Contemporary Social Developments

Before proceeding with discussion of the development of the Egyptian civilization it may be helpful to consider contemporary developments in Anatolia. These archaeological discoveries may be compared with excepts from the Urantia Papers I reviewed previously.

The Natufian culture as an effective food-producing, village-farming, and community way of life appears with widely attested evidence in southwestern Asia by at least 9000 BC. Cultivation and domestication extended from the valleys that flank the Zagros-Taurus-Lebanon chain of highlands –– about the great basin of the upper Tigris-Euphrates and Karkheh-Kaiun rivers –- to parts of the Iranian and Anatolian plateaus — and possibly even northwest into European Thrace. These areas appear as natural habitats for domesticated plants and animals: wheat, barley, sheep, goats, cattle, pigs, and a wolf dog. Similar village sites have been discovered in the Dead Sea Valley, along the Syro-Palestinian littoral, on Cyprus, in the southwestern Turkish highlands, and even in Thessaly.

Clearly, man was on a new course of social development.

The earliest evidence of religious beliefs has come to light at the mound of Çatal Hüyük, to the south of modern Konya. Here in four seasons of excavations from 1961-65, James Mellaart discovered remains of a Neolithic village of mud-brick houses, many of which he viewed as shrines. See Çatal Hüyük, James Mellaart, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1967. Later excavations showed that these displays were common practice in many of the houses; they were not shrines. They date to about 6500-5700 BC. Huge figures of goddesses in the posture of giving birth, leopards, and the heads of bulls and rams are modeled in high relief on the walls of some of these houses. Other frescoes show elaborate scenes such as the hunting of deer and aurochs, or vultures devouring headless human corpses. A series of stone and terra-cotta statuettes found in these houses represent a female figure, sometimes accompanied by leopards and, from earlier levels of excavation, a male, either bearded and seated on a bull, or youthful and riding a leopard. The main deity of these Neolithic people was evidently a goddess, a mistress of animals, with whom were associated both a son and a consort. Her character is vividly shown by a schist plaque carved to represent two scenes, a sacred marriage and a mother with child.

The discoveries at Çatal Hüyük were especially interesting. The span of 800 years showed a change in construction methods from earlier houses of timber-frame with lath and plaster, to later predominance of mud-brick buttresses and walls. As Mellaart stated:

One can hardly escape the conclusion that the timber frame incorporates the main elements not of a brick, but of a wooden house, where the panels between the horizontal and vertical were filled with partitions of lath and plaster or wooden planks . . .

The origins of such wooden houses must be sought not in the almost treeless Konya Plain, but in the forest zone of the Taurus Mountains or their foothills on the edge of the plain. In the earliest levels of Çatal Hüyük it would appear that this type of wooden house was readapted to local conditions and thin mud-brick walls were substituted for the traditional lath, plaster and wood panels within the timber frame.

. . . From Level V onward they constructed much thicker walls with larger bricks, greatly reduced the (roof) overhang and thus created structurally much sounder buildings. Gradually the emphasis on the timber framework was reduced and in Level II even the wooden posts were replaced by mud-brick pillars engaged against the wall. Thus internal buttresses were formed (the prototypes for the Early Chalcolithic ones of Hacilar and Can Hasan) and the framework retained only a decorative function.

The characteristic paneling of the walls at Çatal Hüyük is thus the result of the use of a timber frame, the elements of which are usually emphasized by the use of red paint. These panels in three superimposed rows with the middle one at least twice as high as the two others, lend themselves admirably to interior decoration, such as reliefs or wall-paintings. . . . The well-preserved buildings of the lower levels show that painting was widely practiced.

Clearly changes were taking place in the natural environment. Trees gradually disappeared as the countryside became more arid. Such climatic changes took place all over the world as the effects of the last ice age sought new meteorological equilibrium conditions. Indeed, these changes are still taking place, now modified by the intrusion of man’s drastic alteration of his world.

We might also deduce that the earlier residents of Çatal Hüyük were adapting their forest familiarity to the conditions of the Anatolian plain. For unknown reasons they left those forests homes to settle in fertile planes, probably for the purpose of agriculture and animal husbandry. Plentiful evidence of grain storage and use was found. That domestic environment could only have origins in an agricultural way of life, a condition of survival that was easier than one of hunting and gathering. No less than fourteen food plants were cultivated. They knew almonds, acorns, pistachio, apple, juniper, and hackberry. The evidence strongly suggest they made bread, beer, and wine. Paintings of insects hovering over fields of flowers suggests they knew honey. With the raising of sheep and goats they must have known milk. The highly respected social images of milk-and-honey had origins in such remote antiquity.

