Egypt: From Upper Egyptian Rural Petty Polities to Unitary State

Author: Lankester, Francis David
Journal: Social Evolution & History. Volume 20, Number 1 / March 2021


This paper covers the rise of the Egyptian state from the beginnings of sedentism in the Upper Egyptian Nile Valley to the Early Dynastic period. It examines the contributions which may have been made to this process by Egypt's geography, urbanism, ideology, population pressure and conflict. It appears that Predynastic Egypt at all times had a rural character with elite, but not significantly urban, centres. A likely strong factor assisting elite control was transparency of agricultural production due to the ease of surveillance in a narrow River Nile floodplain. Moreover, Upper Egypt constituted a relatively small and easily controllable area. The early Egyptian state appeared here and then dominated the Nile Delta. Egypt is best seen as a series of rural polities coalescing into an Upper Egyptian rural petty state in which the acquisition of prestige items and a legitimising ideology played important parts, which then expanded into a Lower Egypt which was probably not organised at state level.

Keywords: Naqada, sedentism, rural, transparency, violence, population.

Francis David Lankester, independent scholar more