Early Burials: A-Group and C-Group

The A-Group:

The A-Group was a culture in Lower Nubia that flourished from about 3100 to 3000 BC.1 The A-Group graves included elaborate traces that belonged to rulers, priests, and other high class members of the society. In one of those grave, the deceased was found wrapped in hides accompanied with a fan of ostrich feathers, a leather cap, a wooden bowl, as well as some unidentified items. Graves that belonged to lower classes, on the other hand, were abundantly found.

Female figurine from Halfa Degheim. A-Group. Originally courtesy of the Scandinavian Expedition and the Khartoum National Museum. Source: Wildung, Dietrich. Sudan: Ancient Kingdoms of the Nile.
Nubian figurine

Most of the A-Group burials, excavated at Sayala and Qustul and elsewhere, were positioned on sub-rectangular or oval pits. In a large cemetery south of Wadi Halfa in Sudan, the grave sizes ranged between 3.54 m2 and 1.62 m2. The A-Group graves, especially those of the rich, were roofed with dried mud and stone slab, which helped to protect the goods inside them. The dead bodies were usually found in a straight position with hands away from the face, which indicated the existence of common traditions that are shared by members of the culture. At el-Kadada in Sudan,2 goat skeletons were abundantly uncovered inside graves, which indicates that the A-Group had adopted a herding life style.

Storage vessel from Aksha. A-Group. Originally courtesy of the Mission Archéologique Franco-Argentine and the Khartoum National Museum. Source: Wildung, Dietrich. Sudan: Ancient Kingdoms of the Nile.
Nubian prehistory

The most common and astounding type of finding for this culture is pottery. Pottery is usually found placed beyond head of the deceased. The A-grave cemeteries indicate the existence of ritual ceremonies. Breaking pottery and sacrificing animals on top of graves were among the rituals adopted by the A-Group and continued through the ancient history of Nubia.

Jars with black-colored tops and incised designes, and bowls with cross-hatchings and geometric shapes are among the most common types of A-Group pottery decorations. Imported pottery from southern Egypt, Lower Egypt, and Syria were abundantly found in A-Group cemeteries. Lower Egyptian artifacts, on the other hand, were rarely found in A-Group graves.

At Qustul, elite graves were excavated in considerable amounts, however; most important of the findings was an incense burner dated to about 3000 BC.3 The incise burner has a scene on it depicting a figure riding a boat and wearing a fake beard typical of that used later by the pharaohs of Kush. The incese burner provides the earliest dated finding for the existence of kingship in Lower Nubia.

At El Ghaba, Kadero, Sayala, and various other sites in the North Sudan, wealthy A-Group cemeteries where excavated and grave goods were found in profound numbers.4

The C-Group:
Female figurine from Shirfadik. C-Group. Originally courtesy of the Scandinavian Expedition and the Khartoum National Museum. Source: Wildung, Dietrich. Sudan: Ancient Kingdoms of the Nile.

The C-group (2200- 1500 BC),5 contemporary with the Kerma culture in Sudan , settled in Lower Nubia and like the A-Group, our information on the C-Group mainly comes from grave finds.

Graves of the C-Group people were unique in building circular superstructures made out of cut masonry and filled with sand and gravel. The C-Group graves also included a mud-brick chapel where deposits of sacrificed animals were found.

Most of the burials of the C-Group members were body positioned facing east. In the Middle kingdom the orientation of the deceased head was changed to west.

A cylindrical wall built of stones and dried-mud roofed and roofed with hay. During the Second Intermediate period a mud-brick chapel was sometimes added to the northern side of the structure.

C-Group Pottery was designed with incised and complex designs that share close similarities with the Khartoum Neolithic pottery. The C-Group period also shows strong influence from the southern culture of Kerma. Black topped and red polished C-Group pottery indicated influences from the earlier Kerma culture. Egyptian pottery was also found in C-Group graves and indicated trade. In 2000 BC Egypt conquered Lower Nubia, and therefore the C-Group. This explains the reason that no weapons were found in C-Group graves.

  • 1 H. A. Nordström , "Neolithic and A-Group Sites", The Scandinavian Joint Expedition to Sudanese Nubia 3, (Stockholm, 1972).
  • 2 J. Reinold, Archéologie au Soudan – Les civilisations de Nubie, ed. Errances (Paris, 2000).
  • 3 B. B. Williams, The A-Group Royal Cemetery at Qustul: Cemetery L. Chicago: The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (1986).
  • 4 F. Geus, "Excavations at El Kadada and the Neolithic of the central Sudan", Origin and Early Development of Food-Producing Cultures in North-Eastern Africa, ed. L. Krzyzaniak, and M. Kobusiewicz (Poznan, 1984).
  • 5 M. Bietak, Ein Beitrag zur Frühgeschichte Unternubiens zwischen 2200 und 1500 vor Chr. (Berichte des Österreischen National Komitees der UNESCO- Aktion für die Rettung der Nubischen Altertümer, V), (Wien, 1968).
Authored: 2004.
Edited: Mar. 2009.

The primary material of the website is authored by Ibrahim Omer © 2008.