Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sensational discoveries in the Nile Delta

Al Ahram Weekly (Jill Kamil)

With photos.

Sensational discoveries by a Polish mission in the Nile Delta have revealed that far from being hostile regions as previously supposed, Upper and Lower Egypt were politically united in predynastic times, says Jill Kamil

Recent discoveries by a Polish archaeological mission at Tel Al-Farkha (literally "the chicken hill") in the north-eastern Delta about 120 kilometres north-east of Cairo are remarkable and sensational. Remarkable in that they reveal that the "Two Lands" of Upper and Lower Egypt were not rivals in predynastic times but culturally united. Sensational in the material objects discovered. They include numerous statuettes and amulets carved of hippopotamus tusk, and several dozen golden plate fragments came to light, the latter arduously reconstructed into figurines of exceptional beauty. Although a mere 60 centimetres in height, these naked standing men have eyes made of lapis lazuli, while various details such as sticking out ears, large phalluses, and detailed fingers and toes reveal characteristics of later Pharaonic art.

"From almost the very beginning of our work it became obvious that the scientific value of the site was tremendous, and might lead to a completely different view on the processes resulting in the emergence of the pharaonic civilization," wrote M. Chlodnicki and K. Cialowicz in Ivory and Gold, a photo-documentation of the Polish excavation of the site in the 2006 and 2007 archaeological seasons. The mission uncovered an extensive settlement and they were thrilled to find, in a large pottery vessel, the above objects "which have no counterparts in finds from the other sites with early Egyptian architecture and art". They have been dated to the time of Dynasty "O" and the beginning of the First Dynasty (c. 3100 to 3000 BC).

If you are interested in Tell el Farkha I summarized last summer's Sackler Lecture Ivory and gold in the Delta: Excavations at Tell el-Farkha. Krzysztof Cialowicz, Institute of Archaeology, Jagiellonian Univesity, Krakow, Poland. The lecture notes can be found on this blog by clicking here.

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