In Sudan’s Eastern Borderland: Frontier Societies of the Qwara Region (ca. ad 600-1850)

in Journal of African Archaeology
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The Sudanese-Ethiopian borderland has seen interaction between state and non-state peoples for at least two millennia. However, little is known about these interactions from an archaeological point of view. Our research project intends to cast light on this topic by looking at the lowlands of nw Ethiopia. Surveys conducted during three field seasons in the Metema and Qwara regions – in the Atbara-Dinder watershed – have allowed us to document different cultural traditions that are related to Sudan in medieval and post-medieval times. Here, we present the data and discuss the relevance of the findings to understand border dynamics from the mid-first millennium ad onwards.

In Sudan’s Eastern Borderland: Frontier Societies of the Qwara Region (ca. ad 600-1850)

in Journal of African Archaeology



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    A. State and borderland in Sudan-Ethiopia. From the late seventeenth century onwards the extension of the tribal zone has undergone only limited territorial modifications. B. Sudanese-Ethiopian borderland with place names cited in the text and published sites of the Post-Meroitic to Funj times.
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    Map of the surveyed area in the Qwara lowlands and the southwestern corner of Metema. 1. Jebel Halawa (Funj); 2. Selferedi-Kuter 4 (Gelegu Tradition-Funj); 3. Mirt Rahad (Funj); 4. Gumuz Badimma (Medieval-Funj); 5. Dera Hassan (Funj). Only the sites discussed in the present article have been included in the map.
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    Detail map of the area surveyed in the middle Gelegu valley. 1. Mirt Gelegu; 2. Zoha-Funj; 3. Bermil-Gelegu; 4. Zoha-Gelegu; 5. Bermil-Funj; 6. Abba Sheña; 7. Tach Gerara; 8. Gerara 1-3; 9. Mahal Gerara 1-4; 10. Tebeldiya 1 and 2; 11. Dengersha; 12. Amidla; 13. Jebel Mahadid-2; 14. Jebel Mahadid 1; 15. Shimeligir. Note that numbers 8 and 9 in Figure 2B include more than one site each.
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    Settlement pattern in the Bermil area: the large site is on the slope of the hill and a smaller site is located on the alluvial plain. Both Funj sites, instead, are on the alluvial plain.
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    Stratigraphic profile of Sondage 3 in Selferedi-Kuter 4.
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    Pottery of the Gelegu Tradition. 1-2: Globular bowls with incurved rim; 3-8: Deep bowls; 9-12: Shallow bowls; 13-14: Basins. Provenance: 1-4, 12: Bermil: 5, 9, 10: Amidla; 7-8: Zoha; 6, 13: Selferedi-Kuter 4; 14: Mahal Gerara.
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    Sudanese style decorations: 1: Stylus-incised lozenges infilled with stylus-incised cross-hatching (Mahal Gerara); 2. Stylus-incised lozenges infilled with stylus or spatula impressions (Mahal Gerara); 3-5: Incised lozenges (Kuter 4: 3-4; Jebel Mahadid: 5); 6-7: Roulette (Amidla: 6; Zoha: 7); 8: Incised zigzag (Kuter 4, Mahal Gerara); 9, 12: Crosshatched band (Kuter 4: 9; Jebel Mahadid: 12); 10-11: Incised crosses on rim (Mahal Gerara); 13-16: Punched and gouged (Bermil).
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    A sample of finger-impressed rims from Bermil.
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    Comparative typology of the Gelegu Tradition pottery with Sudanese sites: Abu Geili (Post-Meroitic-Early Medieval?); Saqadi (Early Medieval); Soba (Early Medieval).
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    Spindle whorls. 1: Bermil; 2: Amidla; 3: Gerara 2; 4: Mahal Gerara.
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    Jebel Mahadid.
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    Structures from Jebel Mahadid. 1: Oblong platform; 2-3: Huts. G: indicates grinding stones, S: spherical stone.
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    Spherical stone from SR06 in Jebel Mahadid.
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    Pottery of the Jebel Mahadid Tradition. i: Open bowls; ii: Dokas; iii: Bowls with rough external walls; iv: Hemispheric pots. All from Jebel Mahadid except 6 and 12-14 from Shimeligir.
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    A doka in situ in an occupation floor exposed by rains in Shimeligir. Note the characteristic burnt area on the bottom.
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    Incense burners. 1: Tach Gerara (upside down); 2: Jebel Mahadid.
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    1: Carinated bowl from the Ethiopian highlands found in Jebel Mahadid; 2: a similar piece from the Gondar area, dated to the sixteenthseventeenth centuries.
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    The stone parapet of Jebel Mahadid. The jebel to the right offers natural protection on the other side.
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    A: The Dat’sin village of Beloha, spreading along a bar of silt and gravel near the Gelegu River, reproduces the location pattern of the Funj period in the area. Note Jebel Mahadid on the background; B: Funj and contemporary settlement in the Gerara-Mahal Gerara area. Current residential zones are indicated by dots (representing structures) and the name of the ethnic group that inhabits the neighborhood.
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    Fine ifd pottery: 1-3, 6, 8-9; coarse ifd pottery: 4-5, 7, 10-11. Pieces 1-2, 4 from Kuter 4; 3, 6-8, 10-11 from Gerara 2 and 5, 9 from Mirt Gelegu.
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    Dokas. 1-2: Mirt Gelegu; 3: Gumuz Badimma.
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    Left: Rakwa from Selferedi-Kuter 4. Right: modern rakwa made by the Bertha people south of the Blue Nile.
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    Incense burners. 1: Mirt Gelegu; 2-5: Gerara 2; 3: Gerara 3; 4: Zoha; 6: Kuter 4.
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    Pipes. 1: Gerara 2; 2-3, 5: Gumuz Badimma; 4. Mirt Gelegu.
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    Exotic imports. 1: Agate bead from Dengersha; 2; Glass bead from Kuter 4; 3: Glass beads from Tach Gerara; 4: Asian market ware, early 19th century; 5: Asian enameled ware, 18th century; 6: Blue and white porcelain, Chinese, 18th-19th century. All porcelains from Tach Gerara.
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    Calibrated radiocarbon dates discussed in the text.

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