By about 5500 BC, small tribes living in the Nile valley had developed into a series of unique cultures demonstrating firm control of agriculture and animal husbandry. These cultures are identifiable by their unique pottery and personal items, such as combs, bracelets, and beads. The largest of these early cultures in upper Egypt, the Badari culture, is known for its high quality ceramics, stone tools, and its use of copper. Badari burials are simple pit graves and show signs of social stratification; evidence that the culture was coming under the control of more powerful leaders.
In southern Egypt, a culture with Badari features began to expand along the Nile by about 4000 BC, and is known as the Naqada culture. Over a period of about 1000 years, the Naqada culture developed from a few small farming communities into a powerful civilization whose leaders were in complete control of the people and resources of the Nile valley. Establishing a power center at Hierakonpolis, and later at Abydos, Naqada leaders expanded their control of Egypt northwards along the Nile and engaged in trade with Nubia, the oases of the western desert, and the cultures of the eastern Mediterranean.
The Naqada culture manufactured a diverse array of material goods including painted pottery, high quality derocative stone vases, cosmetic palettes, and jewelrey made of gold, lapis, and ivory, reflecting the increased power and wealth of the elite. They also developed a ceramic glaze known as faience, which was used to decorate cups, amulets, and figurines well into the Roman Period. During the last phase of the predynastic, the Naqada culture began using written symbols which would eventually evolve into a full system of hieroglyphs for writing the ancient Egyptian language.