KAFR HASSAN DAWOOD
THE KHD SOCIETY
The site of KHD is extremely important in that it covers the transitional phase of Egyptian history when Egypt became the first nation state. The settlement at KHD was probably a village of between 200-400 people, with a chief at the head of a local hierarchy. The KHD population seems to have used subsistence strategies of fishing, mollusc collecting, fowling and herding of sheep and cattle, possibly supplemented by the small-scale cultivation of cereals. The pottery assemblage indicates limited trade with both Upper Egypt and possibly the Levant, although not to the same extent as either Minshat Abu Omar or Tell Ibrahim Awad. However, these Upper Egyptian and Levantine objects in the KHD assemblage could have arrived at KHD via a central place in the local settlement pattern. There is plenty of evidence of social stratification, as suggested by the large tombs and variations in grave goods, including some imported wares and a fair amount of copper. Exquisitely fashioned stone vessels of translucent Egyptian alabaster and greenish grey slate were among the grave goods present. The source of the Egyptian alabaster is up the Nile near Beni Suef and that of slate is farther South in the Eastern Desert Hills. Copper represented by mirrors, needles, adzes, fish hooks, bowls and chisels was either imported from the Southern Levant or the Sinai from sites such as Timna or Fedor. The settlement is the only site so far excavated in the Wadi Tumilat from the Protodynastic to Early Dynastic periods.
There are three main types of burial used at KHD: the simple oval pit, the large mud-filled grave, and pottery coffins. However, following the practice of various burial patterns, the inhabitants of KHD by the beginning of the 1st Dynasty had adopted a burial position common all over Egypt in Early Dynastic times. The bodies were interred in a flexed position within a pit. The head was oriented to the north, lying on their left side, with the face looking eastward. Initial analysis has shown that the cemetery expanded from the north to the south, as the graves and grave goods from the north are of a slightly earlier date and type than those in the south. So far, all the graves investigated date to the Nagada III Period, but preliminary investigations in the northern sector indicate the presence of Nagada II remains close to the floodplain’s edge. To date, 56 of the 85 early graves excavated by the UCL/SCA mission have yielded skeletal material, shedding light on health, diet and disease amongst the population of KHD.
Figure 84. Simple oval Grave: Grave 958.
Figure 85. Plan of Grave 1035.
Figure 86. Pottery coffin in Grave 1025.
Figure 87. Large mud-filled grave: Grave 913.
Figure 88. Plan of pottery coffin in Grave 1025.
Figure 89. Plan of large mud-filled grave: Grave 970.
|Figure 90. Grave 1008||Figure 91. Serekh of King Sekhen (Ka)|
Dr. Teri L Tucker, of Ohio State University, who analysed the skeletal remains with Dr. Simon Hillson of the Institute of Archaeology, UCL, found that the burials belonged to children, juveniles, adults, and old adults of both sexes. Other than cases of nutritional stress during childhood, there was no high frequency of diseases. However, the majority died at a young age, 17-35 years old, although individuals of 50+ are known. No evidence exists for violent accidents or warfare. Some burials were disturbed by later grave digging in the Late Period or Ptolemaic era. Four burials were disarticulated: 959, 1005, 1007 and 1015. The latter contained four individuals, whose bones were commingled, in a secondary context, and cut two underlying primary graves. The bodies in many cases seem so tightly flexed that they may have been tied or wrapped in matting, and that in some cases the bones purposely arranged in the grave after the flesh was no longer adhering to the bones. The bones of many individuals have decayed beyond recognition as a result of the high alkaline water table, but with the aid of conservators and the bioanthropologists, valuable information is being retrieved from the skeletal remains.
The northern part of the cemetery has yielded a lot of disarticulted skeletal remains. Also many graves in this area are multiple graves. The grave goods reflect a higher status of individual, with many semi-precious stone beads, make-up palettes, purposefully broken copper chisels and tattooing needles being found interred with the deceased. This was possibly a religious or sacred area of the site, and also probably one of the earliest part of the site.
Judging from the spatial distribution of poor and rich graves, the population appears to have gained considerable prosperity during the middle Nagada III Period. The community prosperity climaxed during the reign of King Narmer but, this moment of glory was short-lived and was quickly followed by a sharp decline during the reign of King Aha, or shortly thereafter. This coincides with changes in site signatures noted at many sites throughout Egypt and also seen in a change in the relationship between Egypt and the southern Levant (EBII). Future investigations at KHD promise to illuminate the role of regionalism in the role of state formation and illuminate the actual processes that were involved in the transition from a prestate to a state society.