We can move on to the other geographical extreme of Egypt, the Nile Delta, which has now become the scene of numerous research on the ground, also following a deliberate cultural policy of the Egyptian government which sees with a particularly favorable eye the activity of excavation missions in the areas that in the past had been neglected, as mentioned above. In this area there is the problem of a land that is generally not very suitable for the conservation of great monuments, with water that often arrives very close to the surface, which involves the loss of the most perishable materials, such as wood and precious papyri, but which has also caused the disappearance of large urban centers, such as for example. Sais with its large religious buildings; furthermore.
There are not only technical difficulties in the field work, but also very serious problems in interpreting the excavation data, both compensated by the novelty of the results, often of a revolutionary nature compared to a traditional vision of Egyptian history. In some cases, as in that of the newborn underwater archeology, it is too early for an overall evaluation, but the first findings, ranging from wrecks bearing loads of amphorae to architectural fragments, perhaps of the lighthouse, and statuary, found on the seabed of the port of Alexandria are very promising.
For now, the most significant changes are elsewhere. In the first place, once again, as in the South, they concern the predynastic period. The excavations carried out in different sites of the Delta have led to a remarkable consistency of results that ensure their value is not occasional. A picture has emerged from which it seems evident that, unlike what was believed until a few years ago, the ‘conquest’ of the North by the South, so vividly witnessed by Narmer’s palette, actually had a very long, consisting of slow infiltrations of human groups from the South and progressively settled in the Delta, so that the military event that led to the unification of the country under a single sovereign was only the
According to Plus-Size-Tips, the stratigraphy of the investigated sites, in fact, shows with great clarity and surprising coherence that the cultures of the Delta had progressively overlapped with the southern ones: a fact that seems to testify, on the one hand, a clear break with respect to the previous period and, on the other, the arrival, by slow migrations, and not by events of a military nature – although possible but unlikely before the final phase of the ‘0’ dynasty – of populations from the South; the presence of their cultures in northern Egypt cannot therefore be considered as the occasional result of contacts between contiguous human groups. These conclusions may appear provisional but are in reality solidly founded on archaeological data and are destined to produce effects not only on the level of the reconstruction of the historical process that led to the unification of the country, but also on others, such as religious history and perhaps also the history of the language, in which the contribution of the South, eg. in terms of vocabulary formation, it must be taken into due account.
However, the discovery that brought greater and even more visible results was the one that concerned the capital of the hyksos, the Avaris mentioned by Manetone, which had been searched in vain in a large area of the eastern Delta: among the many sites that were located in this area, several had been those on which the attention of scholars had focused, without this leading to generally accepted conclusions. Today the problem has been solved thanks to the excavations conducted by an Austrian archaeological mission that has been working for several years, under the direction of Manfred Bietak, on a site in the Eastern Delta which takes the name of Tell el-Daba, bringing to light, year after year, an urban site with complex stratigraphy. The construction techniques and the architecture of the Canaanite typology do not allow doubts about the damnatio memoriae which had prevented its discovery until today. The excavation of Bietak allows us to recognize in the various layers brought to light the moment of the settlement of the conquerors from the east, their stable settlement in the city and finally their progressive adaptation to the conquered country according to a process that we could define as ‘Egyptization’, before their expulsion, with the destruction of the capital and the subsequent settlement of the XVIII dynasty.
Within this already very significant discovery lies another no less important one. Inside a building was found, shattered into numerous fragments, the painted plaster that adorned the walls of a room, representing – as was clarified following a patient reconstruction – a scene of bullfighting of clear Minoan origin. The presence of such a pictorial decoration in a room of an Avaris building allows to open a series of completely new historical perspectives, even if still difficult to evaluate with precision: not so much the existence of relations with Crete and the Minoan world in general, which could easily be admitted even in the absence of specific and explicit evidence, but rather the stable settlement of people from the Minoan area in Egypt. The reasons for these presences remain to be understood. The problem is very difficult above all due to the lack of written texts, hyksos or Egyptians: the hypothesis concerning the presence of a warehouse, and therefore of commercial relations, or that of a princely marriage with the arrival in Egypt of a Minoan princess, are equally compatible with archaeological data but impossible to prove. The excavations of Tell el-Daba are still in progress and it is therefore legitimate to expect new data from their continuation. Ultimately, however, on the basis of the findings already made, it is possible to state right now that the mission to this site in the Eastern Delta allows us to shed new light on one of the darkest periods in the entire history of Ancient Egypt.