|Dates||c. 5500–4000 BC|
|Preceded by||Pre-Pottery Neolithic|
|Followed by||Amratian culture|
|Dynasties of Ancient Egypt|
The Badarian culture provides the earliest direct evidence of agriculture in Upper Egypt during the Predynastic Era. It flourished between 4400 and 4000 BCE, and might have already emerged by 5000 BCE. It was first identified in El-Badari, Asyut.
About forty settlements and six hundred graves have been located. Social stratification has been inferred from the burying of more prosperous members of the community in a different part of the cemetery. The Badarian economy was based mostly on agriculture, fishing and animal husbandry. Tools included end-scrapers, perforators, axes, bifacial sickles and concave-base arrowheads. Remains of cattle, dogs and sheep were found in the cemeteries. Wheat, barley, lentils and tubers were consumed.
The culture is known largely from cemeteries in the low desert. The deceased were placed on mats and buried in pits with their heads usually laid to the South, looking West. This seems contiguous with the later dynastic traditions regarding the West as the land of the dead. The pottery that was buried with them is the most characteristic element of the Badarian culture. It had been given a distinctive, decorative rippled surface.
Location and discovery
Badari culture is so named because of its discovery at El-Badari (Arabic: البداري), an area of Upper Egypt between Matmar and Qau, approximately 200 km NW of modern day Luxor. It includes numerous Predynastic cemeteries (notably Mostagedda, Deir Tasa and the cemetery of el-Badari itself), as well as at least one early Predynastic settlement at Hammamia. The el-Badari region, stretching for 30 km along the east bank of the Nile, was first investigated by Guy Brunton and Gertrude Caton-Thompson between 1922 and 1931. Most of the cemeteries in the region have yielded distinctive pottery vessels (particularly red-polished ware with blackened tops), as well as terracotta and ivory anthropomorphic figures, slate palettes, stone vases and flint tools. The contents of Predynastic cemeteries at el-Badari have been subjected to a number of analyses attempting to clarify the chronology and social history of the Badarian period.
Populations in the Badari culture planted wheat and barley, and kept cattle, sheep, and goats. They fished from the Nile and hunted gazelle. Little is known of their buildings, although remains of wooden stumps have been found at one site and may have been associated with a hut or shelter of unknown construction. Pits that have been found may have served as granaries. Some Badarian sites also show evidence of later predynastic use.
Badarian grave good were relatively simple and the deceased wrapped in reed matting or animal skins and placed with personal items such as shell or stone beads. Green malachite ore, perhaps for personal decoration, has also been detected on stone palettes.
Basalt vases found at Badari sites were likely traded up the river from the Delta region or from the northwest. Elephant ivory may have been local, but was more likely imported from the South. Shells came in quantities from the Red Sea. Turquoise possibly came from Sinai; copper from the North. A Syrian connection is suggested for a four-handled pot of hard pink ware. The black pottery, with white incised designs, may have come directly from the West, or from the South. The porphyry slabs are like the later ones in Nubia, but the material could have come from the Red Sea mountains. The glazed steatite beads were not made locally. These all suggest the Badarians were not an isolated tribe, but were in contact with the cultures on all sides of them. Nor were they nomadic, having pots of such size and fragility that would have been unsuitable for use by wanderers.
The Badarian culture seems to have had multiple sources, of which the Western Desert was probably the most influential. Badari culture was likely not solely restricted to the Badari region since related finds have been made farther to the south at Mahgar Dendera, Armant, Elkab and Nekhen (named Hierakonpolis by the Greeks), and to the east in the Wadi Hammamat.
- Guy Brunton and Gertrude Caton-Thompson: The Badarian Civilisation and Predynastic Remains near Badari, London: British School of Archaeology in Egypt, 1928.
- Shaw, Ian, ed. (2000). The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press. p. 479. ISBN 0-19-815034-2.
- Watterson, Barbara (1998). The Egyptians. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 31. ISBN 0-631-21195-0.
- Ivory figure of a woman with incised features, British Museum, Accessed June 10, 2008.
- Bard, Kathryn, ed. (2005). Encyclopaedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt. Routledge. ISBN 0415185890.
- Brunton, Gertrude; Caton-Thompson (1928). The Badarian Civilisation and Predynastic Remains near Badari. British School of Archaeology in Egypt. ISBN 9780404166250.
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