Near the village of Gerzeh lay a cemetery with tombs from the Pre-Dynastic era, c. 4000-3000 BC. Petrie had previously excavated several cemeteries from this early period in Southern Egypt. To begin with it was his opinion that their occupants were of a new ‘race’. Subsequently it became clear that the people concerned were not of another ‘race’, they had simply lived during a period before Egypt became a state and hieroglyphic writing had been invented. The finds from Gerzeh were of great interest since it was the first time that finds from this period had been made so far north in Egypt.
Cemetery at Gerzeh. Photo: Janne Klerk
Excavations at Gerzeh
At the beginning of 1911 Gerald Wainwright was working for Petrie, helping excavate the tomb area north of Meydum [link til ’Meydum’]. Near the village of Gerzeh he found a cemetery with many intact tombs from the Pre-Dynastic era. It was particularly the middle years of this period – c. 3600-3300 BC – which were represented, and Petrie, accordingly, called the period Gerzean.
The tombs were principally rectangular to oval graves. The dead person lay in the foetal position, surrounded by grave-goods: jars of pottery or stone, together with, in certain cases, strings of beads made of semi-precious stones and faience. The jars were filled with, or represented, food drink and fragrant ointments and oils. Many of the tombs contained small, miniature stone jars [ÆIN 1390-1407]. The Glyptotek received a selection of these in various types of stone.