«Invaders or just herders? Libyans in Egypt in the 3rd and 2nd millennia BCE», World Archaeology 46/4 (2014), 610-623.

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«Invaders or just herders? Libyans in Egypt in the 3rd and 2nd millennia BCE», World Archaeology 46/4 (2014), 610-623.
  This article was downloaded by: [Juan Carlos Moreno García]On: 02 July 2014, At: 06:47Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office:Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK World Archaeology Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscriptioninformation:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rwar20 Invaders or just herders? Libyans in Egypt inthe third and second millennia BCE Juan Carlos Moreno García aa  CNRS, FrancePublished online: 30 Jun 2014. To cite this article:  Juan Carlos Moreno García (2014): Invaders or just herders? Libyans in Egypt in the thirdand second millennia BCE, World Archaeology, DOI: 10.1080/00438243.2014.931820 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00438243.2014.931820 PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLETaylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the “Content”)contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor & Francis, our agents, and ourlicensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, orsuitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinions and views expressed in this publicationare the opinions and views of the authors, and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor & Francis. The accuracy of the Content should not be relied upon and should be independentlyverified with primary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for anylosses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilitieswhatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to orarising out of the use of the Content.This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any substantialor systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, ordistribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms & Conditions of access and usecan be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions  Invaders or just herders? Libyans in Egyptin the third and second millennia  BCE Juan Carlos Moreno García Abstract An increasing body of archaeological data and a careful re-evaluation of Egyptian texts are showingLibyans, usually depicted in pharaonic sources as a menacing force of wandering herders, in a different light. The western Delta and Middle Egypt formed a vast area with low human density, scatteredsettlements, abundant grazing and wooded land and porous borders, an ideal landscape not only for herders (both Libyan and Egyptian), but also for foragers and  󿬁 shermen. Their autonomous mobilelifestyles usually clashed with the  󿬁 scal and agricultural interests of the Pharaohs, but con 󿬂 ict did not necessarily ensue. Thus, while some kind of mutual agreement dominated much of third-millenniumrelations between Libyans and Egyptian kings, the foundation of a new capital in the eastern Delta, at Pi-Ramesses, and its heavy impact on Delta resources launched an increasing wave of con 󿬂 icts withLibyan herders. Competition then actually underlies what pharaonic sources unilaterally present asinvasions. Keywords Ancient Libyans; ancient Egypt; Kom el-Hisn; pastoral economy; Lower Egypt. The study of the relations between  ‘ Libyans ’  and  ‘ Egyptians ’  in the third and second millennia BCE  has traditionally relied upon pharaonic sources and points of view. Given the scarcity of archaeological research about Libyan peoples before the Classical period, and the fact that theyhad left virtually no textual record (Rieger, Vetter, and Möller  2012), it has been commonplacethat Egyptian epigraphy and iconography provided an acceptable and reliable picture of thenature of contacts between populations across the western borders of the Nile valley: on oneside, one of the cradles of civilization, urban life and high culture in an exceptionally favourableagricultural setting; on the other side, a desert environment scarcely populated and wheremarauding bands of starving herders sought any occasion to overrun Egypt, settle in and bene 󿬁 t from the wealth of the country. Texts and scenes from the very beginnings of pharaonic historythus portrayed Libyans as a potential danger, regularly fought by Pharaohs by means of militarycampaigns followed by the capture of prisoners and herds. Therefore they were assigned a © 2014 Taylor & Francis ISSN 0043-8243 print/1470-1375 onlinehttp://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00438243.2014.931820    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   J  u  a  n   C  a  r   l  o  s   M  o  r  e  n  o   G  a  r  c   í  a   ]  a   t   0   6  :   4   7   0   2   J  u   l  y   2   0   1   4  distinctive and highly biased role within pharaonic ideology: as centre of the civilized world andordered existence, Egypt was surrounded by hostile backward neighbours (Asiatics in the East, Nubians in the South, Libyans in the West) whose very values and ways of life were quite theopposite of those prevailing in the Nile valley (Cooney 2011; Liverani 1990; Ritner  2008, 2009; Snape 2003).Modern scholarship and conceptual models have further supported the persistence of ancient  prejudices. Agriculture, writing, a developed administration and a high culture epitomizedcivilization as opposed to allegedly less  ‘ complex ’—  or simply  ‘ inferior  ’—  social and productivesystems. That is why simple antagonistic couples of concepts like state-vs.-tribe (or chiefdom),civilization-vs.-barbarism and pastoral/nomad-vs.