Earliest Egypt

A History of Egypt from the Earliest Times to the Persian Conquest (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1905), Chapter III, pp. 25-50

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Art & Architecture


sometimes roughly roofed over with branches, covered with a heap of desert sand and gravel, forming rudimentary tombs, and later they came to be lined with crude, sun-dried brick. Sometimes a huge, roughly hemispherical bowl of pottery was inverted over the body as it lay in the pit. These burials furnish the sole contemporary material for our study of the predynastic age. The gods of the here-after were appealed to in prayers and magical formulae, which eventually took conventional and traditional form in writing. A thousand years later in the dynastic age fragments of these mortuary texts are found in use in the pyramids of the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties. Pepi I, a king of the Sixth Dynasty, in his rebuilding of the Dendereh temple, claimed to be reproducing a plan of a sanctuary of the pre-dynastic kings on that spot. Temples of some sort they therefore evidently had.

While they thus early possessed all the rudiments of material culture, the people of this age developed a system of writing also. The computations necessary for the discovery and use of the calendar show a use of writing in the last centuries of the fifth millennium B. C. It is shown also by the fact that nearly a thousand years later the scribes of the Fifth Dynasty were able to copy a long list of the kings of the North, and perhaps those of the South also (Fig. 29) ; while the mortuary texts to which we have referred will not have survived a thousand years without having been committed to writing in the same way. The hieroglyphs for the Northern Kingdom, for its king, and for its treasury can not have arisen at one stroke with the first king of the dynastic age ; but must have been in use long before the rise of the First Dynasty; while the presence of a cursive linear hand at the beginning of the dynasties is conclusive evidence that the system was not them a recent innovation.

Of the deeds of these remote kings of the North and South, who passed away before three thousand four hundred B. C. we know nothing. Their tombs have never been discovered, a fact which accounts for the lack of any written monuments

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