New Sewing Machine

Kenmore Drop-In Bobbin Sewing machine 74 Stitch functionsKenmore Drop-In Bobbin Sewing machine 74 Stitch functions

Went out and got my new machine last night at Sears (for far less money that the Amazon link, by the way).  She's very pretty - with red accents where the green in the photo above is.  Haven't played with her yet as I think Tom gave me his cold and I'm feeling pretty out of it.  I did do a basic test out of the box last night and she seems very fast and very quiet.
Still working on a name.

It also occurs to me that between the pearls and the sewing machine, I'm turning into a latter-day, foul-mouthed June Cleaver.  Awesome!

Also thinking of picking up a good intro to sewing book.  I have a few ideas, but if any of you clever readers have suggestions, I'd love to see them.


It's My Birfday

It's one of those vaguely important ones - I'm 30.  This might explain me running around being annoying.
Tom bought me a beautiful string of vintage pearls and a chocolate bunneh.  Awesome!  My husband, aka GIGAMESH (long story), rocks!

And I have birthday money burning a hole in my pocket for new a low-end sewing machine to augment Betsy my vintage workhorse who, while awesome, does only straight stitches, and yarn and fabric.
Pearls as they are meant to be worn - with jammies and a Snuggie.  Hells, yeah!

I should shower and get out of my jammies at some point today, but who knows when.  Hoping to spend the day knitting and nibbling on the chocolate rabbit.

I also get to start my Plaquenil today, finally, after all the nonsense over getting my insurance to cover it. It usually takes several weeks or months to make a significant difference in symptoms, but here's hoping it helps with some of my fatigue and arthritis and skin crap.  Also hoping it doesn't make me want to puke.  You're supposed to spend your 21st birthday dangling over a toilet, not your 30th.  :P


Egyptology Snark: The Badarian

We may not be far wrong if we suppose that the Badarians were sufficiently civilised to carry handkerchiefs.” – Guy Brunton, The Badarian Civilisation and Predynastic Remains near Badari , (1924), p. 41

So, after an absence (sorry) we'll pick up today talking about the Badarian period/culture/phase. I've had lots of requests to talk about technology and crafting, etc., and we'll get there, but I think I want to do the basic historical (heh) sketch of the Predynastic and then talk about broader issues of technology and crafting and stuff.

Also, please note that for British men of a certain era whether or not you carried a snot-rag was an excellent metric for level of “civilisation.” Actually, I'm pretty sure he was talking about the very nice linen bits he found that were of Badarian manufacture, but I still love that quote which is why it was my opener. Also, Brunton had an OBE, had been wounded in the Great War, and as things go was a fairly cool guy as far as I know, so my snark is tempered with fondness.

So, the Badarian. Dated to about 4400-4000 BC. It's a bit squicky what exactly this assemblage of settlements, cemeteries, and material culture represents. It's not well attested outside the area of Middle Egypt called “Badari” from which it takes its name and dates a bit earlier than the earliest phase of the Naqada period that is usually taken to come next in the succession of “cultures” in Egypt. I'm inclined to regard it more as a regional expression of early Naqada culture, but the dating is weird.
Digital Egypt says this is our earliest evidence of farming in Upper Egypt. The Fayum is typically regarded as a separate region so, okay, I guess.
Anyway, there are some links between Badarian and Fayum stuff, especially the really beautiful arrowheads called concave-base or winged arrowheads. I love these things. They continue into the Naqada period as well.
Some Badarian pottery is really beautiful too – it's very hard to capture in photos, but the sort of hallmark of Badarian pottery is the finely combed surface treatment of some of the pots that creates this beautiful rippling on the shiny black surface. We also have more utilitarian stuff for every day use that comes from the settlement sites in addition to the prettier stuff from the graves. It's wonderful to have both to look at and compare, which doesn't always happen.
We also see the first evidence of glazing technology in the Badarian period, which is a significant part of crafting throughout Egyptian history – faience is a glazing technology. The Badarians were producing glazed steatite beads, which is a step toward later production of faience. (I'll talk about this a bit more with the later tech post.)
There's also the first appearance of some metal – copper in this case, probably imported from Sinai. Whether it was worked in Sinai and then brought to Egypt or whether ore was being imported and then worked isn't quite clear. Turquoise was also coming in from the Sinai. There's ivory, possibly local or possible from Nubia, some pottery that looks very Syrian, and shells from the Red Sea as well, so there's a fairly vibrant trade going on. On a side note, I've been writing this with your questions or questions I anticipate you clever people asking and increasingly coming up against the “hell if I know” problem. Then I start looking for information and discover that no one knows. Sigh. It happens. Partially a function of the data available, the kinds of questions “professionals” tend to ask, and in spots probably my own lack of knowledge. Whee!

