Look through the stock photos of Egypt and it’s rare to find any that don’t include pyramids – the defining monuments of that country. Yet Egypt must have had a history before that, right? These were the people who roamed the deserts and followed the Nile before the pharaohs. The people who came up with the idea of the pyramids and the Great Sphynx in the first place. What were THOSE people like?
Well, now we have another clue. Archeologists digging in Tell el-Samara, a Nile Delta area in the Dakahlia province about 140 km (87 miles) north of Cairo, discovered the remains of a village that dates back 7,000 years to a time 2,500 years before the pyramids. That makes this Neolithic village one of the oldest ever found in Egypt.
“Analysing the biological material that has been discovered will present us with a clearer view of the first communities that settled in the Delta and the origins of agriculture and farming in Egypt.”
In a statement on Facebook by the Ministry of Antiquities, ministry official Nadia Khedr points out that this was clearly a farming village but one that predates the development of the extensive canal systems that transformed the Nile Delta into the fertile farmlands that exist today. Studying how these people survived and farmed using the rare rainfall could reveal the spark of ingenuity that created the canals … and eventually the pyramids.
Chief archaeologist Frederic Gio led a joint French-Egyptian excavation team which uncovered storage silos (photos here and here) containing the organic remains of food plants and animals, indicating humans spent some time there. That plus the pottery and stone tools also discovered in the silos helped date the settlement to 5,000 BCE. Besides predating the pyramids, this was also was before – although as we now know it was not long before – the first signs of the development of manmade mummification of human corpses around 3700 BCE.
So, this new discovery predates mummification, King Menes – the first pharaoh who was believed to have united Upper and Lower Egypt and founded the First Dynasty – and the pyramids. What else does it tell us about the ancestors of these people? That apparently will have to wait until the next excavation season begins. Meanwhile, the organic materials found in the silos will continue to be studied and hopefully offer clues about the first settlers of the Nile Delta.
One of these days, Egypt is going to need some new stock photos.