Upper Egypt (Arabic: صعيد مصر Ṣaʿīd Miṣr, shortened to الصعيد aṣ-Ṣaʿīd; Egyptian Arabic: [es.sˤe.ˈʕiːd], Coptic: ⲙⲁⲣⲏⲥ) is the strip of land on both sides of the Nile that extends between Nubia and downriver (northwards) to Lower Egypt.
Upper Egypt is between the Cataracts of the Nile above modern-day Aswan, downriver (northwards) to the area of El-Ayait, 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 ancient Egypt, Upper Egypt was known as tꜣ šmꜣw, literally "the Land of Reeds" or "the Sedgeland" It was divided into twenty-two districts called nomes. The first nome was roughly where modern-day Aswan is and the twenty-second was at modern Atfih just to the south of Cairo.
By about 3600 BC, Neolithic Egyptian societies along the Nile had based their culture on the raising of crops and the domestication of animals. Shortly after 3600 BC, Egyptian society began to grow and increase in complexity. 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. 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.
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. Warfare between Upper and Lower Egypt occurred often. During his reign in Upper Egypt, King Narmer defeated his enemies on the Delta and merged both the Kingdom of Upper and Lower Egypt under his single rule.
|Dynasties of Ancient Egypt|
All years are BC
For most of pharaonic Egypt's history, Thebes was the administrative center of Upper Egypt. After its devastation by the Assyrians, its importance declined. Under the Ptolemies, Ptolemais Hermiou took over the role of Upper Egypt's capital city. Upper Egypt was represented by the tall White Crown Hedjet, and its symbols were the flowering lotus and the sedge.
In the 11th century, large numbers of pastoralists, known as Hilalians, fled Upper Egypt and moved westward into Libya and as far as Tunis. 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.
List of rulers of prehistoric Upper Egypt
The following list may not be complete (there are many more of uncertain existence):
|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||Possibly the immediate predecessor of Ka.||c. 3150 BC?|
|Ka||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|
|Narmer||The king who combined Upper and Lower Egypt.||c. 3150 BC|
List of nomes
|Number||Ancient Name||Capital||Modern Capital||Translation|
|1||Ta-Seti||Abu / Yebu (Elephantine)||Aswan||Land of the Bow|
|2||Wetjes-Hor||Djeba (Apollonopolis Magna)||Edfu||Throne of Horus|
|3||Nekhen||Nekhen (Hierakon polis)||al-Kab||Shrine|
|4||Waset||Niwt-rst / Waset (Thebes)||Karnak||Sceptre|
|5||Harawî||Gebtu (Coptos)||Qift||Two Falcons|
|6||Aa-ta||Iunet / Tantere (Tentyra)||Dendera||Crocodile|
|7||Seshesh||Seshesh (Diospolis Parva)||Hu||Sistrum|
|8||Abdju||Abdju (Abydos)||al-Birba||Great Land|
|9||Min||Apu / Khen-min (Panopolis)||Akhmim||Min|
|10||Wadjet||Djew-qa / Tjebu (Aphroditopolis)||Edfu||Cobra|
|11||Set||Shashotep (Hypselis)||Shutb||Set animal|
|12||Tu-ph||Hut-Sekhem-Senusret (Antaeopolis)||Qaw al-Kebir||Viper Mountain|
|13||Atef-Khent||z3wj-tj (Lycopolis)||Asyut||Upper Sycamore and Viper|
|14||Atef-Pehu||Qesy (Cusae)||al-Qusiya||Lower Sycamore and Viper|
|18||Sep||Teudjoi / Hutnesut (Alabastronopolis)||el-Hiba||Set|
|19||Uab||Per-Medjed (Oxyrhynchus)||el-Bahnasa||Two Sceptres|
|20||Atef-Khent||Henen-nesut (Heracleopolis Magna)||Ihnasiyyah al-Madinah||Southern Sycamore|
|21||Atef-Pehu||Shenakhen / Semenuhor (Crocodilopolis, Arsinoë)||Faiyum||Northern Sycamore|
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- See list of nomes. Maten (Knife land) is the furthest north nome of 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. 1. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. p. 487., originally published in 1876 in German.
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- Media related to Upper Egypt at Wikimedia Commons