This is a bifacial knife from the Faiyum A (Fayum A) Neolithic, made from the typical brown flint of this region. Fayum is a large oasis in Lower Egypt with a permanent lake in the Egyptian Western Desert.
In the Middle and Lower Egyptian Nile Valley farming and herding were just beginning to be established between 5500–4500 BC, and therefore nearly at the same time, when the Middle European landscape was transformed by the Linear Pottery Culture. Since the Neolithic transition had occurred much earlier in southwest Asia, it seems strange that the Neolithic economy appeared so much later in Egypt. For an explanation of this fact, several factors could be of importance:
- The Sinai Peninsula, too dry for farming, provided an effective barrier for the flow of farming technology between the southern Levant. And Egypt
- None of the species of wild plants or animals that later became domesticated, with the possible exception of cattle, were present in Egypt at the end of the Pleistocene
- During the early Holocene, the Nile Valley was extremely rich of natural resources, with no further need to supplement this subsistence with farming and herding
- Much information about the final Epipaleolithic and early Neolithic transition in the Nil-valley is buried under thick sediments especially if such settlements were located next to the river
Most sites of the Fayum Neolithic (also called Fayum A) were found at the northern rim of the Fayum, first excavated by Caton-Thompson andGardner (1924-1926). While these sites show evidence of domesticated cereals, sheep and goat, there is no evidence of permanent houses or villages. Therefore many researchers have suggested that the inhabitants of Fayum were nomadic hunters and fishers that used only parts of the “Neolithic package” in addition to their original lifestyle. In this respect the Fayum people may be compared with the Ertebølle people 4000 km away at the Shores of the Baltic Sea( http://www.aggsbach.de/2010/09/the-erteb%c3%b8lle-lifestyle/) .
Noriyuki Shirai from the Leiden University argued, that the timing of the advent of farming in the Fayum can be estimated by the presence of peculiar sickle blades during the early Neolithic of this area. Neolithic sickle blades at Fayum and in Lower Egypt are bifacially-retouched and deeply serrated on their working edge. Such sickle blades are known from early Levantine Pottery Neolithic sites (the Yarmukian, and Lodian [Jericho IX]), dated to the early 6th millennium cal. BC.
It seems reasonable to consider that specific Neolithic techniques were accepted in Lower Egypt not earlier than during the early 6th millennium cal. BC. This process was possibly triggered by a climatic and environmental change around 6200 cal. BC, that finally lead to the desiccation of the southern Levant, Negev and Sinai and to changes of the rain regime in these areas and in Lower Egypt. These changes enabled for the first time during the Holocene winter crops like Levantine wheat and barley to thrive Northern Egypt. The people of Fayum adopted farming and herding into their lifestyle, but without abandon their major subsistence forms of hunting and fishing for the next millennium.
I recently (13.02.2011) recognized, that the thesis of Noriyuki Shirai can be download at:https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/handle/1887/15339
Anyhow, do not miss to buy the book, when it becomes available in the bookstores in 2011!