Project title: Awaiting the rain. Economy, culture, beliefs of Neolithic pastorilas of tudays's Western Desert in Egypt
Project No: UMO-2015/17/B/HS3/01315
Project lead: prof. dr hab. Michał Kobusiewicz
Project lead, institutional: Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences
Project financing:National Science Center, 2014-2016
phone (22) 620-28-81 do 86
Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences
1. Research project objectives/ Research hypothesis
The purpose of the project is to reconstruct the economic foundations and spiritual culture of Neolithic societies living in territories located in the southern part of the West Desert in Egypt during the early Holecene. The basis for reconstruction will comprise of multi-disciplinary excavation of the settlement compound in Berget el Sheb, as well as sites located at the foot of the Eocene Escarpment and their placement in the wide context of Neolithic settlement in the Western Desert. In the area of Berget el Sheb, remains of residential and utility sites were registered featuring perfectly preserved organic material, burial pits and stone structures (including tumuli) which most likely contain interments or sacrificial pits. Flint and other rock materials are present in the layers of the Eocene Cliff which were a valuable resource for the Neolithic people. The rock outcrops are likely accompanied by specialized workshops where the initial processing of the top-quality material was made. Research conducted so far in this part of the Western Desert brought plenty of new data explaining the culture of the Neolithic pastoralists staying in the area. Yet many questions still remain unanswered. The proposed project should deepen our knowledge regarding the nature of Neolithic settlement, economic base, social organization and the beliefs of the societies studied, as well as their anthropological composition, state of health, diet or life expectancy. Thanks to the research conducted, it will also be possible to determine the level of influence of the Neolithic pastorial societies from the Western Desert on the development of the civilization of ancient Egypt.
2. Research project methodology
The basis for reconstruction will comprise of multi-disciplinary excavation of the settlement compound in Berget el Sheb, as well as sites located at the foot of the Eocene Escarpment and their placement in the wide context of Neolithic settlement in the Western Desert. In addition to archeologists, other specialists would participate - anthropologist, archeobotanist and geologist, ceramology specialist and other specialists as needed. A number of analyses in the scope of these areas, as well as radiocarbon analysis and similar would be conducted to make it possible to recreate the original environment and chronology of the development of the societies researched.
3. Expected impact of the research project on the development of science, civilization and society
The project will result in a deeper knowledge of the prehistorical inhabitants of the Western Desert in the Neolithic, their culture, lifestyle and beliefs. At the end of the Neolithic period, these very societies, forced by the increasing drought, left the desert for good and settled in the valley of the Nile. To a large extent, they played a role in the forming of the ancient Egyptian state, bringing with them essential elements of their beliefs which they practiced thousands of years earlier. The project results will thus contribute to the discovery of the one of the most important events in the development of civilization.
The results of the research will be presented at specialized national and international conferences by the contractors of the project.The final effect will be a series of analytical reports, as well as synthetic articles (including popular science) in international journals with a high impact factor (e.g. from the Philapelphia list or ERIH) and will pertain to the reconstruction of the environment's paleohistory, social and cultural changes, as well as the chronostratigraphy of settlement in the region. These reports, along with earlier publications will constitute a basis to prepare a monography ofthe Berget el Sheb region and the Eocene Cliff. They will make a large contribution to the knowledge of cultural development of not only the Western Desert in Egypt, but also northeast Africa and will bring this knowledge closer to the scientific community, as well as the part of world society interested in the beginnings of civilization.