We also have the settlements. There's three sort of clusters on the east bank in a string – the area between the higher plateau and the river is on the narrow side here. The larger clusters have smaller subclusters – maybe seasonal areas or daughter settlements. Everything is pretty flimsy in terms of construction – basically little round wattle-and-daub huts close together. Some of them may actually have been animal pens rather than houses, but at least one had a hearth and as cows and goats don't usually toast their food, that suggests at least occasional use or occupation by humans. If memory serves, there isn't a lot of good evidence for particular production areas and as the site was used and reused in succeeding periods stratigraphy was kind of messed up. I'm also not remembering anything that was clearly production areas but, again, the site itself was churned up and while the people who dug it – Guy Brunton for most of it and the aforementioned Gertrude Caton-Thompson a small section – were pretty bad-ass for the time (the publications date to the late 1920s), they also weren't quite used to the type of deposits they encountered and often were under such time and funding constraints that they couldn't quite do as thorough a job as we might wish.
They were munching on wheat and barley, lentils, and tubers. And there were lots of sheep and goats based on both bones and layers of poop (if I'd been there to excavate, that would almost certainly have been where I got stuck). There were storage areas for the grains and evidence of bread in some of the graves. Throwing sticks from the graves also suggest birding. Or a novel way of dealing with zombies and reanimated skeletons.

The graves are pretty cool though. They're sort of all over the place near, but not in, the settlements. There's no real organization by gender, age, wealth of grave goods, etc., except for a small section of mostly men and another small section of men and children. The skeletons are mostly gone (disposing of them was fairly standard practice at the time) so further analysis is no longer possible, dammit. And in some cases we might question Brunton's sexing of the skeletons. And who wouldn't question someone doing that to skeletons? Yes, actually, “ sexing” is the term for determining biological sex based on the remains, yes I always make a weird face and sound especially humorless when I have to say it in grown-up contexts. In other contexts I usually do the Beavis and Butthead laugh.
Anyway, we can see clear emergence of shared ideas about how to bury a dead person, which is fairly significant. Typically, a fairly shallow, oval hole was dug in the desert – not in the cultivable area, which you don't want to muck up with dead people because, while they might eventually be awesome fertilizer, until they are you have to worry about the lump in the field, the attraction of scavengers, some of whom might find live human tastier than dead human, the chances of the annual flood washing Aunt Nekhet back up to the house, and the chance that the dead person would be pissed as hell about all of the above, or just about being dead in general, and come haunt your ass. So, shallow oval in the desert. People were usually folded up on their sides, almost as though they were sleeping, usually situated in such a way that they faced the rising sun/the west, which is a significant part of Egyptian funerary beliefs for the full run of Egyptian history. The fact that everyone, or nearly everyone was aligned this way is also fairly significant, as it indicates a set of shared practices, which implies shared beliefs. Being folded up on their sides also made the necessary hole to dig smaller which, when dealing with digging through the sand and hardened desert surface with sticks, is a good thing. Some people had little roof like structures built up over them – basically a mat over some sticks before full burial. Others were resting on woven mats or were in woven hamper-like things that lined the grave entirely. So, we can see the beginnings of some experiments with more formally built graves.

