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View the Printer Friendly Version of this Page CHRONOLOGY
The Predynastic period consists of three chronological phases in the Upper Egyptian Cultural Sequence, traditionally referred to as Naqada I, Naqada II, and Naqada III, after a site south of Luxor, called Naqada (also spelled Nagada). Reliable age determinations suggest that Naqada I in the Naqada regions dates to 3760 40 BC. In the same region, Naqada II dates to 3440 70 BC. Recently determinations from the site of Adama, Upper Egypt, covering the period from the end of Naqada I to middle Naqada II (Naqada IC-IIA) gives an estimate of 3593-3523 BC consistent with the age determinations from Naqada. However, radiocarbon dates for the Nile Delta are very few and the relative dating for the chronology of the Lower Egyptian Cultural Complex, the early period sometimes referred to as Maadi-Buto, is only in its infancy. Although at certain sites such as Maadi, Buto and Minshat Abu Omar, individual chronological pottery sequences (seriations) have been published, and that of KHD is in preparation, a full understanding and chronology for the Lower Egyptian Cultural Complex is still many years away. Until these dating problems are fully resolved, the dating of the Predynastic and Early Dynastic periods will largely be based on the Upper Egyptian Cultural Sequence (Naqada periods).

Until recently, the radiocarbon age estimates for Naqada III were insufficient to arrive at a reliable age determination for that pivotal period which encompassed the period of state formation. Therefore, for this period pottery types were used to create the division referred to as Naqada III, a division that covers a wide period of time from the Protodynastic until the end of Dynasty III, with the advent of Meidum ware. The early part of this chronological division was a transitional period, the regional kings or chieftains of the period being referred to by Manetho as the age of demi-gods. The names of these ancestral kings are known to us from the Palermo Stone and fragments and inscriptions on pottery jars and wooden and ivory labels. They include among them, the legendary Narmer, who appears in the company of kings with names like Ka, Iry-Hor, Zeser, Scorpion and Sma. The sequence of the rulers of Dynasty I, as well as being recorded on the later king lists, are inscribed on contemporary necropolis seals, such as the Seal of Den and Seal of Qaa excavated by Dryer at Abydos (Wilkinson 1999, Early Dynastic Egypt: 63). The end of the Protodynastic and beginning of the Early Dynastic Period starts with King Narmer, the first king of Dynasty I followed by the other kings of Dynasty I: Aha, Djer, Djet, (Merneith), Den, Anedjib, Semerkhet and Qaa, sometimes referred to as the Followers of Horus. The renewed excavations at Abydos by a team led by Gnter Dreyer of the German Institute have yielded new radiocarbon age estimates (Hassan and Serrano n.d.), which can be grouped with previously available radiocarbon dates to provide the following average calibrated dates for those kings:

IIIA 3360-3345 BC
Narmer ?
Aha 3332-3155 BC
Djer ?
Djet 3097-3028 BC
Den 3108-3035 BC
Anedjib ?
Sermerkhet ?
Qaa 2921-2893 BC

Date5000-3900 BC3900-3650 BC3650-3360 BC3360-3200 BC
Absolute, Cal 14C divisionsEarly
Upper Egyptian relative
sequence divisions
BadarianNagada INagada IINagada IIIA-B
Lower Egyptian relative
sequence divisions
MerimdianMaadianMaadianNagada IIIA-B

This is the most up-to-date revision of the chronology of the first kings of Egypt and if one takes the earlier time range, it suggests that the Egyptian state began following the Naqada II period at ca. 3300-3200 BC, some 200-300 years earlier than hitherto believed. However, considering that the maximum period for the reign of Aha and Djer would not have been more than 100 years combined and probably 40-60 years, and that the total length of the period from Aha to Qaa was 140-210 years (if each king is assigned an average of 20-30 years for their reign), the age estimate for Aha is most likely closer to 3155 than to 3332 BC. This of course does not take into account the reign of Narmer, the king of the actual transition from the Protodynastic to Dynasty I. It is uncertain how long he actually reigned over a unified Egypt, for although Manetho gives him a reign of 60 years, this is an unreliable source and even if taken literally 55 of these years could have been spent during the unification process. Therefore, the start of Dynasty I has been rounded down to 3,150 BC.

Ending Dynasty I at ca. 2900 BC, allows 250 years for the 8 kings. Using the acceptable historical age of 2686-2636 BC for the building of King Horus Netjery.khet (Djoser) pyramid allows for a period of 220 years or so for Dynasty II and the first king of Dynasty III.

A combined chronology using both the absolute and relative dating methods can now be made for the entire Predynastic and Early Dynastic Period. Although it does not divide the individual chronologies of the Upper Egyptian Cultural Complex and Lower Egyptian Cultural Complex, and is an overall chronology for Egypt, it is the most accurate working chronology to date.

Dynasty III 2,686 - 2,613 Naqadian IIIE
Dynasty II 2,800 - 2,686 Naqadian IIID - IIIE
Dynasty I 3,000 - 2,800 Naqadian IIIC1 IIID
Protodynastic B 3,150 3,000 Naqadian IIIB
Protodynastic A 3,350 3,150 Naqadian IIIA1 - A2
Late Predynastic B3,500 3,350Naqadian IID1 - IID2 ~ Transitional
Late Predynastic A3,650 3,500Naqadian IIC ~ Late Maadian ~ Moerian
Middle Predynastic3,750 3,650Naqadian IC - Naqadian IIA - IIB ~ Middle Maadian ~ Moerian
Early Predynastic B3,900 3,750Naqadian IA - IB ~ Omarian ~ Early Maadian ~ Moerian
Early Predynastic A5,500 3,900Faiyumian ~ Merimdian ~ Badarian ~ Tarifian ~ Tasian
The dates up to the end of Dynasty 1 are based on radiocarbon dates given in Hassan 1985, Hassan & Robinson 1987, Hassan & Serrano n.d., Hassan in press, and the chronological sequence is based on: Adams & Cialowicz 1997: 5, Shaw & Nicholson 1995: 310-312, Hendrickx 1996: 64. Maadian here equals the Lower Egyptian Cultural Complex, also termed Maadi/Buto.

By Hassan, Tassie & van Wetering
 All material Copyright of Fekri A. Hassan 2003.
 Last Updated: 7th September 2005