Upper Egypt

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Upper Egypt
ⲙⲁⲣⲏⲥ (Coptic)
ta shemaw[1] (Egyptian)
Άνω Αίγυπτος (Greek)
صعيد مصر (Arabic)
الصعيد (Egyptian Arabic)
Aegyptus superior (Latin)
c. 3400 BC–c. 3150 BC
Map of Upper Egypt showing important sites that were occupied during Naqada III (clickable map)
Common languagesAncient Egyptian
Ancient Egyptian religion
• c. 3400 BC
Scorpion I (first)
• c. 3150 BC
Narmer (last)
• Established
c. 3400 BC
• Disestablished
c. 3150 BC
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Prehistoric Egypt
Early Dynastic Period (Egypt)
Today part ofEgypt

Upper Egypt (Arabic: صعيد مصر Ṣaʿīd Miṣr, shortened to الصعيد, Egyptian Arabic pronunciation: [es.sˤe.ˈʕiːd], locally: [es.sˤɑ.ˈʕiːd]; Coptic: ⲙⲁⲣⲏⲥ, romanized: Mares) is the southern portion of Egypt and is composed of the lands on both sides of the Nile that extend downriver between Nubia and Lower Egypt in the north.

In ancient Egypt, Upper Egypt was known as tꜣ šmꜣw,[2] literally "the Land of Reeds" or "the Sedgeland".[3] It is believed to have been united by the rulers of the supposed Thinite Confederacy who absorbed their rival city states during Naqada III and its unification with Lower Egypt ushered in the Early Dynastic period.[4] Both Upper and Lower Egypt became imbedded within the symbolism of the sovereignty in Ancient Egypt such as the Pschent double crown.[5] Upper Egypt remained as a historical distinction even after the classical period.


Upper Egypt is between the Cataracts of the Nile beyond modern-day Aswan, downriver (northward) to the area of El-Ayait,[6] which places modern-day Cairo in Lower Egypt. The northern (downriver) part of Upper Egypt, between Sohag and El-Ayait, is also known as Middle Egypt.

In Arabic, inhabitants of Upper Egypt are known as Sa'idis and they generally speak Sai'idi Egyptian Arabic.


Predynastic Egypt

The main city of prehistoric Upper Egypt was Nekhen.[7] The patron deity was the goddess Nekhbet, who is depicted as a vulture.[8]

By approximately 3600 BC, Neolithic Egyptian societies along the Nile had based their culture on the raising of crops and the domestication of animals.[9] Shortly after 3600 BC, Egyptian society began to grow and increase in complexity.[10] A new and distinctive pottery, which was related to the Levantine ceramics, appeared during this time. Extensive use of copper became common during this time.[10] The Mesopotamian process of sun-drying adobe and architectural principles—including the use of the arch and recessed walls for decorative effect—became popular during this time.[10] In Upper Egypt, the predynastic Badari culture was followed by the Naqada culture (Amratian).[11] These groups have been described to be closely related to the Nubian and Northeastern African populations.[12][13][14][15] Upper Egypt is considered to have formed the pre-dominant basis for the cultural development of Pharaonic Egypt and the Proto-dynastic kings emerged from the Naqada region.[16]

Excavations at Hierakonpolis (Upper Egypt) found archaeological evidence of ritual masks similar to those used in locations further south of Egypt and significant amounts of obsidian which were linked to Ethiopian quarry sites.[17]

Bioarchaeologist Nancy Lovell, had stated that there is a sufficient body of morphological evidence on ancient Egyptians to show that "In general, the inhabitants of Upper Egypt and Nubia had the greatest biological affinity to people of the Sahara and more southerly areas" but exhibited local variation in an African context.[18]

Concurrent with these cultural advances, a process of unification of the societies and towns of the upper Nile River, or Upper Egypt, occurred. At the same time the societies of the Nile Delta, or Lower Egypt, also underwent a unification process.[10] Warfare between Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt occurred often.[10] During his reign in Upper Egypt, King Narmer defeated his enemies on the delta and united both of the kingdoms of Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt under his single rule,[19] which endured throughout Dynastic Egypt.

