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martes, 12 de octubre de 2010

Ivory and gold in the Delta: excavations at Tell el-Farkha

Ivory and gold in the Delta: excavations at Tell el-Farkha
Krzysztof Ciałowicz
Institute of Archaeology, Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland

The site of Tell el-Farkha, adjacent to the village of Ghazala 120km north-east of Cairo, is composed of three mounds or ‘koms’ (designated Western, Central and Eastern). Excavations on each of these koms has revealed the 1000-year-long history of the site, which began many centuries before the foundation of the pharaonic state and provides the best view to date of the momentous developments that occurred during this formative period in Egyptian history. Several distinct phases have been distinguished. The oldest phase contains a settlement of the so-called Lower Egyptian culture, providing important information on the distinctive lifestyle of the native inhabitants of the Delta who lived at Tell el-Farkha c.3600–3300 BC. Soon thereafter the first settlers from the south arrived at the site, bringing with them the Upper Egyptian Naqada culture and many profound changes in the nature of the settlement. The apogee of Tell el-Farkha’s history occurred during the Protodynastic period (Dynasty ‘0’ and the First Dynasty, c.3200–2950 BC), when the site played a major role in international trade. Its prosperity was short-lived, however, and by the middle of the First Dynasty it began to decline until the site was finally abandoned in the early Fourth Dynasty (Old Kingdom, c.2600 BC).
The state of preservation at Tell el-Farkha is exceptional and the organization of the site into three main spheres is clearly evident: residential and cultic on the Western Kom, habitation and utility on the Central Kom and cemetery and settlement on the Eastern Kom. Discoveries on the Western Kom include the remains of one of the world’s oldest brewing centres and a monumental mudbrick building, so far the largest known in Egypt from the period c.3300–3200. In addition, an administrative-cultic centre from the beginning of the Egyptian state contained votive deposits composed of intriguing, intricately carved ivory figurines depicting human, animal and divine subjects. Many of them are unparalleled. Equally interesting results were provided by the Eastern Kom, where mudbrick-lined graves of Protodynastic date were investigated. For their time, all were very wealthy and furnished with large numbers of pottery and stone vessels, ornaments of semi-precious stones and gold, cosmetic palettes and tools. Also on the Eastern Kom, a rather non-descript settlement gave rise to some extraordinary discoveries that presently have no counterpart in Egypt. In one of the many small rooms within the settlement, two remarkable gold-plated statues depicting standing men (60 and 30 cm high) were found. They were recovered from a context dating to about 100 years before the beginning of the Egyptian state, but may be far older and possibly represent an early ruler and his son or successor.

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