The early prehistoric dwellers on the Nile inhabited the terraces or plateaus left by the river as it cut its bed. The remains of their tools and implements show their gradual development from hunters to settled agriculturists. By 4000 BC the civilization of Egypt was in its earliest formative stages; the Predynastic period, which lasted until about 3100 BC, had begun.
Evidence of organized settlements has been found; the art produced during this time was discovered mainly in their cemeteries. Objects were put into the grave with the body for the use of the spirit in the next life, thus preserving a great quantity of such personal goods as pottery, tools, and weapons. The pottery is often decorated with painting that reflects the life of the time. Images of birds and animals common to the land bordering the Nile abound, and from the latter part of the Predynastic period come elaborate depictions of many-oared Nile boats. Copper was used in limited quantities for beads and simple tools, but most implements were chipped from stone. Cosmetic palettes made of stone were used for grinding eye paint. Small sculptures and figurines were either carved from ivory and bone or modeled in clay.
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