The origin and early development of urbanism in ancient Egypt: A regional study

Diana Craig Patch, University of Pennsylvania


The development of urbanism has often been associated with the appearance of state-level society. Although a single definition of urbanism is not universally accepted, archaeologists generally agree that changes in population size, distribution, and integration, as reflected in the appearance of a hierarchical settlement pattern, can identify a culture's shift from a pre-urban to an urban settlement pattern. This dissertation investigates the possibility of recognizing the development of ancient Egyptian urbanism through a study of settlement patterns in the Abydos-Thinis region of Upper Egypt. Many important factors make this region crucial to the study of the origin of the ancient Egyptian state. A survey of the low desert was conducted 1982-83 in the Abydos-Thinis region to locate sites dating from the Predynastic Period through Old Kingdom, the periods relevant to a study on early urbanism. The discovered sites, both settlements and cemeteries, were mapped and then surface collected. The sherds recorded at each site were used to date each settlement or cemetery. After dating every site, often through a newly-developed corpus of Predynastic sherds, each was plotted on map by the chronological period or periods identified from its surface ceramics. These distribution maps were used to identify changes in population size and distribution in the Abydos-Thinis region over approximately 1600 years. Fieldwork conducted in the Abydos-Thinis region has implications for the development of urbanism in ancient Egypt. There is a marked change in settlement pattern during the Predynastic Period, a formative time in the Egyptian cultural development. By the end of the Old Kingdom, when there is an established state, the settlement pattern in the Abydos-Thinis region, and probably all Egypt, reflects the Egyptian state's specific needs at that time, a simple settlement hierarchy with most population in small rural towns and villages.

Subject Area

Archaeology|Ancient civilizations|African history

Recommended Citation

Patch, Diana Craig, "The origin and early development of urbanism in ancient Egypt: A regional study" (1991). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9200380.