African Archaeological Review

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 43–64 | Cite as

Fish, pots and grain: Early and Mid-Holocene adaptations in the Central Sudan

  • Randi Haaland


Cultural development in the middle Nile Valley from 10,000 to 2000 bp was characterized by significant subsistence changes — from hunting/gathering and simple aquatic resource exploitation to cultivation of domestic sorghum. Research in the Atbara and Khartoum regions enables us to identify distinct technological phases relating to resource diversification as well as specialization. Pottery was an important technological innovation which had far-reaching consequences for development of a more diversified use of aquatic and cereal resources. A basic distinction is made between cultivation and domestication as two separate but interdependent processes — the first a socio-economic process relating to peoples' activities, the second a biological process relating to morphological changes in the plants. Cultivation is considered to be evolutionarily prior and to have constituted the selection pressures which led to the emergence of domesticated plants. Cultivation of sorghum was practised from the 6th millennium bp but domesticated sorghum emerged only around 2000 bp. Specialized pastoralism and the use of secondary products like milk and blood appear to have become important in the late 6th millennium bp. An attempt is made to connect the development of technological traditions with that of Nilo-Saharan and Cushitic languages.


Cultural Development Technological Tradition Aquatic Resource Domesticate Plant Basic Distinction 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Le developpement culturel dans la vallée du Nil moyen est caractérisé par un changement significatif du mode de subsistance: de chasseurs/cueilleurs exploitant de simple ressources aquatiques à celui de cultivateurs de sorgho domestiqué.

Les recherches dans la région d'Atbara et de Khartoum ont permis de mettre en evidence des phases technologiques distinctes correspondant à la diversification et à la spécialisation des ressources. L'introduction de la poterie est une innovation technologique importante conduisant au développement de la diversification dans l'utilisation des ressources aquatiques et des céréales. La culture et la domestication sont considérées comme des processus distincts mais interdépendants — le premier étant un processus socio-économique lié aux activités humaines et le deuxième un processus biologique lié aux changements morphologiques des plantes.

D'un point de vue evolutionniste, on considère que la culture s'est développée en premier, fournissant les pressions de selection qui conduisirent à l'émergence des plantes domestiquées. La culture du sorgho a été pratiquée à partir du sixième millénaire bp, cependant que le sorgho domestique n'émerge qu'aux environs de 2000 bp.

Le pastoralisme specialisé et l'utilisation des produits secondaires tels que le lait et le sang semblent avoir pris de l'importance vers la fin du sixième millénaire bp.

Un essai de corrélation du developpement des traditions technologiques avec ceux des langus de famille Nilo-saharienne et Couchitique est présenté.


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© Cambridge University Press 1992

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  • Randi Haaland

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