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In the beginning…the origins of predynastic religion

Woods, Gillian 2016. In the beginning…the origins of predynastic religion. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This work covers the Western Desert to the Nile Valley during the period ca. 6500-3750 calBC and determines the aetiology and nature of early Predynastic (Badarian- ca. 4350-3750 calBC) belief systems. The migration of peoples from the Western Desert to the Nile Valley as a result of the commencement of aridification in ca. 5300 calBC would have influenced belief systems. Throughout, a flexible theoretical framework is used to interrogate the heterogeneous evidence. The catalyst for the work is Bárta’s retrospective interpretation of the rock-art motifs in Wadi Sura as early representations of ancient Egyptian deities and the beginnings of ancient Egyptian religion. The motifs are also linked to Middle Kingdom concept of the dead by Le Quellec. These two interpretations are examined and are proved to be incorrect. The conclusion is that the motifs are the result of a shamanic rain ritual. Archaeological evidence reveals there was no direct contact between Wadi Sura and the Nile Valley. The rock-art in Dakhleh Oasis and environs was also analysed as was the megalithic site of Nabta Playa. Although different, both appear to have had concerns about rain and fertility. Ceramic evidence reveals contacts between Nabta Playa, Dakhleh Oasis and the early Badarian sites. This suggests that at least part of the aetiology of beliefs was the Western Desert. The interrogation of mortuary evidence at Gebel Ramlah, associated with Nabta Playa and that of the Badarian period reveals a belief in an afterlife, rebirth and regeneration. The role of the living is considered vital for the dead to achieve this transformational status. At all sites the supernatural and symbolism appear to play an important role as does shamanism. It is apparent that the concepts of fertility, an afterlife and rebirth formed the basis of the early Predynastic belief systems. No recognisable deities existed.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 3 June 2016
Last Modified: 04 Nov 2021 16:26

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