Although Egyptologists had already taken a close interest in Pharaonic Egypt, Jacques de Morgan compiled a wealth of information on earlier periods, and his reasoning laid the foundations for the definition of Egyptian prehistory.

Surveys and excavations

Exploring Egypt along the Nile and in Faiyum, Jacques de Morgan came across a number of carved stones and necropolises, which he attributed to the Palaeolithic and Neolithic periods, and which proved the existence of a prehistory in Egypt. In Nagada, he excavated a royal tomb attributed at the time to Menes, the first king of the 1st dynasty. As a result, earlier burials were referred to as predynastic.

See the excavation archives of the Italian team that took over the excavation at the Nagada site in Egypt.

Muted response in Egyptological circles

Most contemporary Egyptologists took a historical and philological approach based on textual sources. Morgan, in contrast, based his arguments on geology and archaeology. His work received a lukewarm reception, particularly from Flinders Petrie. Petrie had excavated a different sector of Nagada before Morgan and had come to different conclusions.

The advent of Near Eastern prehistory

Jacques de Morgan's work coincided with an intensive scientific debate on the definition of Far Eastern prehistory. Some twenty years earlier, the sites of Troy and Knossos had raised intriguing questions about Greek prehistory. Other prehistoric sites in Palestine were also under study in this period. Published in a climate of intellectual turbulence, Morgan's work was greeted with scepticism by Egyptologists. His research did, however, convince a number of leading prehistorians including Gabriel de Mortillet.