The middle reaches of the Nile River play a key role in the current models about the diffusion of modern Humans out of Africa, nevertheless the Early and the Middle Stone Age (Early Palaeolithic and Middle Palaeolithic) in central Sudan are poorly known. On-going investigation at al-Jamrab (White Nile region) highlights the archaeological potential of the central Sudan and illustrates the importance of an integrated approach combining archaeological excavation and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction for understanding cultural site formation and post-depositional dynamics. The stratigraphic sequence at al-Jamrab includes a thick cultural layer rich in Early and Middle Stone Age artefacts, preserved in a deeply weathered palaeosol developed on fluvial sediments. The cultural layer includes a two-fold human occupation covering the Middle Stone Age, with Acheulean and Sangoan bifacial artefacts, although an Early Stone Age/Middle Stone Age transitional phase cannot be excluded. The artefact-bearing unit is attributed to the Upper Pleistocene based on preliminary OSL dating, the local palaeoenvironmental context, and strong pedogenetic weathering. Considering the paucity of archaeological data for the Pleistocene of Sudan and the importance of this region in the study of human dispersal out of Africa, this preliminary work on a new site and its associated stratigraphic context provides insights into the early peopling of Sudan and adds one more tessera to the Eastern Africa picture.
Archaeological deposits in rock shelters have enormous informative potential, particularly in arid environments where organic materials are well preserved. In these areas, sub-fossilized coprolites and dung remains have been identified as valuable proxies for inferences about past environments, subsistence economies and cultural trajectories. Here we present a multidisciplinary analysis of bovid (ovicaprine) coprolites collected from the Early Holocene hunter-gatherer occupation at Takarkori rock shelter (SW Libya, central Sahara). Our results show that Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia) were managed as early as ~9500 years cal BP, mostly with the rearing of juveniles. Palynological analysis of individual pellets suggests a seasonal confinement of the animals and the selection of fodder. GIS analysis of coprolite distribution also indicates sophisticated strategies of Barbary sheep “herding” and spatial differentiation of specialized areas within the rock shelter, including the construction and use of a stone-based enclosure for corralling animals. These highly structured and organized forms of control over wild animals are interpreted as a potential co-evolutionary trigger for the subsequent rapid adoption and integration of the incoming pastoral Neolithic economy.
The Messak plateau contains remarkable evidence of human occupation during prehistoric and historic times, such as rock art engravings, megalithic monuments, and scatters of stone tools. Since 1980 these remains have been heavily affected by oil extraction-related operations, and it has only been over the last decade that these operations were adequately supported by archaeological mitigation strategies. The ‘Messak Project’ was originally conceived as a three-year programme (2010–2012) focusing on a range of co-ordinated actions to increase the knowledge of the area, to assess any damage and potential risks, and to preserve and manage the cultural heritage. Uprisings in Libya led to the sudden interruption of the project in late February 2011. Nevertheless, major results of the projects include: the compilation of a database of circa 10,000 sites, including hundreds of unpublished sites from previous surveys; the discovery of circa 2500 new archaeological sites; and the drawing of a set of GIS-based maps. In this paper we firstly introduce the materials and methods of the ‘Messak Project’, and secondly, we present an updated overview of the archaeological landscape of the Messak in the light of the project’s recent achievements.