People were buried with stuff by this point, often things associated with daily life (at least according to the excavation reports). How associated with daily life is sort of a question. There are things that appear to have been used or that also appear fairly frequently in settlement contexts, but often the finer stuff, like the really nicely combed pots or highly polished wares are less common in settlements. Food stuffs were included, like bread. Sometimes the pots had contents of some kind, usually unidentifiable. Brunton reported finding bits of fabric in some contexts, but couldn't be sure if it represented shrouds or similar things or clothing because it was so fragmentary. Leather fragments also appeared. So did jewelry, like the glazed steatite I mentioned before, Red Sea shells, etc. People were usually wearing it and in some cases it was clear that people had been buried at least partially clothed with things like animal pelts. And makeup compacts, or at least the Badarian version thereof – the slate palette. They aren't always made of slate, but they often get called “slate palettes” as though they all were. These start out as little oblong bits of rock about the size of your palm. They're often found with smaller rocks or pebbles and, if you're super lucky and the preservation conditions were just right, with mineral residue on them from people putting a bit of colored mineral, like malachite, on the palette, rubbing it with the smaller rock, and winding up with makeup. These are found in both male and female graves along with ochre and lumps of things like malachite. Palettes become an important feature as we go on through the Predynastic and into the Early Dynastic period both as a way to date contexts and as a functional form that grows to ceremonial significance. There are a few instances of what look like the burial of pets – young gazelles that seem too young to use as food. Very rarely a mother and infant were buried together, but usually graves were occupied alone. It seems like children from around 8 on up were buried in the same place as the adults. I don't think Brunton mentions much younger children. This might be because they tend not to be so well preserved or they may have been buried or disposed of elsewhere, such as beneath house floors.
While the assumption in Egypt, projecting from fairly well known historical practices into the past, is that people were buried with stuff so they would have it in the afterlife, in some cultures people are buried with stuff, particularly their own stuff, because it's perceived to be ritually impure or dangerous to the living. I wonder how much that may have played a role considering that in the historical period a proper burial was almost as important for the well-being of the living as for their dead relative. Hungry or pissed off ghosts are bad ju-ju.

Lots of sketches of Badarian graves. I love these for some reason.

I'm having a bit of trouble saying anything definite regarding male/female/juvenile differences in graves without going back through Brunton's publications and doing full tallies (and while I love you people, I don't love you that much). If I can trust some old notes of mine and some syntheses by other people, it looks as though male burials were typically “ richer” with more stuff in general and more jewelry type things in particular, especially these lovely belts of multiple strands of glazed steatite beads. A few people had female figurines buried with them – including in one case a young boy who had a figurine stuck in a pot that was then stuck in a larger pot. Interesting, if one interprets the figurines as fertility figures (which is how they're ALWAYS interpreted) why a little boy needs one in his grave. The other figurines, sadly, were from disturbed graves without skeletal remains so we can't speculate much further based on those contexts.

Drawing of all the figurines. Extra Hawt.

Amusingly, the more I write in this area, as I mentioned earlier, the more unanswered questions I find and the more stuff I find that “someone should do” - like going back through Brunton's publications and taking a closer look at the age/sex profiles and the grave assemblages. Assuming someone hasn't already and I just missed it.

And now, though this comes from a slightly later context, one of the most WTF published (and that is an important distinction) field photos I've seen. I'm guessing they did this to show the scale? Or so they'd remember those pots were used in a burial when they developed the film? Or because they were bored?

ETA:  Take a close look at the positions of the skeletons in the grave sketches.  I find some of them hilarious - the one of the lower right looks like me falling into bed after a long day.  


Star Trek Beer Cozy = Awesome + Win

Lizzylaws has created a fabulous beer (or other bottle) cozy based on the Star Trek uniforms from Season 1 of the original series.
I love the details - the rank stripe, the delta-shield insignia with the science device.
Super nifty.

Even better, she's offering it as a finished object in her Etsy shop, LizardKnits or for the knitting-abled, as a pattern for sale on Ravelry.

Given my fondness for Star Trek, knitting, and root beer and ginger beer, I am an enormous fan!
You can find out more at her blog, too!


Belated Blogiversary

I've had this up for a whole year as of the 21st!  And I don't think I've gone more than a week or 10 days without posting.  Yay!

