Archaeology

Archaeology

Wadi Hammamat inscriptionPage Contents

 

Introduction

This section has been divided into a number of pages.  The pages can be navigated either via the lighter buttons in the left hand navigation bar, or by using the overhead navigation bar, which appears on all of the pages of this section.

The archaeology is described in chronological order, from the earliest prehistoric evidence to the end of the Graeco-Roman-Byzantine period. 

The desert contains many archaeological remains and rock inscriptions from post-Byzantine periods as well, but they are not covered here.  A separate website dealing with the Coptic occupation of the Eastern Desert is planned for the future.

Radiocarbon dates for all sites, where available, are located in Appendix G.  A timeline of Eastern Desert usage from Prehistoric times, complete with a list of Pharaonic Dynasties, is provided in Appendix C.

The data is organized chronologically within the following framework, with socio-cultural divisions arranged under broader chronological headings.  The main objective is to make the page easier to navigate and the data easier to process.  I have organized the data as follows:
 

Period

Section

Cultural Divisions

Prehistoric

Early Prehistoric

  • Palaeolithic
  • Epipalaeolithic
  • Mesolithic

Later Prehistoric

  • Eastern Desert Neolithic
  • Western Desert Neolithic
  • Tasian
  • Badarian

Predynastic

  • Naqada I
  • Naqada II
  • Naqada III

Early Dynastic

Pharaonic

Old Kingdom and First Intermediate

Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate

New Kingdom

Late Period

Graeco-Roman-Byzantine

 

Problems with Archaeological Research in the Eastern Desert

There have been a number of barriers to detailed research in the Eastern Desert and Red Sea Hills.

  • Some settlements have been located on wadi banks which were vulnerable to repeated flooding, and many remains will have been permanently removed by flood damage and erosion (Majer 1992, p.228)
  • The presence of rock art may have diverted attention from more traditional archaeological pursuits (Majer 1992, p.228)
  • Rock art studies are inherently prone to difficulty, mainly due to the problem of obtaining accurate dates for them, assigning them with confidence to specific archaeological time zones, and interpreting them.  For a full survey of the problems associated with rock art studies, see the Rock Art Analysis and Issues page on this site.
  • There has been a lack of opportunity, due to the poor understanding of Eastern Desert archaeology, to attempt to bring together the information provided by the archaeological and rock art data
  • Very few archaeological surveys (other than rock art surveys) have been undertaken for the following reasons:
    • Large areas of the Eastern Desert, from the Delta to the Sudan have been sectioned off for military purposes, and have been inaccessible to archaeologists (Majer, 1992, p..228)
    • Prehistoric field projects have had to be prioritized and have been largely confined to areas where sites are at immediate risk, or areas where prehistoric remains have been found by accident in survey projects and have become important projects in their own right
    • The Eastern Desert has a challenging topography which does not lend itself to easy survey or exploration.
    • Most of the evidence available is either about subsistence or industry.  There is very little evidence of religious activities or burial practices.  It is impossible to know whether this is the result of limited archaeological survey, so it is difficult to assess the use of the desert in socio-cultural terms

The result of these barriers to Eastern Desert research is a high degree of fragmentation in terms of the overall data available for review, and a heavy geographical bias in favour of areas that are easiest to investigate.  This inevitably means that any interpretation must be based on what must be assumed to be incomplete and geographically uneven data.