Evidence of Sorghum Cultivation and Possible Pearl Millet in the Second Millennium BC at Kassala, Eastern Sudan

  • Alemseged BeldadosEmail author
  • Andrea Manzo
  • Charlene Murphy
  • Chris J. Stevens
  • Dorian Q. Fuller


Carbonized plant remains and plant impressions in burnt clay pieces, recovered during archaeological excavation and survey of two sites in East Sudan, were subjected to archaeobotanical investigation. Analysed samples have provided evidence for plant use and cultivation of sorghum alongside the use of a range of other taxa. The results from this study illustrate that as late as the early second millennium BC, the inhabitants of Kassala were still exploiting a mixture of morphologically wild and domesticated Sorghum bicolor. The evidence suggests that while the domestication process of sorghum was underway, full domestication may not have been reached at this time. We can hence classify this as part of the pre-domestication cultivation stage for Sorghum bicolor, which can be inferred to have begun at least two thousand years earlier. Wild taxa that may also have been exploited for food include Brachiaria sp., Rottboellia cochinchinensis (itchgrass), and apparently mixed wild and domesticated Pennisetum glaucum (pearl millet). This study also provides the first archaeobotanical evidence for Adansonia digitata (baobab) in northeastern Africa. Taken together these data suggest that Kassala was part of an early core area for sorghum domestication and played an important role in the diffusion of Africa crops including pearl millet to Asia.


Adansonia digitata Agriculture Archaeobotany Palaeoethnobotany Nubia Pearl millet Sorghum 



Travel and research in London by AB, together with work by CS, CM, DF was supported by the European Research Council project “Comparative Pathways to Agriculture” (ComPAg, ERC grant agreement 323842). Fieldwork directed by AM was supported by University of Naples, “L’Orientale”, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Italian Ministry for University and Research grant “Futuro in Ricerca 2012” RBFR12N6WD “Aree di transizione linguistiche e culturali in Africa” (Cultural and linguistic transitions in Africa).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alemseged Beldados
    • 1
    Email author
  • Andrea Manzo
    • 2
  • Charlene Murphy
    • 3
  • Chris J. Stevens
    • 3
  • Dorian Q. Fuller
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Archaeology and Heritage ManagementAddis Ababa UniversityAddis AbabaEthiopia
  2. 2.Department of Asian, African and Mediterranean StudiesUniversity of Naples, “L’Orientale”NaplesItaly
  3. 3.Institute of ArchaeologyUniversity College LondonLondonUK

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