-farming/sedentary, among others, have beenlargely invoked in historical comparative reconstructions, from anthropology to neo-evolution-ism, as if they possessed a self-evident heuristic potential. Furthermore, such evolutionary scales provided  prêt-à-porter   narratives used to describe societies according to a very limited set of characteristics supposedly universal and recurrent through millennia. Hence, as  ‘ similar  ’  socie-ties were thought to share interchangeable qualities over time and space, features from modernsocial groups were regularly ascribed to illiterate societies of the past, a procedure whichenabled the  󿬁 lling of gaps in the documentary and archaeological evidence (Porter  2012,8  –  64; Routledge 2014, 9  –  27; Sneath 2007, 39  –  64; Yoffee 2005). Ancient Libyans were thusde 󿬁 ned according to a handful of attributes supposedly shared with modern comparablesocieties: pastoralism, mobility, tribalism, raiding, desert/steppe habitat, etc. (O ’ Connor  1990).However, an increasing body of ethnographic and archaeological research shows that   ‘ nomads ’ were, in fact, an essential part of ancient societies and sedentary economies. What is more, their role was crucial in areas where research has focused mainly on institutional actors like temples, palaces and diplomatic contacts. Yet international trade, mining (usually on a seasonal basis) or the diffusion of crops and metallurgic technologies would be inconceivable without the con-tribution of mobile populations (Barnard and Wendrich 2008; Nicolle 2004; Porter  2012; Saidel and van der Steen 2007; Sneath 2007; Szuchman 2009). The anachronistic use of modern categories has also been quite misleading. One of them is ‘  border  ’ , as if ancient boundaries were not only partly mental maps and partly imprecise political boundaries but, instead, clear demarcations separating very different populations, political entities and even ways of life: agriculturalist Egyptians versus pastoral Libyans, afertile  󿬂 oodplain versus a harsh desert environment, settled versus mobile populations. Another one is  ‘ ethnic group ’ , as if borders also set apart pronouncedly different cultures and self-identit ies: in this light, pastoral mobile Egyptians became as inconceivable as, say, Libyansinvolved in complex trade networks, agriculture and metallurgy (Liverani 1990). Furthermore, ‘ Libyan ’  is a problematic modern term, one that conveys precise geographical, political andsociocultural connotations hardly applicable to antiquity. Ancient Egyptians historically usedseveral terms when referring to their western neighbours, and this fact raises many questions not only about   ‘ Libyan ’  cultural and political diversity but also about mixing land use and seasonaleconomic activities across the borders of the Nile valley involving  ‘ Libyans ’  and  ‘ Egyptians ’ . Inthis respect, it is worth remembering that   ‘ Egyptian ’  areas, like the western oases or the ‘ Pastoral Crescent  ’  extending from Lake Mariout to, broadly speaking, the Fayum area, werehistorically frequented and settled by  ‘ Libyans ’ .Recent archaeological research and a careful re-evaluation of pharaonic written sourcessuggest new paths of research, where Libyans appear in a very different light. The seminal2  Juan Carlos Moreno García    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   J  u  a  n   C  a  r   l  o  s   M  o  r  e  n  o   G  a  r  c   í  a   ]  a   t   0   6  :   4   7   0   2   J  u   l  y   2   0   1   4  work of researchers like David O ’ Connor showed that late second-millennium Egyptian textscertainly conveyed stereotypical descriptions of Libyans, but also invaluable isolated pieces of information (O ’ Connor  1990). Lists of booty captured from defeated Libyans, for instance,included sophisticated weaponry, chariots and precious items like elephant tusks, hardly  󿬁 ttingtheir usual image as backward herders. Furthermore, depictions in scenes from the Aegean,archaeological vestiges recovered in the area of Marsah Matruh and pharaonic references totheir collaboration with eastern Mediterranean peoples reveal that Libyans were active partnersin exchange networks extending from inner Africa to the Levant and the Aegean (Richardson1999; Manassa 2003, 85  –  8). Finally, Egyptian texts occasionally evoke Libyan settlements within  Egyptian borders, not only in the western Delta but even as far south as the area of Gebelein, while the political organization of at least some sectors of Libyan society in the latesecond millennium  BCE  recalls that of a (proto-)kingdom.Having in mind all these considerations, Libyan society and productive organization need acomplete re-evaluation, also including the nature of contacts between  ‘ Libyans ’  and ‘ Egyptians ’ : a task that entails a new interpretation of landscape, land uses, economic activitiesand social interaction, setting aside common but reductive and misleading assumptions about Libyan culture and society. Therefore I shall focus my analysis on pastoral activities across the Nile Delta and northern Middle Egypt as well as on exchange networks where Libyans might have played a crucial role, often neglected by modern scholarship. In this light, the locality of Kom el-Hisn and the rich epigraphical record of its activities in the third millennium  BCE  provide invaluable clues to the nature of ancient Egypt-Libyan interaction. Porous borders,  󿬂 uid identities and economic diversity: the Egyptian  ‘ Pastoral Crescent ’ as a crossroads The so-called  ‘ Libyan palette ’ , dating from the Predynastic period (late fourth millennium  BCE ),represents a purported Libyan environment (the hieroglyph for   ‘ Libya ’  appears on one side of the palette) with trees, several registers with herds and  󿬂 ocks and seven forti 󿬁 ed enclosures beingattacked by what appears to be emblems of Egyptian polities or manifestations of the monarchy.Slightly later (Early Dynastic) labels, attached to