Just how did pre-dynastic Nile Valley kingdoms unify?

This page is composed of excerpts from pages compiled from a thread on TheNileValley forum which can be found here:


Supercar says:

There is no question within academia, about the creation of a unified Egyptian nation state, the first central nation state, being the initiative of the Upper Egyptian establishment. However, there seem to have been differences in viewpoints as to how this came about. For instance, was it the culmination of military conquest of the Lower Nile Valley polity by the Upper Nile Valley polity…OR, was it a more peaceful and gradual process of Upper Egyptians moving northward, as a result of trade initiatives, resulting in the relations between the regions to grow into a unified state, with the more socio-economically developed Upper Egypt, and hence, its more powerful leadership having the advantage to rule over all lands?

Perhaps interesting questions for one to ponder!

Djehuti replies:

It is possible that it was a combination of both, but the war and violence part we definitely have evidence of.

Even the formation of each of the Two Lands had some sort of violence involved. Look at the glyphs of King Scorpion. There appeared to be conflict between Nekhen and Nakada as well as other city-states.

Supercar replies:

Agreed. Here is what Professor Kathryn Bard; Trustees of Boston University and the Journal of Field Archaeology, put together:

…Based on an analysis of archaeological evidence, the earliest writing in Egypt, and later king lists, Kaiser (1964: 118, 105-114) proposes that the Nagada culture expanded north in Nagada IIc-d times to sites in the Fayum region (such as the cemetery at Gerza), and then later to the Cairo area and the Delta. The unification, therefore, was much earlier than the period immediately preceding the beginning of the First Dynasty (Kaiser 1964: 114, 1985: 61-62, 1990: 288-289).

Trigger (1987: 61), however, states that if the unification occurred at an early date there would be archaeological evidence from Nagada III burials of a court-centered high culture. Instead, Trigger proposes that the northward expansion of the Nagada culture during Nagada II-III was the result of refugees emigrating from the developing states in the south, or the presence of Nagada traders involved in commerce with SW Asia. While the unification may have been achieved through conquest in the north, an earlier unification of southern polities (Nagada, Hierakonpolis, and Abydos), may have been achieved by a series of alliances (Trigger 1987: 61).

The eventual replacement of Maadi artifacts in the north by a material culture originating in the south may represent military exploits, while colonization by southerner may have occurred in northern regions where there were less well-developed local polities, as at Gerza or Minshat Abu Omar. Guksch (1991: 41) suggests that the Nagada IId ceramic horizon in Lower Egypt represents expanded Upper Egyptian trade into the NE Delta in late Nagada II times, with a (later) militarily-achieved political unification in Nagada III/dynasty 0 times. Possibly there was first a more or less peaceful (?) movement or migration(s) of Nagada culture peoples from south to north that may have been formalized by a later, or concurrent, military presence. A shift in settlement patterns is seen, and by the First Dynasty the north was much more densely inhabited than the south (Mortensen 1991: 24).

Archaeological evidence suggests a system much too complex for the southern expansion to be explained by military conquest alone, and the northern culture may have made important contributions to the unified polity which emerged (Seeher 1991: 318). One result of this expansion throughout northern Egypt would have been a greatly elaborated (state) administration, and by the beginning of the First Dynasty this was managed in part by the invention of writing, used on seals and tags affixed to state goods.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License