Extensive excavations in Wadi Halfa, in Sudan,1 lead to the discovery of what is arguably the oldest
evidence for human settlers in the Nile Valley, which was dated to
the Paleolithic Age (Qadan- 13000-8000 BC). Other Paleolithic sites
were located in the south of Lower Nubia including
in Toshka and Gebel Sahaba.2
In Toshka, domesticated wild cattle were put on top of many of the
burials, indicating the practice of a certain ritual. The burial
pits were mostly circular, which perhaps lead to the building of
the mound structure. However, in most of the sites the deceased had
no specific body orientation although contracted positioning was
common. No other significant finds were recovered from the site
Bowl with two spouts, Ssieve, Spouted vessel from Kadruka cemetery.
Neolithic. Source: Wildung, Dietrich. Sudan: Ancient Kingdoms
of the Nile.
In spite of the intensive archeology in Lower Nubia, no significant Neolithic
graves were uncovered. The only Neolithic discoveries
were found in central Sudan, particularly in Khartoum, Kadruka, Shabona,
el Ghaba , and Kadero.3 However, the most
important excavations were conducted in Khartoum. The excavations revealed a culture
that dates back to about 6900 years ago.4
The discoveries point to the existence of a small settled village
or a community in Khartoum. The bodies were contracted and laid
on their backs, thus symbolizing birth. This was the first indication
for the beginning of the religious concept that later became embodied
in the Cult of Re, the sun god. The bodies were, for the most part,
nude. Many burials contained pottery showing the first signs for
mortuary offerings, which continued throughout
the ancient history of Sudan.
Not many burial goods were found except for some water mollusk
shells from Khartoum, some ostrich feathers (for head decoration),
and other few toilet ornaments. In Kadero and el Ghaba, large cemeteries
were discovered outside of their settlements.
Dating to the Neolithic period, in el Ghaba, considerable amounts
of circular or sub-circular pits (diameters varying from 120cm to
160cm) were found. There, the bodies were adorned with personal commodities
like bracelets and necklaces, lip-plugs, stone and bone tools,
pottery, ostrich feathers, and water mollusc shells. Clothes made
of natural local materials, headrests and footrests, and traces
of facial painting (i.e. perhaps an indication of tribal identity) were found.
The finding of mollusk shells, probably obtained
from the Red Sea, represents one of the world's earliest evidence for human
trade and exchange.
Photograph: Kadruka, SFDAS El-Kadada, Neolithic tomb of an elite
with a human sacrifice of a youth. Source: Wildung, Dietrich. Sudan:
Ancient Kingdoms of the Nile.
From these graves we start to see the early formation of the Kushite culture taking
shape. The habit for burying in circular pits continues throughout
Sudan's ancient history starting from that of Kerma, disappearing
in the Napatan and Merioitic period, and re-appearing in the
Slight differences in burials in Kadero, indicate the formation
of different communal identities. For example, the bodies
were found contracted; however, on their sides. Differences in material goods
assert the accuracy of the assumption. Pillows and mats, fragments
of malachite, and vases are among the grave findings. The graves
of Kadero are the earliest of its kind to indicate the practice
of animal sacrifice. There, pieces of animal bones (i.e. of dogs) were
This tradition of animal sacrifice continued throughout
ancient Sudan's history as a distinguished tradition. Child burials in bucrania and large vessels
were also common, indicating a special concern on the subject of
maturity. Human sacrifices were also discovered in el-Kadada.
Edited: Dec. 2008.