Dynastic Egypt

For most of Egypt's ancient history, Thebes was the administrative center of Upper Egypt. Upper Egypt was represented by the tall White Crown Hedjet, and its symbols were the flowering lotus and the sedge. Its patron deity, Nekhbet, was depicted by the vulture. After unification of the two kingdoms, the patron deities of both Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt were represented together as the Two Ladies, to protect all of the ancient Egyptians, just as the two crowns became united throughout the dynasties that followed.

After its devastation by the Assyrians, the importance of Egypt declined. Under the Ptolemies, Ptolemais Hermiou took over the role of the capital city of Upper Egypt.[20]

Medieval Egypt

In the eleventh century, large numbers of pastoralists, known as Hilalians, fled Upper Egypt and moved westward into Libya and as far as Tunis.[21] It is believed that degraded grazing conditions in Upper Egypt, associated with the beginning of the Medieval Warm Period, were the root cause of the migration.[22]

20th-century Egypt

In the twentieth-century Egypt, the title Prince of the Sa'id (meaning Prince of Upper Egypt) was used by the heir apparent to the Egyptian throne.[Note 1]

Although the Kingdom of Egypt was abolished after the Egyptian revolution of 1952, the title continues to be used by Muhammad Ali, Prince of the Sa'id.

List of rulers of prehistoric Upper Egypt

The following list may not be complete (there are many more of uncertain existence):

Name Image Comments Dates
Elephant End of 4th millennium BC
Bull 4th millennium BC
Scorpion I Oldest tomb at Umm el-Qa'ab had scorpion insignia c. 3200 BC?
Iry Hor name.jpg
Possibly the immediate predecessor of Ka. c. 3150 BC?
Ka vessel.JPG
May be read Sekhen rather than Ka. Possibly the immediate predecessor of Narmer. c. 3100 BC
Scorpion II
Potentially read Serqet; possibly the same person as Narmer. c. 3150 BC
The king who combined Upper and Lower Egypt.[26] c. 3150 BC

List of nomes

Number Ancient Name Capital Modern Capital Translation God
1 Ta-khentit Abu / Yebu (Elephantine) Aswan The Frontier/Land of the Bow Khnemu
2 Wetjes-Hor Djeba (Apollonopolis Magna) Edfu Throne of Horus Horus-Behdety
3 Nekhen Nekhen (Hierakonpolis) al-Kab Shrine Nekhebet
4 Waset Niwt-rst / Waset (Thebes) Karnak Sceptre Amun-Ra
5 Harawî Gebtu (Coptos) Qift Two Falcons Min
6 Aa-ta Iunet / Tantere (Tentyra) Dendera Crocodile Hathor
7 Seshesh Seshesh (Diospolis Parva) Hu Sistrum Hathor
8 Ta-wer Tjenu / Abjdu (Thinis / Abydos) al-Birba Great Land Onuris
9 Min Apu / Khen-min (Panopolis) Akhmim Min Min
10 Wadjet Djew-qa / Tjebu (Antaeopolis) Qaw al-Kebir Cobra Hathor
11 Set Shashotep (Hypselis) Shutb Set animal Khnemu
12 Tu-ph Per-Nemty (Hieracon) At-Atawla Viper Mountain Horus
13 Atef-Khent Zawty (Lycopolis) Asyut Upper Sycamore and Viper Apuat
14 Atef-Pehu Qesy (Cusae) al-Qusiya Lower Sycamore and Viper Hathor
15 Wenet Khemenu (Hermopolis) Hermopolis Hare[27] Thoth
16 Ma-hedj Herwer? Hur? Oryx[27] Horus
17 Anpu Saka (Cynopolis) al-Kais Anubis Anubis
18 Sep Teudjoi / Hutnesut (Alabastronopolis) el-Hiba Set Anubis
19 Uab Per-Medjed (Oxyrhynchus) el-Bahnasa Two Sceptres Set
20 Atef-Khent Henen-nesut (Heracleopolis Magna) Ihnasiyyah al-Madinah Southern Sycamore Heryshaf
21 Atef-Pehu Shenakhen / Semenuhor (Crocodilopolis, Arsinoë) Faiyum Northern Sycamore Khnemu
22 Maten Tepihu (Aphroditopolis) Atfih Knife Hathor