I hope people have enjoyed the random snark etc and I hope the community gets bigger and I can keep being at least mildly entertaining and occasionally useful.

Also - random Chinese comment spammers:  Quit with the vaguely insulting spam comments already!
The latest was:
If you can not be kind, at least have the decency to be vague (extra super long ellipses of spammy linkage redacted) 
Hopefully will get some more posts up this week.  Health suckage continues - my neck and head are still creating problems and I'm having an especially annoying run of cognitive weirdness with dropping words, forgetting words, etc.  And my arthritis and Reynaud's are flaring again, along with general hand tremors and muscle spasms.  Have also been having a jolly time trying to get a prescription filled that my insurance doesn't usually cover and trying to get new CPAP supplies while dealing with the above.  Such fun. All that and trying to do basic household chores and have a shower now and then has left me pretty tired.
But at least I have my dignity. ;)


Egyptology Snark: Photo Filler

A stunning example of the finest of Egyptian carving from the Seti Temple at Abydos:

Before anyone freaks out, this is on a modern reconstruction block.  I'm seriously impressed by the detail here - I think that's actually a fairly decent rendering of a was scepter or possibly a very long barbeque skewer that Anubis or maybe Wepwawet is holding.  

Anyway, no longer post this week as I am having some fairly sucktastic symptom flare ups this week.  My neck is seriously messed up and making my head hurt badly enough to make concentration more of a challenge than usual and my hands are starting to get hurty again.  And I had several appointments and running around today trying to get a prescription filled and finding out it's not in the formulary and trying to get the refusal over-ridden and...yeah...  Anyway, hopefully I'll get my drugs soon and they'll help.

Hopefully we'll get back on track next week with more extensive Egyptological snarkery.


Visit to the MSI part 2

Here I am, the first cripple on the moon. Bonus points to Chip for suggesting the cane needed to be in the photo and placing it so well.

Here I am fascinated by the Apollo 8
command module.  Chip has managed to clone himself in the background.

Tom demonstrates his usual driving method.

Midway through I decided I needed a wheelchair, especially since we had walked to the museum and were going to have to walk home.  They left me in front of the oncoming train.  (Actually, there was an older lady also in a wheelchair who looked utterly scandalized when we took this photo.  Seriously, lady, if I have to use the damn thing, you can be sure I'm going to joke about it.)
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Later in the trip, we arranged for someone to bust out the passenger window of Chip's car and steal some of his stuff, just so his Chicago experience would be authentic. We are excellent hosts.

Visit to the MSI part 1

Our friend Chip was in town last week. Tom and I took him to the Museum of Science and Industry.
They have a captured German U-Boat as part of their collection. This thing to the right is from the lead-in to that exhibit. The dude on the left looks very pouty about having his ship sunk.

Further on, you can see the boarding party that took the sub. My cane
was an essential part of this mission.

It's a really big gun.

The Aurora 7 Mercury capsule (Scott Carpenter's ship).  Damn those things were tiny.  Also, they had lots of switches.

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Breaking News: New Evidence the Moon Is Made of Cheese

Why else would astronauts have to leave mousetraps near the LM pads? TEACH THE CONTROVERSY!!!!
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Time Travel To-Do List Addition

1.  If someone invents a time machine and I go back to ancient Egypt, scribes better watch out. I will be pimp-slapping every last one of those bastards.
2.  Claim Europe.
3.  Print this out and take a copy to Charles Darwin.  For the lulz.
4.  Find the Trolololo guy and kill him.  With extreme prejudice.  Seriously, Soviet Russia, what the hell?  Why on Earth didn't they weaponize this guy and his creepy smiley-ness?  The fact that he reminds me vividly of someone I went to grad school with doesn't help.  Also not helping:  Tom and Chip breaking out into the song randomly.  Sigh.


Dead, frozen fish and other joys of visiting

No, really.  I took Chip to see a dead frozen fish.  I have pictures.  I contemplated spearing the fish out of the pond with the ice pick on my cane, but decided that was a bit too ghoulish even for me.

