The Nile Delta

Authored by: Penelope Wilson

The Egyptian World

Print publication date:  September  2007
Online publication date:  May  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415427265
eBook ISBN: 9780203820933
Adobe ISBN: 9781136753770


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The triangular fan of the Nile delta has provided a rich natural environment with abundant resources for human habitation over the past six thousand years. The historical and archaeological details of some settlements in specific delta locations are better known for some periods than for others. It is likely that the contribution of the delta to Egyptian culture and civilization in antiquity varied and is only preserved in discrete parts. Calls for more work to be carried out on the archaeology of the northern part of Egypt in the last 40 years have begun to yield interesting results, not only for establishing a northern identity and dynamic, but also inviting comparison with the alluvial areas of the Nile Valley. By addressing the expectations of what can be extracted from the archaeological material of the north, a meaningful comparison of Egyptian culture in the north and south could be eventually attempted and, perhaps, the reality behind the Egyptian ideology of the ‘Two Lands’ explored more fully. In the delta, there are not the standing, inscribed temples and tombs or well-preserved cemeteries that have provided so much information about Upper Egypt. There are, however, significant tell-sites and the remains of large urban centres, as well as groups of cemeteries upon sand hills which have led to the development of a distinctive form of settlement archaeology. Investigative techniques, such as the study of the geological and riverine impacts on human life, the archaeological investigation of urban sites with complex and difficult stratigraphy, and combined ground and satellite regional surveys are contributing to a larger picture of human life dynamics throughout the delta and valley. The complexity and multidisciplinary nature of some of the work and the lack of emphasis on sensational burial finds has, however, limited the public perception of the progress made in delta archaeology. The threats of agricultural and modern urban pressures and the efforts of the Egyptian authorities to encourage coordinated work in Egypt are moving forward delta studies towards the complex synthesis of excavated material of all kinds. The results could lead towards the definition of a significant Lower Egyptian culture, an exploration of the political tensions within the unified complex state, and an understanding of the reasons why the controlling administrative centre of a united Egypt could only ever have been in the north, even if based in different locations. Figure 2.1 Map of the Nile Delta showing a reconstruction of river branches in ancient times, ancient sites, modern towns and contour lines. It is based on a compilation of data by Said (<a href="#bibr_r1202">1993</a>: 71).

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