National Geographic : 1941 Oct
Life in Lower Egypt Before the Dawn of History ABAND of protodynastic Egyptians, fresh from a suc cessful lion hunt along the desert's edge, are returning to the town of SaYs, capital of an important nome, or district, in the northwest Delta. The town, raised on its earth embankment above the partly inundated swampland which comprised most of the Kingdom of Lower Egypt, is surrounded by a stout mud wall, topped by a high reed parapet. In the center of the town stands the towered palace of the "nomarch" (prince of the district), and, behind this, the fenced enclosure and hoop roofed shrine of the local goddess, Neit. The standard of the goddess-a pair of arrows crossed behind an 8-shaped shield, the whole mounted on a tall pole -stands before the shrine. Emblem of the district as well as the divinity, the device surmounts a palace tower also. Like the shrine, the houses of the town, ranged in regular streets around the central buildings, are of the typical Lower Egyptian form, with the curved roof and prominent corner posts, seen in stone buildings, coffins, and reliefs and paint ings of the historic period. All the buildings are of light wood and wickerwork construction, their elaborately re cessed door and window openings closed by strips of brightly colored grass matting. In the cultivated field, water, dipped by hand from the irrigation canal, is being transferred in slow stages from one square compartment, or basin, to another by the breach- ing of the small dikes whichseparate the squares; men are furrowing the rich black soil with wooden mattocks; and a woman with an infant on her back ispausing from similar toil to view the hunters andtheir quarry. She isclad in a woven linen mantle and wears inher hair acarved ivory comb and hairpin. The hunters, like theirneighbors and kinsmen, the Libyans, are tattooed on their arms and legs and wear ostrich feathers stuck intotheir thick, wavy hair. The wolf tails, swinging from the backs oftheir short grass hunting kilts, were believed toendow them with the strength, fleetness, and ferocity of that animal. Their bows are of the long, recurved, African type, their arrows of reed with chisel-shaped, hard stone tips. Their other weapons include the remarkably fine, curved flint knife produced at thisperiod, the double axe, also of hard stone, the wooden throw-stick, orboomerang, the mace with the pear-shaped stone head, the flint-tipped lance, and the lasso of palm-fibre rope. Their strange black dogsare of an extinct breed, the ap pearance of which is preserved tousinlater representations of the animal of the god Anubis, the watchdog ofthe tomb. In making this painting and those which follow, the artist has sought verisimilitude. With the aid ofthe author hehas selected wherever possible and used as models authentic objects unearthed in the Egyptologists' "digs." NOTE: The quoted capline accompanying each painting is in every case an excerpt from the writings of the ancient Egyptians themselves, as preserved either in their papyri or in the monumental inscriptions in their tombsand temples.