We went and checked out the OI too.  And we've developed a new theory to describe some of the lamer looking animal models - ancient summer camp.  I'm pretty sure those lopsided, messed-up looking sheep and goats and people and crap used to have macaroni and glitter glued to them too.
We also saw an undergrad on the bus with awesome metal-band big hair.  No foreskin restoration man or Greenpeace dorks today, though.  So much for local color.


Merrick, The Elephant Man

Merrick, The Elephant Man
Originally uploaded by MrFoxyy
Very cool amigurumi of John Merrick. Interesting topic, and another example of the very interesting mouth technique that Mr Fox has demonstrated with other pieces, like Mr. Bunnyford, one of the ultimate marriages of cute and nightmarish I've seen.

Patterns and finished items available at Mr. Foxy's Toy Emporium.


Welcome to the Egyptology News Readers

Andie over at Egyptology News was kind enough to post the links to my Tut commentaries last week!  Page views jumped quite a bit, which is always nice to see.  So, welcome to any and all of you who have clicked over and decided to linger.  There is much snarky fun to be had here, I hope.

And a big thanks to Andie for being kind enough to post those links!   Egyptology News is a superb source of general news articles, gossip, recent publications, dig news, and all sorts of other fun stuff.  Very worth reading regularly.  Plus, Andie is also an Egyptologist/archaeologist, so it is therefore extra awesome.


Egyptology Snark: The Dawn of Time (dun dun duhhhhh)

A note on chronology and dates
Dates are a funny thing in archaeology and history. I find concrete dates to be pretty annoying and when I taught did not make my students remember more than ballpark figures. Relative chronology is more important for a broad understanding of what's going on. Relative as in x came before y who came before z.
Plus, for a lot of Egyptian history, the dates are a bit wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey. We have spots where we can nail things down based on concretely dated events like the Sothic star cycle or eclipses, etc., but a lot of other periods sort of float – as in we know how many kings there were and how long they each reigned, but nailing that list to dates like 1100 BC is a bit more challenging. And people argue about it all the damn time and there is much blathering about Venus and carbon 14 and dendrochronology and were there co-regencies and what makes a regnal year and were cattle-counts bi-annal or annual and when did Thera erupt and blah, blah, blah. Import for specialists or those who find it interesting. Not that important for understanding the basics.
So, I'm probably not going to do a lot with dates here. Instead, I tend to use broader terms, like Predynastic or New Kingdom or reign of King Whoever.

So, on to the Predynastic.

Long ago, at the dawn of time, aliens came and built a bunch of pyramids and the Sphinx, then buried them in sand and ran away (Note: The previous sentence is total bullshit! ) . Later, humans showed up and were all “this is pretty cool, let's pretend we made it.” Thousands of years later still, people like Eric von Daniken and Graham Hancock and a bunch of other stupid wankers made lots of money and became semi-famous telling people all about the aliens and making up a bunch of other stupid shit to sell books to people who fail at critical thinking. Thanks to them, I spent a fair chunk of my time when I answered email and phonecalls from the public in a professional capacity having to tactfully explain to an enormous number of people why the face on Mars is a coincidence, how yes, there are in fact inscriptions dating to the reign of Khufu inside the Great Freakin' Pyramid, that no, there is not a damn helicopter hieroglyph in the Seti Temple at Abydos, how the ancient Egyptians were not in fact “Aryan” (in the Stormfront/KKK sense of the term), how no, the lack of noses on a large number of statues is probably not due to a vast white conspiracy to hide the African features of the ancient Egyptians, etc., etc. I also got at least one email per week from different retired engineers explaining how the pyramid (sic) was really built and, often, explaining how us dumb Egyptologists would know that if only we'd been bright enough to go to school in engineering.
Now that I no longer need be tactful:
Holy crap did you go to school!?!? How can you be this willfully ignorant!?!? If I put a page up on the internet/wrote a book/made a “documentary” about how the sky is really purple, but the government/Catholic Church/aliens/all of the above is really perpetrating a vast conspiracy to make everyone believe it's blue, would you believe me? Should I overcome my basic sense of ethics in order to take advantage of your credulity? Mr. Engineer, please go look up the word “anachronism” then look at your reconstruction of the building methods of “the” pyramid and then get back to me. All of you: there is more than one pyramid in Egypt! There were pyramids built before and after the Great Pyramid! There were pyramids built in places other than Giza! And if “the pyramid” is “too complicated” for humans possibly to have built all by themselves, why is there not a vibrant subculture busily explaining how aliens built: Luxor and Karnak temples, the Great Wall of China, any extant Roman aqueduct, or any number of things that basically consist of large piles of rock arranged in a logical fashion!?! While you're at it, please explain to me in detail how the Sears Tower was built. No, you may not have access to any historical records, photographs, drawings, blueprints, etc. Go! What's that, you “hypothesize based on available data”!?! Bunk! Aliens. Not only did they build the Sears Tower, they also put the Daley machine in motion. Lalalalala fingers-in-my-ears can't hear your counter-arguments, how dare you intellectual elitists refuse to take my ideas seriously!