See also

Explanatory notes

  1. ^ The title was first used by Prince Farouk, the son and heir of King Fouad I. Prince Farouk was officially named Prince of the Sa'id on 12 December 1933.[23]



  1. ^ Ermann & Grapow, op.cit. Wb 5, 227.4-14
  2. ^ Ermann & Grapow 1982, Wb 5, 227.4-14.
  3. ^ Ermann & Grapow (1982), Wb 4, 477.9-11
  4. ^ Brink, Edwin C. M. van den (1992). The Nile Delta in Transition: 4th.-3rd. Millennium B.C. : Proceedings of the Seminar Held in Cairo, 21.-24. October 1990, at the Netherlands Institute of Archaeology and Arabic Studies. E.C.M. van den Brink. ISBN 978-965-221-015-9.
  5. ^ Griffith, Francis Llewellyn, A Collection of Hieroglyphs: A Contribution to the History of Egyptian Writing, the Egypt Exploration Fund 1898, p.56
  6. ^ See list of nomes. Maten (Knife land) is the northernmost nome in Upper Egypt on the right bank, while Atef-Pehu (Northern Sycamore land) is the northernmost on the left bank. Brugsch, Heinrich Karl (2015). A History of Egypt under the Pharaohs. Vol. 1. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. p. 487., originally published in 1876 in German.
  7. ^ Bard & Shubert (1999), p. 371
  8. ^ David (1975), p. 149
  9. ^ Roebuck (1966), p. 51
  10. ^ a b c d e Roebuck (1966), pp. 52–53
  11. ^ Brace, 1993. Clines and clusters
  12. ^ Zakrzewski, Sonia R. (April 2007). Population continuity or population change: Formation of the ancient Egyptian state. pp. 501–509.
  13. ^ Keita, S. O. Y. (September 1990). "Studies of ancient crania from northern Africa". American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 83 (1): 35–48. doi:10.1002/ajpa.1330830105. ISSN 0002-9483.
  14. ^ Tracy L. Prowse, Nancy C. Lovell. Concordance of cranial and dental morphological traits and evidence for endogamy in ancient Egypt, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Vol. 101, Issue 2, October 1996, Pages: 237-246
  15. ^ Godde, Kane. "A biological perspective of the relationship between Egypt, Nubia, and the Near East during the Predynastic period (2020)". Retrieved 16 March 2022.
  16. ^ The Cambridge history of Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975–1986. pp. 500–509. ISBN 9780521222150.
  17. ^ Davies, W. V. (1998). Egypt uncovered. New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang. pp. 5–87. ISBN 1556708181.
  18. ^ Lovell, Nancy C. (1999). "Egyptians, physical anthropology of". In Bard, Kathryn A.; Shubert, Steven Blake (eds.). Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt. London. pp. 328–331. ISBN 0415185890.
  19. ^ Roebuck (1966), p. 53
  20. ^ Chauveau (2000), p. 68
  21. ^ Ballais (2000), p. 133
  22. ^ Ballais (2000), p. 134
  23. ^ Brice (1981), p. 299
  24. ^ Rice 1999, p. 86.
  25. ^ Wilkinson 1999, p. 57f.
  26. ^ Shaw 2000, p. 196.
  27. ^ a b Grajetzki (2006), pp. 109–111

General bibliography

Further reading

  • Edel, Elmar (1961) Zu den Inschriften auf den Jahreszeitenreliefs der "Weltkammer" aus dem Sonnenheiligtum des Niuserre Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen, OCLC 309958651, in German.

External links

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