The Early Dynastic Through Old Kingdom Stratification at Tell Er-Rub’a, Mendes

Open Access
Adams, Matthew J.
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
October 01, 2007
Committee Members:
  • Donald B Redford, Committee Chair
  • Baruch Halpern, Committee Member
  • Ann Eloise Killebrew, Committee Member
  • Paul B Harvey, Committee Member
  • ceramics
  • mendes
  • early dynastic
  • old kingdom
  • archaeology
  • egypt
  • delta
  • pottery
This project presents a stratified archaeological sequence spanning the Early Dynastic Period and Old Kingdom at Tell er-Rub’a, Mendes, in the eastern Egyptian Delta. This sequence, excavated between 1999 and 2005, has provided the longest stratified sequence from these periods in all of Egypt. Stratigraphic probes around the site indicate that further excavation of the sequence will go as far back as the 5th millennium BCE. This thesis presents the stratigraphic and ceramic data from this excavation and places the sequence within the historical and cultural developmental framework of the 3rd millennium. The interpretive aspect of this sequence is viewed through the lens of Robert J. Wenke’s “First Dynastic Cycle”. The adoption of an agricultural subsistence strategy, around 4000 BCE, is the first spark of a trajectory toward the great nation-state of the Old Kingdom which achieved its apex of power and stability the 5th Dynasty and collapsed suddenly at the end of the 6th Dynasty around 2200 BCE. This “single epoch of transformation” is a broad approach to the normally narrow focus of studying the rise and collapse of the state in Egypt. The entire development from nascent agricultural society to the collapse of the first state in the late Old Kingdom is an evolutionary process which must be assessed holistically. Thus ‘state formation’ is perhaps best seen, not merely in the final centuries of the 4th millennium, but as a lengthy process, spanning some two millennia, during which the first iteration of the Egyptian state is actualized. Because of the stratified sequence presented in this project, Mendes provides a unique opportunity to excavate in one place the entire First Dynastic Cycle: the rise of agriculture and complex society, prehistoric period of Egypt, the formation of the state, the first 400 years of experimentation in statehood, the apex of the first successful nation state in the world, and the last hurrah before its sad decline. This archaeological sequence, therefore, will be the first to stratigraphically, and consequently ceramicly, unify prehistoric Egypt to its successor, the great state of the Old Kingdom.