The Predynastic. Right. So, for very, very early on in the Paleolithic there's a bit of evidence of Homo erectus wandering around in Egypt in the form of tools and then evidence of both Neanderthal and “ anatomically modern” humans a bit later, including the burial of a human child. There's some good sites for the Upper Paleolithic too, like Wadi Kubbaniya.
The Predynastic really gets moving and shaking in the Neolithic, though. The Neolithic (every where and the actual timing changes from place to place) is when you have continued use of stone tools (like the “Old Stone Age” - “ Paleolithic”) but also start to see other stuff like increased sedentariness, the domestication of plants and animals, and increasing social complexity. This is what most people are talking about when they talk about “the rise of civilization.”
In Egypt, most of our evidence for these social and subsistence changes comes from cemeteries for the reasons I've discussed before – they tend to be the things that are actually preserved. Cemeteries can be really, really handy for indexing changes in social structure if you can make the case that more elaborate burials equal a higher social status. You can also look at who is getting those more elaborate burials to get an idea of whether you're looking at achieved status – in other words, wow, that dude killed a hippo and saved the village and then went drove off those damn foreigners from over the hill and kept them from jacking our stuff – vs. ascribed status – ie the son of that awesome dude who killed the hippo is also awesome because he's that dude's son; he hasn't actually done anything yet, but he might have someday, therefore we will give him cool shit.
Grave goods can be a way to look at subsistence patterns and other information, especially if food items are included with the dead or if tools are. Also, because North Africa was a wetter environment until fairly recently (probably into the Old Kingdom), settlements were established in places that are now desert and so we have some preserved contexts to work with. Very early in the Neolithic, people were still moving around seasonally, but seemed to settle in one place for extended periods, as in a whole season spent in one place in some contexts, taking advantage of whatever resources happen to be there – like fishing on the river or hunting further out in what is now desert, plus collecting various tasty plants.
There's also evidence for cattle herding early in the Neolithic, primarily in Sudan, but also moving up in to Egypt. Cattle are a big deal for much of early Sudanese history. They're important in Egypt as well, but not to quite the same degree. There is increasing evidence as we move through time for other domesticated animals as well. Sheep and goats probably came from Western Asia along with pigs. Dogs had been domesticated forever and are also attested. If you're wondering how on earth you tell if an animal is domesticated from just bits and pieces, it's pretty cool. Domestication often creates some distinct morphological changes in animals, so having someone who knows what to look for check out the remains is really helpful. Age and sex profiles of the animals can also tell you a bit about how they were being managed – you have different kill patterns at different ages depending on use, such as use for meat vs. use for secondary products. Where and how the animal bones are deposited can tell you about processing and cooking, preferred cuts, etc. Very cool.
And, there's pottery. Ahhh, pottery. It's amazing what baking a lump of clay will do. It will make people totally unrelated to you come to the point of blows thousands of years after you're dead and buried as they argue about who made it, what it means, what it means for chronology, and whether you should throw some of it away or keep all of it. Reams of paper will be used writing about it, drawing it, describing it, keeping track of it. Oreo will try to eat it. I will pet it and talk to it. Yeah.
Anyway, pottery starts out being made by hand. In a lot of places, it stays made entirely by hand for most of history. And when I say “by hand” I mean “without a wheel.” So, people were making these things without benefit of a nice regular spin to help build even, thin walls and regular shapes. Fortunately, clay was easy to come by for the Egyptians. Nile silt right there on the riverside, replenished every year when the snows in to the south melted and ran off into the Blue and White Niles and came rushing north, was used frequently. A bit later on a harder clay that resembles limestone a bit more, called “ marl” also came into use.