The crafts of the weaver and the woodworker were obviously much more prized than potter and the bone-carver. Delicate woven materials, with fancy patterns show the state of cultural refinement. Fine wooden boxes with lids, wooden bowls, and cups that suggest turning on lathes, add to the cultural achievements of those people. This evidence led Mellaart to speculate that these civilized achievements are not adequately represented in Neolithic discoveries. He goes on:

. . . it is reasonable to conjecture that the same sort of conditions which we find from c. 6100 BC (Level X) onwards had prevailed for at least a millennium before, if not considerably earlier. We are still ignorant of the ecological factors involved in the establishment of the first settlement in the plain, in an area which, as Dr Hans Helbaek has shown, cannot have provided, by any stretch of imagination, the wild progenitor of all forms of barley, the two-row Hordeum spontaneum or the progenitor of emmer, Triticum dicoccoides. Everything indicates that the plant husbandry of Çatal Hüyük must have a long prehistory somewhere else, in a region where the wild ancestors of these plants were at home, presumably in hilly country, well away from the man-made environment of the Konya Plain. If we may theorize for a little, this statement of the eminent palaeobotanist implies that agriculture was introduced into the plain, not just before Level X, about the middle of the seventh millennium, but much earlier at the time when Çatal Hüyük was founded. Such agricultural beginnings must have started long before the moment at which the first carbonized remains of grains and small legumes make their appearance in the settlements of the Near East, around 7000 BC.

Helbaek and Mellaart could not accept the Anatolian plain as the source of those grains because the environmental conditions were not appropriate. But if dramatic changes had taken place in the weather then the source of those grains might have been much closer than those men realized. And the origins of that culture might go back much farther than the evidence shows.

Much more curious, and pertinent to our pursuit of the origins of the Egyptian civilization, was the discovery that two different types of people in Çatal Hüyük, and in neighboring communities of the Anatolian Plain. As stated by Mellart:

The population of Catal Huyuk appears to have been of two different races, dolichocephalic Proto-Mediterrannean and another brachycephalic element, of fairly tall stature.

The sons of Adam were mixing with the native races.

Much later are the discoveries at Alaca Hüyük and Horoztepe in northern Anatolia. Royal tombs, dating from the latter half of the 3rd millennium BC (c. 2400-2200), were richly furnished with artifacts in bronze and precious metals. Beside the heads of skeletons lay female figurines; one such figure found in a grave at Horoztepe represents a mother nursing her child. Many of the objects found in these graves must have had ritual significance.

These activities were simultaneous with the great pyramid building age of Egypt.

Our attempts to understand evolution of community life must be considered in the context of meteorological conditions across the world. The last great ice recession, and the geological upheavals that accompanied the lifting of continental ice loads, cannot be disregarded. Plato articulated these earth changes:

. . . in mind you are all young; there is no old opinion handed down among you by ancient tradition, nor any science which is hoary with age. . . . just when you and other nations are beginning to be provided with letters and the other requisites of civilized life, after the usual interval, the stream of heaven, like a pestilence, comes pouring down and leaves only those of you who are destitute of letters and education; and so you have to begin all over again like children, and know nothing of what happened in ancient times, either among us or among yourselves.

If community life, with farming and domestication, had existed prior to the last ice age, the evidence easily could have been lost. We should not deny the possibility merely because of absence of discovered evidence.

As additional evidence I offer the following from the web site of the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

By 8000 B.C., agricultural communities are already established in northern Mesopotamia, the eastern end of the Fertile Crescent. Early in the sixth millennium B.C., farming communities, relying on irrigation rather than rainfall, settle ever further south along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. As these new communities grow, monumental architecture and more elaborate forms of artistic representation reflect an increasingly differentiated social hierarchy. Forms of administration and recording are developed as cities emerge across the region, especially in the south. By 2500 B.C., cuneiform inscriptions describe rivalry between city-states, with rulers building temples and palaces decorated with royal imagery proclaiming their power. Within two centuries, the city-states of Mesopotamia are unified by Sargon of Akkad, who creates the first empire.

Key events

• ca. 8000–7000 B.C. The first evidence of domesticated grains (wheat and barley) and animals (sheep, goat, pig, and cattle) are found at Jarmo. Baked clay female figures occur at Mureybit.

• ca. 7000–6000 B.C. The earliest pottery is made and used for preparing, serving, and storing food. A particular style of pottery found in northern Mesopotamia is named after the site of Hassuna where it was first identified. It is decorated with incised lines and is lightly fired.

• ca. 6000–5000 B.C. Some early types of handmade pottery, particularly the styles named after the sites of Samarra’ and Halaf, are painted with elaborate polychrome geometric designs. Clay impressions of carved stamp seals are found at Sabi Abyad in northeastern Syria. These sealings, originally applied to a variety of containers, are thought to indicate some measure of administrative control.

• ca. 5000–4000 B.C. Ubaid culture, characterized by its distinctive painted pottery made on a slow wheel, arises in the south. As the culture spreads, local pottery styles are replaced throughout Mesopotamia extending into the eastern Mediterranean, Iran, and the Arabian Peninsula. Throughout the period, a sequence of ever more massive mud-brick temples is constructed at the site of Eridu.

