African Archaeological Review

, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 399–472 | Cite as

Disclosing Archaeological Complexity of the Khartoum Mesolithic: New Data at the Site and Regional Level

Review Article

Abstract

In the last decade, prehistoric archaeology in central Sudan and Nubia has been characterised by a regional approach and the use of proper stratigraphic methods in excavation strategies. This has also led to the discovery of well-preserved stratified Mesolithic deposits at sites affected by heavy post-depositional anthropogenic disturbances. For the first time, 65 years after the excavation of the Khartoum Hospital site, it is possible to perceive and describe material production variability, settlement pattern discontinuity and/or continuity. It has now become possible to face the problem of social complexity of hunter–gatherer–fisher groups along the middle Nile Valley, a cultural phase which lasted for at least 3,000 years. The new data suggest a reworking of the static picture of this culture, as emerging from the scientific literature, in order to move the debate in a new and more productive direction. This contribution will only be a first step, based mainly on freshly collected pottery assemblages, towards a new approach to the Khartoum Mesolithic pottery culture. It also begins a critical appraisal of the methodological and theoretical faults that hampered a correct evaluation of the data collected from previous surveys and excavations in central Sudan. Incidentally, it will help to revitalise the study of pottery–bearing hunter–gatherer–fisher societies, and supply fresh data to the worldwide anthropological debate on this complex and yet unresolved topic.

Keywords

Central Sudan Khartoum Mesolithic Mesolithic pottery Settlement pattern Chronology 

Résumé

Durant ces dix dernières années, l’archéologie préhistorique au Soudan central et en Nubie a été caractérisée par une approche régionale de la recherche et, en même temps, par l’emploi d’une méthode stratigraphique dans les stratégies d’exploration des sites archéologiques. Ces nouvelles stratégies ont conduit à la découverte de dépôts archéologiques stratifiés et bien conservés, même dans des sites qui subissent de fortes transformations post-dépositionnelles dues à l’activité humaine. Pour la première fois, soixante-cinq ans après la fouille du site de «Khartoum Hospital», il est possible de percevoir et de décrire aussi bien la variabilité dans les productions matérielles, que la discontinuité et/ou la continuité dans les modalités d’usage et de fréquentation des sites archéologiques préhistoriques. Il est désormais possible d’aborder le problème de la complexité sociale des groupes de chasseurs– cueilleurs–pêcheurs le long de la vallée du Nil moyen, une phase culturelle qui a duré pendant au moins trois mille ans. Les nouvelles données recueillies dans des sites au sud de Khartoum suggèrent une révision radicale de l’image du Mésolithique de Khartoum, telle qu’elle est véhiculée dans la littérature scientifique, pour transférer le débat dans une direction nouvelle et plus productive. Cet article ne sera qu’une première étape, principalement fondée sur les données récentes apportées par la céramique, en abordant le Mésolithique de Khartoum d’une façon nouvelle. De plus, sera ici fournie une évaluation critique de l’approche méthodologique et théorétique suivie dans l’archéologie du Mésolithique au Soudan central, et son incapacité à décrire et à expliquer convenablement les changements observés. Incidemment, nous espérons aider à réactualiser l’étude des chasseurs–cueilleurs–pêcheurs producteurs de céramique et à fournir des données nouvelles pour le débat en anthropologie sur ce problème complexe et toujours entier.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente (Is.I.A.O.)RomeItaly
  2. 2.TrevisoItaly

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