African Archaeological Review

, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 537–590 | Cite as

Local Foods and Traded Goods—the Faunal Remains from a Napatan Outpost at Gala Abu Ahmed (Sudan, First Millennium BC)

  • Veerle LinseeleEmail author
  • Nadja PöllathEmail author
Original Article


Seventeen thousand six hundred and forty-five faunal remains from recent excavations at the pre-Napatan and Napatan fortress Gala Abu Ahmed, about 110 km west of the Nile in the lower Wadi Howar, have been identified. The results are described in detail as they represent the first large dataset for the period and region and can therefore serve as a benchmark for future studies. They are also informative for the organisation of life at outposts. Overall, there is not much that distinguishes the fauna from Gala Abu Ahmed from ordinary settlement waste. The presence of many very young caprines suggests that one building may have been used by higher status individuals. Another one, where many cowrie shells were recorded, seems to have had a ritual function. Mainly locally available animal resources were consumed, predominantly goat and sheep. However, some resources must have been brought in from the Nile Valley as well, including cattle. The environment around Gala Abu Ahmed appears to have been an arid desert area, but thanks to wells, livestock could be kept. The fauna did not yield any particular evidence that may be related to one of its presumed main functions, that of a trade post. Other outposts in north-eastern Africa are younger than Gala Abu Ahmed, and the diversity of their fauna reflects the diversity in their specific function, organisation and the people occupying them.


Archaeozoology Sudan Napata Fort 


La forteresse de Gala Abu Ahmed se trouve environ 110 km à l’ouest du Nil dans le bas Wadi Howar et fut occupée aux périodes prénapatéenne et napatéenne. Les résultats archéozoologiques, basés sur l’identification de 17 645 restes fauniques provenant de fouilles récentes, sont décrits en détail car ils représentent le premier grand jeu de données pour ces périodes et cette région et pourront donc servir de référence pour de futures études. Ils nous informent aussi sur l’organisation de la vie dans des avant-postes. Dans l’ensemble, la faune de Gala Abu Ahmed ne se distingue pas de déchets d’habitations ordinaires. La présence d’un grand nombre de très jeunes caprinés dans l’un des bâtiments suggère son occupation par des personnes de statut social élevé. Un autre bâtiment, où beaucoup de coquillages de cauris ont été trouvés, semble avoir eu une fonction rituelle. Des ressources animales principalement locales ont été utilisées, surtout des chèvres et des moutons. Néanmoins, quelques denrées doivent avoir été importées depuis la Vallée du Nil, parmi lesquelles des bœufs. L’environnement de Gala Abu Ahmed semble avoir été un désert aride, où grâce à des puits, il était possible de garder du bétail. La faune de Gala Abu Ahmed n’a fourni aucune preuve de la principale fonction supposée de cette forteresse, à savoir celle d’un poste de commerce. Les autres avant-postes fouillés en Afrique du nord-est sont tous plus récents que Gala Abu Ahmed et la diversité de leur faune reflète la diversité de leur fonction spécifique, de leur organisation et des personnes qui y vivaient.’



The faunal remains from Gala Abu Ahmed were exported to Europe with the permission of the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums (NCAM) in Khartoum. Friederike Jesse is warmly thanked for the figures and information she has provided, as well as for feedback and comments on our manuscript. Sheila Hamilton-Dyer (Southampton) copy-edited the English. Delphine Frémondeau (KUL) kindly corrected the French abstract. Veerle Linseele is a postdoctoral fellow of the “Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek” (FWO)—Flanders. Part of our work was financed by the German Research Foundation (DFG) under the project “At the borders of power—The fortress Gala Abu Ahmed in the lower Wadi Howar, Sudan. A base of Kushite domination.” We would also like to thank the reviewers whose valuable comments helped to improve an earlier version of this paper.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Archaeological SciencesKatholieke Universiteit LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  2. 2.Royal Belgian Institute for Natural SciencesBrusselsBelgium
  3. 3.Institut für Paläoanatomie und Geschichte der Tiermedizin, ArchaeoBioCenterLudwig-Maximilians-UniversitätMunichGermany

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