jars and commodities mainly found in royaltombs, often evoke precious goods related to  ‘ Tehenu ’  (or Libya), like resin, ointments, wood, etc.Given the nature of some of these items (like wood), available only in some very speci 󿬁 c areasoutside Egypt (Lebanon, perhaps Cyrenaica), it is possible that their association with Tehenu isrelated more to the role of Tehenu people as providers and trade mediators than with thegeographical provenance of such goods. Also from the Early Dynastic period, administrativeseals and labels mention royal agricultural domains put under the authority of a very particular category of overseers whose activities took place only in Lower Egypt. As some of these domainsare furthermore evoked together with the god Ash, a Libya-related divinity, it seems quite plausible that they were founded close to the western border of the Delta. Finally, royaliconography of the same period frequently depicts hostile  ‘ northerners ’  regularly fought byPharaohs, from Narmer to Khasekhemwy. Two statues of the latter, for instance, record theslaughter of, respectively, 47,209 and 48,205 northerners, while Narmer  ’ s mace head represents bearded men and the mention of 400,000 cattle, 1,422,000 goats and 120,000 prisoners related toa ceremony at which the king wore the crown of Lower Egypt and perhaps related to events  Invaders or just herders?  3    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   J  u  a  n   C  a  r   l  o  s   M  o  r  e  n  o   G  a  r  c   í  a   ]  a   t   0   6  :   4   7   0   2   J  u   l  y   2   0   1   4  occurred at the Delta. Usually interpreted as rebels from (hypothetically) defeated/incorporatedPredynastic northern kingdom(s), the truth is that the exact nature of the  ‘ northerners ’  involved inthese circumstances is unknown (Moreno García, forthcoming).Taken together, this selective evidence gives important clues to early Libyan-Egyptian interac-tion. One of them is that cattle, sheep and goat breeding was an important economic activity for Libyan populations, an aspect corroborated by middle-third-millennium pharaonic epigraphic andiconographic sources (Hope 2007). Regular and abundant availability of water was a crucialmatter, especially for cattle, thus implying that Libyans had access at least to the western branch of the Nile and the grazing land around it. Furthermore, if the forti 󿬁 ed enclosures represented in theLibyan palette are truly representative of their habitat, this means that permanent settlements wereused by at least some sectors of Libyan society. Levantine  wenet   enclosures (round enclosureswhere pastoral peoples and their herds settled and lived) probably represent a close parallel,recorded in pharaonic texts and increasingly visible in archaeology. Therefore,  ‘ northerners ’  could best be interpreted as pastoral populations crossing the Delta, whose ethnic membership wasambiguous (perhaps the term is related more to a lifestyle than to a precise ethnic group, likeearly-second-millennium Lower Egyptian  sekhetyw ,  ‘ dwellers of the countryside ’ ), and whoseintegration in the  󿬁 scal and political organization of the nascent pharaonic state was precarious.Under these conditions, Libyans/Tehenu probably shared a similar lifestyle and frequented thesame territory (Moreno García 2010). The census of cattle was of primary concern for early pharaohs, while the number of prisoners and dead northerners represented in Narmer  ’ s mace headand Khasekhemwy ’ s statues seem too high (if reliable) to correspond to simple wandering bandsof marginal groups. Hence the considerable number of people and cattle evoked in thesedocuments  󿬁 ts better with a vast area able to sustain substantial herds and settled by hundredsof thousands of people.Another element to be considered is con 󿬂 ict. The autonomous lifestyle of pastoral popula-tions crossing the Delta was contrary to the  󿬁 scal and productive interests of the monarchy and,under these circumstances, con 󿬂 icts were inevitable in the long term. While Lower Egypt coversa vast area, the annual  󿬂 ooding of the Nile submerged most of its territory seasonally, thusleaving only a fraction of its territory permanently above water. Swamps covered other important zones and, during the third and early second millennium  BCE , the coastline ranabout 50km southwards of its present location. In all, permanent agricultural land, wherespecialized royal domains (vineyards, etc.) were mainly founded, was then relatively scarceand thus open to con 󿬂 ict with herders in search of grazing land when the rest of the valley was 󿬂 ooded. Finally, Libyans appear involved in trade networks and as having access to highlyvaluable goods. Their economy seems then more diversi 󿬁 ed and complex than usually admittedand liable to collide with the interests of pharaohs (Moreno García, forthcoming).In all, it seems inaccurate to consider the Nile Delta, and more precisely its western section,as a clear boundary between two different ecological, productive and social/ethnic worlds. Quitethe contrary, it appears instead as a porous border crossed by pastoral populations (bothEgyptian and Libyan), at least partly settled in enclosures and whose lifestyle and autonomy posed a problem for the nascent pharaonic authority. Furthermore, it was part of a  ‘ PastoralCrescent  ’  that represented a crossroads not only for Egyptian but also for Libyan and Asiatic populations and connecting the Nile valley to the Levant and the oasis of the Western Desert (Moreno García, forthcoming).4  Juan Carlos Moreno García    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   J  u  a  n   C  a  r   l  o  s   M  o  r  e  n  o   G  a  r  c   í  a   ]  a   t   0   6  :   4   7   0   2   J  u   l  y   2   0   1   4
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