We also start to see more evidence of trade coming into the Nile Valley. Sea shells from the Red Sea shore (say that a bunch of times) show up, along with shark teeth and various semi-precious stones that don't typically occur in the Nile Valley.
Now, having blathered on and on about cemeteries being important, we don't so much have them for one of the earliest farming cultures in the Egyptian Nile Valley, which is called the Fayum A or Fayumi Neolithic. Don't you love how that works? This group hung out around the Fayum – that little lake thingie that juts off to the west of the Nile. This is when we have the earliest clearly attested evidence of domesticated grains – wheat and barley. The assumption is that domesticated grains and the technology to grow them came west from Western Asia where it developed about 1000 years earlier. How, exactly, is open to speculation. Anyway, the Fayum had been populated since the Paleolithic, but it's in the later Neolithic (ca 5000 BC) during the Fayum A period that we see the adoption of farming. We don't really have settlements either – instead there's a heavy cluster of fire-pits and associated grain silos (which is a fancy way of saying mat-lined pits in the ground filled with grain and pots of grain). This is probably because shelters were pretty ephemeral. There's also domesticated animals. And evidence for the continued reliance on hunting and fishing to supplement farming. Go look at pretty pictures of their stuff here.
Another cool thing about the Fayum A – the earliest discovery/description of the culture was by a woman, Gertrude Caton-Thompson in the 1920s and 30s. She was pretty hardcore. And her excavation techniques were pretty awesome. She was all about prehistoric societies. She also worked at Great Zimbabwe and asserted that “yes, it was built by Africans, not random wandering Europeans, you stupid racist bastards.” (I paraphrase.)
A roughly contemporaneous group to the Fayum A culture called the Merimde was hanging out in the western Delta doing roughly the same thing as the Fayumi group – farming, but also taking advantage of wild resources. Both groups have similarities in the way they made and decorated pottery and in the way they made arrowpoints and mace heads, which probably indicates a degree of trade (or possibly that they weren't all that “separate” as cultures). We actually have Merimde burials (yay!) and in them can start to see some of the beginnings of social differences being expressed in grave goods. Interestingly, the burials appear to have been made inside the houses at Merimde, rather than in a separate cemetery. (This is a bit debatable, as it's hard to tell whether the houses were still occupied when burials were made and the chronology in general is a bit muddled). A few pretties may be seen here.
In summary, the very earliest phases on modern human occupation of Egypt nomadic hunter-gatherers. Egypt at the time was pretty swank – the surrounding deserts were wetter and more savannah like, meaning that there was a lot of different sources of food and tools. People were in communication of some kind with various groups camped out in different areas, like the Red Sea. Eventually, new technologies moved in, maybe via trade, word-of-mouth, movement of people, who knows, but people started paying attention to the breeding of animals and taking a more active interest in cultivating them. A little later they started doing the same with yummy grains. At the same time, they still though eating antelope or fish or hippo sounded fun, so they kept up with the hunting and fishing. The appearance of pear-shaped mace heads and a few other things calls into question whether the only things they were killing with blunt or pointy objects were animals, but it's not entirely clear.

So, let me know what you think of this entry – too detailed? Not enough? Just right? I'm afraid it's very light on pictures – I don't have much of my own or that's free use to contribute for this particular entry. Next time we'll move further into the later Neolithic/Predynastic. Next week may not have an entry as a friend is coming to visit and we'll probably be busy mocking hipsters or comparing health problems or something.


LOL Pharaohs

This is Alwen's fault, by the way.

At first, the Sea Peoples were all:

But then Ramses III was all:

Original images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.  Both are from the mortuary temple of Ramses III aka Medinet Habu.