The Interaction between and the roles of Upper and Lower Egypt in the formation of the Egyptian state: another review

E. Christiana Köhler

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contribution


In the early days of Egyptological scholarship, the regions of Upper and Lower Egypt were considered as not only mythological but also factual opponents in the process of state formation and the belief was held that the agile Upper Egyptian tribes of hunter-gatherer origin had been a driving force in this process and had taken over the territory of the more docile agriculturalists of the north to make way for the cultural and political unification of the country under the Thinite kings. This scenario, which was subsequently elaborated and referred to as the "Naqada expansion", entails the division of north and south into two separate cultures, the expansion of the southern Naqada culture and thus it results in a cultural unification of Egypt as a precondition for a political process. This paper aims to provide a review of the archaeological evidence for the development of prehistoric Egypt pertinent to the formation of the early state. It will make a case for the proposition that Upper and Lower Egypt both had a significant, and at times distinct, at times interdependent, and yet equal contribution to this development by examining the current state of research following a range of criteria, such as social organisation, urbanism and centralisation, writing and administration, craft specialisation, interregional trade, religion and ideology of kingship. The paper will revisit the concept of the "Naqada expansion" and review a number of terminological problems arising from recent archaeological work and general studies which will impact on the treatment of the two regions in their cultural, social, political and geographical setting. It will be suggested here that the development of state formation in Egypt did not follow a uni-linear narrative, as traditionally suggested, but was a complex, multi-linear process involving three stages from the end of Naqada II until the beginning of the Old Kingdom.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEgypt at its origins 2
Subtitle of host publicationproceedings of the international conference "Origin of the State, Predynastic and Early Dynastic Egypt", Toulouse (France), 5th-8th September 2005
EditorsB. Midant-Reynes, Y. Tristant
Place of PublicationLeuven ; Dudley, MA
PublisherPeeters Publishers
Number of pages29
ISBN (Print)9789042919945
Publication statusPublished - 2008
EventEgypt at its Origins (2nd : 2005) - Toulouse, France
Duration: 5 Sept 20058 Sept 2005


ConferenceEgypt at its Origins (2nd : 2005)
CityToulouse, France


  • archaeology
  • anthropology
  • society
  • Prehistory
  • Predynastic
  • Early Dynastic Egypt


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