Monday, April 26, 2010

Historical Timeline of Sinai Part 8

Early Bronze Age: 3,150 BC – 2,200 BC

The early Bronze Age witnessed a population explosion all over the near East. This occurred in Sinai as well specially in the southern part of the peninsula and the northern coastal strip. EB 1, which corresponds to the proto-dynastic period in Egypt proper, is represented by small-unfortified settlements along the northern coast of the Sinai. An expedition collected both Egyptian and Canaanitic pottery in these small settlements which marked the route between Egypt and Canaan. The only other EB 1 settlement in south Sinai is 50 kilometres east of Ras Sudr.

From the EB 2 Age, a whole series of settlements were discovered of whom only 6 were excavated, all in the massive granite mountains in the heart of the peninsula. They consist of the same type of one room houses built in Canaan in the EB 2 period, which were abundant in Arad, a large city in the Negev desert.

In every site that was excavated, we found lumps of copper and casting moulds, which is evidence of copper production. These sites lie very close to the ancient copper mines

Egypt and Sinai had up till now shared cultural similarities and the peoples of these areas mingled freely. It was after the establishment of the Egyptian Dynastic Kingdom that Egyptian interest in Sinai grew around 2,650 BC. What attracted the Egyptians was not copper but turquoise. There is no doubt about the strong Egyptian presence because the mining expeditions left a lot of evidence behind and it is still there. Of special interest are the many stone reliefs and inscriptions that provide a secure dating for the Egyptian mining activity. One curious discovery was the relief of Pharoa Sekhemkhet (3rd Dynasty) carved on one of the high cliffs of Wadi Maghara.

During the Middle Kingdom, in the 12th Dynasty (1,991 BC – 1,786 BC), the Egyptian Pharaohs moved their turquoise mining operations to the rich veins of Serabit el Khadem in west central Sinai. They continued to operate these mines for 8 centuries thereafter, during the New Kingdom and up to the reign of Ramses VI. At Serabit, the Egyptians left some of the most magnificent ruins in all of Sinai. On a mountain plateau, they built a temple dedicated to the goddess Hathor who among her other epithets was known as “Lady of Turquoise” and “Mistress of the Far Lands”. This was one of only 2 ancient Egyptian temples outside the Egypt proper, the second, also dedicated to Hathor, at the ancient Egyptian copper mines in Wadi Timna in Palestine (modern state of Israel). It is starting of this era, that the Sinai is regarded as an integeral part of the Egyptian Kingdom, not only because of the Egyptian mining activities, but because the Sinai is Egypt’s eastern buffer zone. North Sinai has already been settled by Egyptians.

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