Pharaonic Egypt   :|:   Analysis

Nagada II ships

Funerary symbols ?
ref. : en.1140.2014 | 31 August 2014 | by Francis Leveque
céramique | Third quarter of IVe millennium BC
Egypte (Haute Egypte) ( Egypte )
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The art of Nagada, named after a site in Upper Egypt, includes artistic production that takes place in Egypt in the fourth millennium BC. The Naqada II Period (also called Gerzean) covers three centuries, from 3500 to 3200 BC.

At this time a large group of villages had settled at Hierakonpolis, in an enclosure, including a necropolis of dozens of graves and perhaps an archaic temple of perishable materials (especially wood). Tomb No. 100, contained mud brick paintings taking up the theme of the boat . Many graves from this period have been discovered around Hierakonpolis.

Unlike ceramics from the previous period, those of Nagada II experiencing a reversal of colors is now painted a purplish brown ceramic buff. The sets are also diversifying. The images represent important social or religious events, their precise meaning is not fully understood.

Boats staged

One type of enigmatic scenes hold our attention: frequently ceramics are decorated boat with many oars, two cabins, a banner and characters on the bridge. This figure, quite common, has also been interpreted as a village and palisades.

The trains are always represented in two groups along the hull: in the middle, in the space between the two cabins, there are no oars with unknown exact meaning.

The cabins are always in number 2 characters are perhaps represented standing on them. On the second cabin a character, sometimes equipped with an instrument (a rudder?) Often sets the bow like a true helmsman. It should then be standing on the cabin design to achieve its maneuvers.

The tall stem with leaves in front of these vessels has long intrigued historians shipbuilding. On some representation clearly illustrates the stem and leaves of palms attached above. Other times all seems more compact, no leaves, no center post, as if it had evolved formed a sort of veil attached to the front. He has, however, retained the old bend and sometimes ends with a monster face.

English Egyptologist Flinders Petrie was the first to discover the Egyptian prehistoric cultures, which is why a large number of objects from that time are kept at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology in London.

Two culturs in Egypt

Prior to the unification in about 3.200 BC. the two main cultures in the north and south were clearly visible : kings crowns, temples style, pottery, tombs. The north showed influences from the area of Palestine and Syria and in the south new designs were coming from Sumeria.

The types of boats were strikingly different too and in the Delta they had high sterns (like the reed boats in Sumeria) using vaulted cabins. In the south the boats were long with low sterns and possibly partly made of wood, and carrying square flat topped cabins. This is shown clearly in a painting from an old tomb (later in the text below) and on a knife handle made of ivory where combatants fight with clubs. If this is the final battle of unification there are interesting details to put forward : the warriors all look alike with a slight exception for their hair style and wear the same type of clothing and similar weapons. In other words - it looks like an internal struggle among cousins from a basically similar culture.

"Funerary symbols or military ?"

It remains to understand the place that can hold the boat is at this time in Egyptian society. Is it a simple machine of war necessary ? Has there ever been a funeral symbol that can be found by following a somewhat simplified form of funerary boats in characteristic profile crescent ?

Bibliography :

  • G. Graff, Les peintures sur vases de Nagada I - Nagada II. Nouvelle approche sémiologique de l’iconographie prédynastique, Leuven University Press, Leuven , 2009
  • E. Teeter, Before the pyramids : The Origins of Egyptian Civilization, Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago , Chicago , 2011
  • E.A. Elsayed Aboelnour, Drawings and Inscriptions on Pottery Naqada Civilizations and Benefit from them in Enriching the Roofs of Contemporary Ceramic Pots, in Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, vol. Vol 4 No 11, MCSER Publishing, Rome , 2013