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International Conference
Origin of the State. Predynastic and Early Dynastic Egypt

(Cracow, Poland: 28th August - 1st September 2002)
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The Application of Mortuary Data to the Problem of Social Transformation
in the Delta from the Terminal Predynastic to the Early Dynastic Period


Institute of Archaeology, University College London, London (England)


Four cemetery sites in the east Delta are being examined with the aim of utilising mortuary data to contribute towards our understanding of the nature of social transition between the Terminal Predynastic and Early Dynastic periods. The mortuary data is being collated from Kafr Hassan Dawood, Kufr Nigm, Minshat Abu Omar, and Tell Ibrahim Awad; sites which preliminary observations indicate will offer a good temporal scope across the transitional period, and represent a diversity of types of social organisation and differentiation.

From a literature survey of both Nile Valley burial trends, and the wider sphere of mortuary archaeology, I am taking the premise that mortuary differentiation can be interpreted as being reflective of social differentiation and change within social organisation. I am further concerned with the degree to which this differentiation might have been present within a community, and importantly, what kinds of social development and expression it might reflect. It is important to consider this in parallel with temporal change.

This paper examines key types of data accessible from the cemetery sites under investigation. This information is derived essentially from evidence for grave construction/architecture, grave contents (quantity and type of objects), and body position and treatment. Issues of social differentiation as inferred by the spatial distribution and clustering of graves are also under consideration. A discussion follows of analytical methods that might be appropriate for investigating changes of both a temporal and spatial nature, and approaches that might be applicable at both an intra- and inter-site level. The applicability of both quantitative statistical tests and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to cemetery data is also discussed, to show how these two applications can be used both to examine the data from different angles and complement each other.


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