derived from that of the Sumerian

inhabitants of Babylonia, the non-Semitic parent of all Semitic


The question now arises, how did this Semitic people reach Egypt? We

have the choice of two points of entry: First, Heliopolis in the North,

where the Semitic sun-worship took root, and, second, the Wadi Hamma-mat

in the South, north of Edfu, the southern centre of sun-worship, and

Hierakonpolis (Nekheb-Nekhen), the capital of the Upper Egyptian kingdom

which existed before the foundation of the monarchy. The legends which

seem to bring the ancestors of the Egyptians from the Red Sea coast have

already been mentioned. They are closely connected with the worship

of the Sky and Sun god Horus of Edfu. Hathor, his nurse, the "House of

Horus," the centre of whose worship was at Dendera, immediately opposite

the mouth of the Wadi Hammamat, was said to have come from Ta-neter,

"The Holy Land," i.e. Abyssinia or the Red Sea coast, with the company

or paut of the gods. Now the Egyptians always seem to have had some

idea that they were connected racially with the inhabitants of the Land

of Punt or Puenet, the modern Abyssinia and Somaliland. In the time of

the XVIIIth Dynasty they depicted the inhabitants of Punt as greatly

resembling themselves in form, feature, and dress, and as wearing the

little turned-up beard which was worn by the Egyptians of the earliest

times, but even as early as the IVth Dynasty was reserved for the

gods. Further, the word Punt is always written without the hieroglyph

determinative of a foreign country, thus showing that the Egyptians did

not regard the Punites as foreigners. This certainly looks as if the

Punites were a portion of the great migration from Arabia, left behind

on the African shore when the rest of the wandering people pressed on

northwards to the Wadi Hammamat and the Nile. It may be that the modern

Gallas and Abyssinians are descendants of these Punites.

Now the Sky-god of Edfu is in legend a conquering hero who advances down

the Nile valley, with his Mesniu, or "Smiths," to overthrow the people

of the North, whom he defeats in a great battle near Dendera. This may

be a reminiscence of the first fights of the invaders with the Neolithic

inhabitants. The other form of Horus, "Horus, son of Isis," has also a

body of retainers, the Shemsu-Heru, or "Followers of Horns," who are

spoken of in late texts as the rulers of Egypt before the monarchy. They

evidently correspond to the dynasties of Manes,

or "Ghosts," of Manetho, and are probably intended for the early kings

of Hierakonpolis.

The mention of the Followers of Horus as "Smiths" is very interesting,

for it would appear to show that the Semitic conquerors were notable

as metal-users, that, in fact, their conquest was that old story in the

dawn of the world's history, the utter overthrow and subjection of the

stone-users by the metal-users, the primeval tragedy of the supersession

of flint by copper. This may be, but if the "Smiths" were the Semitic

conquerors who founded the kingdom, it would appear that the use of

copper was known in Egypt to some extent before their arrival, for we

find it in the graves of the late Neolithic Egyptians, very sparsely

from "sequence-date 30" to "45," but afterwards more commonly. It was

evidently becoming known. The supposition, however, that the "Smiths"

were the Semitic conquerors, and that they won their way by the aid of

their superior weapons of metal, may be provisionally accepted.

In favour of the view which would bring the conquerors by way of the

Wadi Hammamat, an interesting discovery may be quoted. Immediately

opposite Den-dera, where, according to the legend, the battle between

the Mesniu and the aborigines took place, lies Koptos, at the mouth of

the Wadi Hammamat. Here, in 1894, underneath the pavement of the ancient

temple, Prof. Petrie found remains which he then diagnosed as belonging

to the most ancient epoch of Egyptian history. Among them were some

extremely archaic statues of the god Min, on which were curious

scratched drawings of bears, crioceras-shells, elephants walking over

hills, etc., of the most primitive description. With them were lions'

heads and birds of a style then unknown, but which we now know to belong

to the period of the beginning of the Ist Dynasty. But the statues of

Min are older. The crioceras-shells belong to the Red Sea. Are we to

see in these statues the holy images of the conquerors from the Red Sea

who reached the Nile valley by way of the Wadi Hammamat, and set up the

first memorials of their presence at Koptos? It may be so, or the Min

statues may be older than the conquerors, and belong to the Neolithic

race, since Min and his fetish (which we find on the slate palette from

el-'Amra, already mentioned) seem to belong to the indigenous Nilotes.

In any case we have in these statues, two of which are in the Ashmolean

Museum at Oxford, probably the most ancient cult-images in the world:

This theory, which would make all the Neolithic inhabitants of Egypt

one people, who were conquered by a Semitic race, bringing a culture of

Sumerian origin to Egypt by way of the Wadi Hammamat, is that generally

accepted at the present time. It may, however, eventually prove

necessary to modify it. For reasons given above, it may well be that the

Neolithic population was itself not indigenous, and that it reached the

Nile valley by way of the Wadi Hammamat, spreading north and south

from the mouth of the wadi. It may also be considered probable that

a Semitic wave invaded Egypt by way of the Isthmus of Suez, where

the early sun-cultus of Heliopolis probably marks a primeval Semitic

settlement. In that case it would seem that the Mesniu or "Smiths,"

who introduced the use of metal, would have to be referred to the

originally Neolithic pre-Semitic people, who certainly were acquainted

with the use of copper, though not to any great extent. But this is not

a necessary supposition. The Mesniu are closely connected with the

Sky-god Horus, who was possibly of Semitic origin, and another Semitic

wave, quite distinct from that which entered Egypt by way of the

Isthmus, may very well also have reached Egypt by the Wadi Hammamat, or,

equally possibly, from the far south, coming down to the Nile from the

Abyssinian mountains. The legend of the coming of Hathor from Ta-neter

may refer to some such wandering, and we know that the Egyptians of the

Old Kingdom communicated with the Land of Punt, not by way of the Red

Sea coast as Hatshepsut did, but by way of the Upper Nile. This would

tally well with the march of the Mesniu northwards from Edfu to their

battle with the forces of Set at Dendera.

In any case, at the dawn of connected Egyptian history, we find two main

centres of civilization in Egypt, Heliopolis and Buto in the Delta

in the North, and Edfu and Hierakonpolis in the South. Here were

established at the beginning of the Chalcolithic stage of culture, we

may say, two kingdoms, of Lower and Upper Egypt, which were eventually

united by the superior arms of the kings of Upper Egypt, who imposed

their rule upon the North but at the same time removed their capital

thither. The dualism of Buto and Hierakonpolis r