Study shows Egypt may have formed faster than previously thought
A new chronology of Egypt condenses the timeline for the formation of the Egyptian state.
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"A lot of the stuff is not is particularly beautiful," Dee said. "It ends up in crates in storage, but a lot of that is gold dust for radiocarbon dating."Skip to next paragraph
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To determine the age of the materials, the team measured the amount of radioactive carbon-14 in each sample and used the known decay rate of carbon-14 to calculate an age. Such calculations are not exact and produce results that represent a window of time, usually ranging between 200 to 300 years or so. By placing the dates in a computer model, the team was able to identify distinct periods of overlap in artifacts from the same time period, producing narrower and more precise age windows.
Only very small quantities of material were needed for the analyses, ranging from roughly 10 milligrams – about the size of a fingernail clipping – for plant material, to as much as 0.5 grams (0.02 ounces) for bone.
Egypt was, by some standards, the world's first country as countries are known today. Other existing settlements at the time were isolated city-states, but Egypt developed into a more complex and expansive settlement similar to modern countries today, Dee said.
The team hopes that their results will help inform future research on Early Egypt culture, but does not have plans to produce more dates from Egypt.
"This is not the end of the road at all, but in terms of our work, we have done most of what we can do for now," Dee said.
Similar types of in-depth chronologies would benefit other regions lacking such precise timelines, including Mesopotamia, said Dee.
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