Abstracts of Sahara volume 15
(published May 2004)

S.E. Sidebotham, Hendrikje M. Nouwens, A. Martin Hense and James A. Harrell
Preliminary report on archaeological fieldwork at Sikait (Eastern Desert of Egypt), and environs: 2002-2003

Continuing fieldwork begun in winter 2000 and summer 2001, survey and excavation at the beryl/emerald-mining settlement of Sikait and associated surveys of the environs in 2002 and 2003 documented a number of vibrant communities and interconnecting route systems operating in antiquity. Located in Egypt’s Eastern Desert about 120 km northwest of Berenike, Sikait was one of at least nine beryl/emerald-mining settlements that comprised Mons Smaragdus, the only source of these gemstones within the boundaries of the Roman Empire. The floruit of Sikait and its surroundings was from the first to the sixth centuries A.D., though there is evidence of earlier Ptolemaic and later Islamic activity. Residents of Sikait produced some of their own food, but relied heavily on imports from the Nile valley and, to a lesser extent, from the Red Sea. Local industry included manufacture of toys, gaming counters, weights, spindle whorls and jewelry from local talc schist and steatite. Inhabitants also made beads from beryls/emeralds. An element of the population, at least in late antiquity, was fairly affluent and comprised women and children as well as men. There is evidence of Egyptian and Greco-Roman religious practices and possibly Christianity. Excavation of Nabataean sherds and a Nabataean aes coin suggests contacts with that caravan kingdom in the early Roman period. Many beads and pearls were also imports from other areas of the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. At least a portion of the inhabitants in late antiquity seems to have been a desert dwelling group, perhaps the Blemmyes documented in several later Roman literary sources.


Heiko Riemer
Holocene game drives in the Great Sand Sea of Egypt?
Stone structures and their archaeological evidence

Regenfeld 96/28 is a 4 km long stone alignment in the southern Great Sand Sea of Egypt. Surveying the stone structure and comparing it with parallels led to the assumption it may have been a game drive or trap. The field survey in the surroundings produced some hearth mounds and a small lithic collection. The artefacts and the predominant flaking technique tend to indicate a late Early or Mid-Holocene age, c. 7700-6000 BP (c. 6500-4900 BC calibrated), therefore before hyperaridity set in in the Eastern Sahara. Although archaeological evidence of a killing site is still vague because hunting tools as well as bones of butchered wild animals have not been observed on site 96/28, the game drive idea forms the most plausible interpretation.


Andrew B. Smith
A prehistory of modern Saharan pastoralists

Using archaeological and ethnographic data, this paper suggests that the ancestors of many modern Saharan pastoral groups, e.g. Tuareg, Toubou, Beja, may have had connections during the mid- to late-Holocene. Deep-meaning, exemplified by rock art and funerary monuments in the past, and pre-Islamic religious beliefs in the present, offer clues to a possible common heritage. It is further suggested that prehistoric Saharan herders may have been cultural innovators, and ideas spread from the Sahara to the Nile Valley and the Maghreb.


Jean-Loïc Le Quellec 
Une scène miniature incisée à Ti-n-Taborak (Akâkûs) et ses implications pour la chronologie des gravures rupestres du Sahara

The study of a small incised scene reminiscent of the Wa-n-Amil / Iheren-Tahilahi style, recently discovered in a site of the Akâkûs where pictograms and painted petroglyphs of the same style also appear, reveals that they all belong to the same cultural horizon. This scene depicts several sheep which could not have been introduced here before the 6th millennium bp, according to our present knowledge of the apparition of domestic ovicaprids in the Central Sahara. Thus, Saharan pictures depicting ovicaprids in this area are bound to be younger. This is true for the paintings (and now the petroglyphs) of the Wa-n-Amil / Iheren-Tahilahi style (which were already considered to have been made after the post-Neolithic Arid), but it must also be true for all the sheep listed among the great petroglyphs of the «Naturalistic Bubaline» - a fact leading us to revise the chronologies based on this so-called «period».


Robert Vernet
L'industrie de Foum Arguin (nord-ouest de la Mauritanie)
Une culture épipaléolithique de l'ouest saharien, entre cap Juby et cap Timiris

An occupation preceding the Neolithic has come to light in the last few years in the western Sahara. It can be called "Epipalaeolithic of Foum Arguin", from the name of a group of sites to the southeast of Nouadhibou. Its industry occurs between north-western Mauretania, where it is particularly abundant, and cap Juby, in the southern part of oued Draa, in the Moroccan Sahara. The Foum Arguin people were nomadic hunters. Their lithic tools are characterized by spectacular tanged points which, following random finds, for a long time were wrongly considered as a very recent evolution of the Aterian. The Foum Arguin culture is - indirectly at the moment - dated to the 7th millenium B.P. and precedes the Neolithic in the whole region.

Michel Barbaza et Marc Jarry
Le site de Tondiédo à Markoye (Burkina Faso). Élaboration d’un modèle théorique pour l’étude de l’art rupestre protohistorique du Sahel Burkinabé

Tondiedo, a rock-art site dating back to the very end of the Iron Age, was discovered in the Markoye area of Burkina Faso in west Africa. A characteristic feature of this site is the distribution of engravings on the scale of a rocky hill of limited size. The study of these engravings was undertaken in 1997, right at the start of our work in the Sahel. Gradually, the whole system of engravings, clearly of Libyco-Berber inspiration, revealed an original pattern of internal organization. The remarkable Tondiedo ensemble, unpublished to this day, is therefore an emblematic case and was selected as a model for the clearness of its rupestrian structure. The main panel, established in a suggestive place, is surrounded by an orderly variety of engravings organized in a halo shape. Image processing via computer graphics confirms the arrangements with clarity and precision. Neighbouring sites confirm, to an extent, the suggested organization pattern.


Yousif M. Elamin and Abbas S. Mohammed-Ali
Umm Marrahi. An early Holocene ceramic site, north of Khartoum (Sudan)

The authors describe and discuss the nature and significance of prehistoric cultural material obtained from test excavation at the site of Umm Marrahi, north of Khartoum. The material includes fauna, stone artifacts and pottery. The latter is characterized by the dominant wavy-line and dotted wavy-line types defined by Arkell in the 1950's as cultural marker of what he called "Early Khartoum Culture" or "Khartoum Mesolithic". The occupants of the site subsisted mainly on fishing and hunting savannah mammals. There is no evidence for domestic animals or cultivated plants. The combined evidence from archaeology and C14 dates shows that the settlement goes back to early 9th millennium B.P. Comparisons and evaluation of pottery types in this site and others in central Sudan suggest that Umm Marrahi was, perhaps, the earliest place of pottery production in the Nile Valley so far known.


Last update Monday, September 2, 2013