• ca. 4000–3500 B.C. Smaller Ubaid villages gradually give way to fewer but larger settlements in the south. From this emerges the Uruk culture, marked by mass-produced pottery made on a fast wheel or in a mold.

• ca. 3500–3000 B.C. Cities emerge throughout the region, with the largest concentration in the south. These cities are centered around monumental mud-brick temples set on high platforms. At the largest city, Uruk, walls and massive columns of some buildings are decorated with mosaics of colored stone or clay cones embedded in plaster. Stone carving reaches new heights of artistry, with representations of humans, animals, and possibly deities. They are shown both in the round and in relief and range from tiny amulets to nearly lifesize sculpture. An increasingly centralized economy and stratified society generates new administrative practices. Variously shaped clay tokens used for record keeping slowly disappear with the development of cuneiform writing, which uses a reed stylus to incise and later impress signs on clay tablets. Accompanying these changes, stamp seals are largely replaced by cylinder seals, which allow for a wider repertoire of designs and motifs. Representational images such as the "priest king," found at Uruk, are also attested on seals and carvings in Egypt and Iran.

• ca. 3000–2350 B.C. The first palaces are built throughout Mesopotamia during the Early Dynastic period, indicating a new emphasis on royal authority. Politically, the landscape is controlled by a series of rivalrous city-states ruled by Sumerian speakers. Excavated objects and texts demonstrate the existence of long-distance trade between Sumer and the Persian Gulf region, Iran, Afghanistan, and the cities of the Indus Valley. At the city of Ur, this trade is revealed in spectacular fashion in graves containing objects made of imported gold, silver, lapis lazuli, and carnelian.

• ca. 2350–2150 B.C. From Akkad, a site yet to be identified, King Sargon unifies much of Mesopotamia and northern Syria through conquest. Akkadian, a Semitic language related to modern Arabic and Hebrew, becomes the lingua franca of the new administrative apparatus that maintains the world's first empire. The arts of this period acquire a new naturalistic dynamism. Seals and relief carvings include novel mythological and narrative scenes. On the stele of Naram-Sin, Sargon's grandson, the king, wearing a horned helmet—a symbol usually reserved for divinity—is shown defeating his enemies in a landscape setting.

• ca. 2100–2000 B.C. After nearly two centuries of rule, the Akkadian empire disintegrates and local kings in southern Mesopotamia reassert their independence. In the city-state of Lagash, Gudea rebuilds many temples and installs finely carved diorite statues of himself to demonstrate his piety before the gods. When southern Mesopotamia is reunited under the kings of Ur, Sumerian is reintroduced as the administrative and literary language. Ziggurats, large mud-brick stepped towers surmounted by a shrine, are built at Ur and other cities. Metal foundation figures show the ruler carrying baskets of earth in a pious act of temple building. Later poetic accounts describe the sacking of Ur at the end of this period by the Elamites from the east.

For Egyptian Chronology, I offer the following from the web site of the Petrie Museum:


Date The Cultural Background The Kings Duration
before 8000 BC Palaeolithic    
8000-5200 BC Epipalaeolithic (Tarifian; Qarunian -
Fayum B) - 6000-5000 BC
  3000 years
6000-5000 BC Nabta Playa   1000 years
5200-4000 BC Fayum Neolithic (Fayum A)   1200 years
4800-4200 BC Merimde   600 years
4600-4400 BC El Omari   200 years
4400-4000 BC Badarian   400 years
4000-3300 BC Maadi   700 years
4000-3500 BC   Naqada I 500 years
3500-3200 BC Egypt in the Naqada Period Naqada II 300 years /td>
3200-3100 BC   Naqada III 100 years
3100-2686 BC Egypt in the Early Dynastic Early Dynastic 400 years
2686-2181 BC Egypt in the Old Kingdom Old Kingdom 500 years
2181-2025 BC Egypt in the First Intermediate Period First Intermediate Period 150 years
2025-1700 BC Egypt in the Middle Kingdom Middle Kingdom 325 years
1700-1550 BC Egypt in the Second Intermediate Period Second Intermediate Period 150 years
1550-1069 BC Egypt in the New Kingdom New Kingdom 500 years
1069-664 BC Egypt in the Third Intermediate Period Third Intermediate Period 400 years
664-525 BC Egypt in the Late Period Late Period 139 years
525-404 BC Egypt in the first Persian Period First Persian Period 121 years
404-343 BC Late Dynastic Period in Egypt Late Dynastic Period 61 years
343-332 BC Egypt in the second Persian Period Second Persian Period 11 years
332-305 BC   Macedonian Period 27 years
323-30 BC Ptolemaic Period Ptolemaic Period 293 years
30 BC - 640 AD Egypt in the Roman Period Roman/ Byzantine Period 670 years
640-1517 Egypt in the Islamic Period Islamic Period 877 years
1517-1805 Ottoman Period 288 years
1805-1919 Khedival Period 114 years
1919-1953 Monarchy 34 years
1953-today Republic  

Dates are only certain after 664 BC. The earliest dates are often very insecure.