Gerzeh culture

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"Gerzeh" redirects here. For the village in Iran, see Gerzeh, Iran.
Gerzeh culture
Dates circa 3,500 B.C.E. — circa 3,200 B.C.E.
Major sites al-Girza
Preceded by Naqada I
Followed by Naqada III
Gerzeh culture is located in Egypt
Map of Egypt showing al-Girza during prehistoric Egypt (clickable map)
Ancient ivory amulet of a bearded man from the Gerzeh culture held at the Staatliche Sammlung für Ägyptische Kunst.
Figurine of a woman from the Gerzeh culture held at the Brooklyn Museum.

Gerzeh (also Girza or Jirzah) was a prehistoric Egyptian cemetery located along the west bank of the Nile. The necropolis is named after el-Girzeh, the nearby present day town in Egypt.[1] Gerzeh is situated only several miles due east of the lake of the Faiyum.[2]

The Gerzean culture is a material culture identified by archaeologists. It is the second of three phases of the prehistoric Nagada cultures and so is also known as Naqada II. Gerzeh culture was preceded by the Amratian culture ("Naqada I") and followed by the Naqada III ("protodynastic" or "Semainian culture").

Historical context[edit]

Though varying dates have historically been assigned by sundry authorities, the Gerzean culture as used as follows distinguishes itself from the Amratian and begins circa 3500 BC lasting through circa 3200 BC.[3] Accordingly, some authorities place the onset of the Gerzeh coincident with the Amratian or Badari cultures, i.e. c.3800 BC to 3650 BC even though some Badarian artifacts may in fact date earlier. Nevertheless, because the Naqada sites were first divided by the British Egyptologist Flinders Petrie in 1894, into Amratian (after the cemetery near el-Amrah) and "Gerzean" (after the cemetery near Gerzeh) sub-periods, the original convention is used in this text.

The Gerzeh culture lasted through a period of time when the desertification of the Sahara had nearly reached its present state.

The primary distinguishing feature between the earlier Amratian and the Gerzeh is the extra decorative effort exhibited in the pottery of the period. Artwork on Gerzeh ceramics features stylised animals and environment to a greater degree than the earlier Amratian artwork. Further, images of ostriches on the pottery artwork possibly indicate an inclination these early peoples may have felt to explore the Sahara desert.

Some symbols on Gerzeh pottery resemble traditional Egyptian hieroglyphs, which were contemporaneous with the proto-cuneiform script of Sumer.

Burial sites in Gerzeh have uncovered artifacts, such as cosmetic palettes, a bone harpoon, an ivory pot, stone vessels and several meteoritic iron beads.[4] Technologies at Gerzeh also include fine ripple-flaked knives of exceptional workmanship. The meteoritic iron beads discovered in two Gerzean graves by Egyptologist Wainwright in 1911[5] are in fact the earliest artifacts of iron known[6] (see also Iron Age).

Lapis lazuli trade, in the form of beads, from its only known prehistoric source – Badakhshan in northeastern Afghanistan – also reached ancient Gerzeh.[7] Other discovered grave goods are on display here.

One burial uncovered evidence of dismemberment in the form of decapitation.[8]

The end of the Gerzeh culture is generally regarded as coinciding with the unification of Egypt, the Naqada III period.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Falling Rain Genomics, Inc. "Geographical information on Jirzah, Egypt". Retrieved 2008-03-22. 
  2. ^ University College London. "Map of the area between Meydum and Tarkhan". Digital Egypt for Universities. Retrieved 2008-03-22. 
  3. ^ Shaw, Ian, ed. (2000). The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press. p. 479. ISBN 0-19-815034-2. 
  4. ^ University College London. "Finds in Gerzeh tomb 67". Digital Egypt for Universities. Retrieved 2008-03-22. 
  5. ^ Great Pyramid of Giza Research Association. "The use of meteorites by the Ancient Egyptians". Retrieved 2008-03-22. 
  6. ^ "metalwork: Early history.". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 2008-03-22. 
  7. ^ University College London. "Gerzeh, tomb 80". Digital Egypt for Universities. Retrieved 2008-03-22. 
  8. ^ University College London. "Gerzeh, tomb 67". Digital Egypt for Universities. Retrieved 2008-03-22. 


  • Petrie/Wainwright/Mackay: The Labyrinth, Gerzeh and Mazghuneh, British School of Archaeology in Egypt XXI. London 1912
  • Alice Stevenson: Gerzeh, a cemetery shortly before History (Egyptian sites series),London 2006, ISBN 0-9550256-5-6

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 29°27′N 31°12′E / 29.450°N 31.200°E / 29.450; 31.200