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.
During a survey undertaken on the Island of Corisco, also known as Mandji (Equatorial Guinea), in 2009, several sites of the Early and Late Iron Age were recorded. The most spectacular discoveries are three burial sites, the largest of which has yielded several intact tombs with many artefacts (axes, spears, anklets, bracelets, complete pots) radiocarbon dated to 410–640 cal AD. Objects, structures and ritual activities are similar to those documented in Early Iron Age cemeteries in Cameroon in recent years. The new data from Corisco contribute to change the image of the early iron-using societies in Equatorial Africa.
In this paper, the results of the test excavations in two rock shelters in the Central Ethiopian escarpment near the Sudanese border are presented. A continuous sequence of quartz lithic industry, from the lowest levels of K’aaba (with an archaic MSA-like industry of side-scrapers, Levallois- discoid cores and unifacial points) to the upper levels of Bel K’urk’umu (with a LSA industry, characterised by elongated flakes and end-scrapers, that still displays many archaic features such as centripetal flakes and cores) may be inferred. The escarpment’s mountainous and forested areas may have acted as a refuge zone from the end of the Pleistocene, when hyper-arid conditions deterred human occupation of the Sudanese plains nearby, and may also have been a cause for the cultural archaism of the late MSA groups, a case similar to others recorded in the African continent (South Africa, Zimbabwe, Nile Valley). The arrival of Sudanese pottery in the mid-Holocene period may be explained by the onset of arid conditions that drove “aqualithic” groups and early herders towards more humid areas. The conservative character of the late prehistoric cultural sequence derived from both sites is consistent with the resilient traditional nature of the Nilo- Saharan groups that currently settle the Ethio-Sudanese borderlands.