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A new perspective on prehistoric societies of the Early and Middle Holocene in Central Sudan in the view of interdisciplinary research studies

Project information


Project title: A new perspective on prehistoric societies of the Early and Middle Holocene in Central Sudan in the view of interdisciplinary research studies

Project No: 2015/17/D/HS3/01492

Project lead: dr Maciej Jórdeczka

Project lead, institutional: Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences
Project financing:National Science Center, 2014-2016


e-mail: mjordeczka@gazeta.pl
phone (22) 620-28-81 do 86

Project implementation:

Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences





1. Research project objectives/ Research hypothesis


The proposed research project appertains to studies on settlement, economy, social structure, funeral rites and chronology of prehistoric communities inhabiting Central Sudan. Interdisciplinary research will cover excavation works on new archaeological sites such as Khor Shambat (which features materials of Early Khartoum and Khartoum Neolithic cultures), another, more- detailed analysis of materials from the site in Kadero (available in the Archaeological Museum in Poznań and in the National Museum in Khartoum), and comparative analyses with materials from the latest studies on the Blue Nile (Spanish expedition), from El-Salha (Italian expedition) and in the Sixth Cataract (Czech expedition). Surface studies which will help to specify the sites' environment are also planned.
Consequently, the aim of the project is an attempt to answer numerous questions and, above all, to reconstruct processes which led to the transition from a hunter-gatherer to a manufacturing economy.
Keeping domesticated animals, gathering wild grains, hunting and fishing - what was the role of particular sectors of economy in early agricultural communities? What factors effected in the popularisation of ceramic pottery among hunter-gatherer communities? Was it possible for the two types of economy to function in parallel with each other? What was the cause of social disparities which appeared in the Early Neolithic?


2. Research project methodology


The very character of the site enables conducting interdisciplinary research which provides for multi-level analysis of various forms of settlement. The results of excavation works, technological studies, typological and functional inventories will contribute to making a local systematics of the pre-Neolithic and Neolithic settlement development, as well as the description of a potential cultural relationships with neighbouring groups. On the basis of geological, geomorphological, archeobothanical, archeozoological and malacological analyses it will be possible to launch the studies on paleoenvironment reconstruction. Anthropological studies, which may include analyses of stable isotopes (87Sr/86Sr), supported by the analyses of dental plaque, should result in an overview picture of the communities, and perhaps also origins of particular individuals. An important part of the research will be a detailed recognition of the function of ceramic pottery through the analysis of sediments preserved inside them (among others lipids), which will enable a thorough examination of the ways milk was used and processed. Stone tools will be carefully examined for the presence of fitolites. In order to define the basis of chronology more precisely a series of accelerated datings is intended. It will be especially significant for the studies on settlement and cemetery chronostratigraphy. It is also planned to make datings with OSL and TL methods.
Furthermore, it is intended to make surface prospecting of the vicinity in order to search for other settlement traces, as well as rock material resources, exploited by prehistorical communities for tool production. Comparative studies, including another analysis of materials from Kadero, comparisons with materials from the latest studies on the Blue Nile, in El-Salha and in the Sixth Cataract, will also be of fundamental significance.


3. Expected impact of the research project on the development of science, civilization and society


Planned multidisciplinary and multi-faceted studies on the Khor Shambat site and comparative analyses of materials from other sites in the Central Sudan will significantly contribute to broadening the knowledge on Neolithisation, economic changes and social structure of the people inhabiting Central Sudan in Early and Middle Holocene. Applying modern research methods will allow us to obtain an insight into people living then, their diet, methods of getting and preparing food, migration or spiritual culture. The cooperation between archeologists and representatives of natural and physicochemical sciences will allow to develop a model site for the whole region, constituting a reference point for the studies on paleoenvironment, economic and social changes dynamics, as well as their chronology. When viewing the western river bank, from the place where the Blue Nile and the White Nile meet, as far as to Nofalab, Islang and Shaheinab to the North, it is going to be the only known site of that kind.
The results of the conducted studies will be also advantageous for the local community, we will employ local workers, there will be conducted awareness raising campaigns about the value of archeological heritage, and finally the results of excavations will be exhibited at the National Museum in Khartoum. The effect of the research will be a series of articles in international magazines included in ERIH list.