History

Pre-Kerma

Evidence indicates that during the Neolithic phase, from the sixth to the fourth millennia BC, a population settled the fertile Dongola Reach and began practicing agriculture and domesticating animals.1 Archeological excavations in the region have yielded some of the earliest evidence for the practice of agriculture and animal husbandry in the world. The Dongola population has consequently come to play a role in the spread of agriculture to the Near East and other parts of Africa.

From Kerma. Harvard University-MFA Boston Expedition. Source: Wildung, Dietrich. Sudan: Ancient Kingdoms of the Nile.

As early as the fifth or mid-fourth millennia BC, the Dongola Reach has been the center of culture and civilization in Sudan, particularly along the Nile Valley. The pre-Kerma society, named after the area of Kerma in the Dongola Reach, forms one of the oldest civilized cultures in the world beside that of Egypt and Mesopotamia.

The predominantly agro-pastoral community of pre-Kerma was a center of commerce; pottery included imports from different areas of the Nile, including Egypt.2 By 3000 BC, the area was transformed into a thriving town with an organized urban infrastructure. Governed by a centralized authority, pre-Kerma was a fully developed polity. The town was highly organized; politically, economically, and socially.

Particularly interesting was the layout of the town, which indicates an advanced level of planning and an elaborate defense system. A variety of utilitarian and public buildings were found within the area. A number of buildings with post holes appear to have functioned as centers of administration. Numerous huts seem to have been residences for privileged individuals. Other structures defined include storage houses, workshops, and cattle enclosures.

A cemetery on the vicinity of the town affirms the foundation of economic classes in the settlement; while some graves are larger and richer with funerary items, others are smaller and poorer.3 Excavations have uncovered a large number of artefacts such as axes, flints, plates, pottery, and jewelry.4 Other burial findings indicate a great deal of commercial activities. This is farther confirmed by the frequent finding of seals found on the surface of pots.5 The seals are stamped with different designs indicating an advanced system of commerce.


  • 1 C. Bonnet, D. Valbelle, J. Leclant, The Nubian Pharaohs: Black Kings on the Nile (American University in Cairo P, 2006) 16, and K. R. Kropelin, "Climate-controlled Holocene occupation in the Sahara: motor of Africa's evolution" 33 Science 145-72 (2006).
  • 2 M. Honegger, "The Pre-Kerma Settlement At Kerma," Sudan Ancient Treasures: An Exhibition Of Recent Discoveries From The Sudan National Museum, D. A. Welsby, and J. R. Anderson, eds. (British Museum P, 2004) 64-6.
  • 3 A. M. Jennings, The Nubians of West Aswan: Village Women in the Midst of Change, (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1995) 17.
  • 4 A. Osman, and D. N. Edwards, 'Language, Settlement & Long-term History in Upper Nubia' The Mahas Archaeological Survey, 2000 (University of Khartoum, and the University of Leicester, 2000).
  • 5 Honegger, see note 4.
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The primary material of the website is authored by Ibrahim Omer © 2008.