A project and a documentary dedicated to the Mesolithic village of Al-Khiday 1 and the cemetery of Al-Khiday 2.
In Sudan the mission of the Center for Sudanese and Sub-Saharan Studies ONLUS, led by Ph.D. Donatella Usai and with the co-financing of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, investigates the sites of Al-Khiday. A documentary on the mission’s activities will be shot this year.
For the column Let’s talk about Archaeology, Ph.D. Alessandra Usai updates us on the ongoing research.
The ‘Rescue archeology project in Central Sudan in El-Salha’ was born in 2000. Originally under the aegis of the dell’Istituto italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente (IsIAO), it is since 2011 under the aegis of the Center for Sudanese and Sub-Saharan Studies ONLUS. The project is made in collaboration with some Italian institutions (Universities of Milan, Padua and Parma) and with some scholars of European academic institutes (Durham, Liverpool, Bristol, Barcelona,Centre national de la recherche scientifique – CNRS-Paris). Since 2005 research has focused on some particularly relevant sites. More specifically the Mesolithic villages of Al-Khiday 1, Al-Khiday 3 and the cemetery of Al-Khiday 2 and, in recent years, the Middle Stone Age site Al-Jamrab.
The territory south of Khartoum, along the White Nile, has rarely been the subject of systematic research projects based on a multidisciplinary approach. Although this represents a key area for understanding Nile valley and North Africa peopling processes.
Focused on a concession area that extends from the left bank of the White Nile towards the Kordofan, the project aims to locate, document and study traces of human presence since Paleolithic up to the Islamic era. Thus also carrying out a support service to local antiquities (National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums) in the task of archaeological heritage safeguarding. Students from local universities (Khartoum and Al Neelain) participate every year in fieldwork campaigns to deepen their preparation on excavation and documentation techniques.
The Nile valley represents one of the possible routes taken by Modern Humans to colonize the Euro-Asian world. Relevant archaeological evidence relating to the Middle Stone Age, in in situ deposits, which produces together with the elements of material culture also faunas and other traces of occupation and can be dated with the techniques available today, are rare. The Al-Jamrab site (Spinapolice et al 2018) represents one of the few stratified sites in central Sudan and has returned valuable artefacts in situ.
This region also plays an important role in the most recent phase of the Ancient Holocene (9000-6000 BC), an era of important climatic, demographic and cultural changes. Evidence of this period are the traces left by groups of hunter-gatherer-fishers who, unlike their European contemporaries, developed a production of pottery containers. Precursors of Neolithic societies, they represent the key to understanding the dynamics that led the Nile Valley societies to the adoption of an economy of production, agro-pastoral, associated with other activities from which a certain level of specialization and social complexity is deduced. The Al-Khiday sites, since they are preserved in an exceptional way, are producing a generous harvest of information useful for understanding of these processes, with reflections throughout the Nile Valley and part of Saharan and Sub-Saharan Africa (Salvatori and Usai 2019; Usai and Salvatori 2019).
The history of the populations who lived on the White Nile, reconstructed thanks to the results obtained from the excavations of the Al-Khiday sites, is the subject of a documentary that the Study Center, thanks to fundings of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation for ‘Integrated Promotion’, is producing with the collaboration of colleagues from the Universities of Padua, Milan and Parma. The documentary, entitled ‘Hunters-gatherers-fishermen: the inhabitants of the White Nile in recent prehistory’, aims to be an instrument to illustrate to a wide and varied audience aspects of the life of these populations, their culture, rituals, economy, the environment in which they lived and much more.
Based on a screenplay written by Donatella Usai, the documentary, directed by Marco Tomaselli, edited by Matteo Santi, music by Adriano Adriano Orrù and Silvia Corda, takes place partly in Italy and partly in Sudan. The segment to do in Italy is almost finished, while the scenes in Sudan, will be shot in October 2021, when the next excavation campaign opens.
Salvatori S. and D. Usai, 2019. “The Mesolithic and Neolithic in Sudan”. In D. Raue (ed.), Handbook of Ancient Nubia, DeGruyter/Germany, invited paper, 171-193.
Spinapolice E.E., A. Zerboni, M. Meyer, D. Usai, 2018. “Early Human Occupation at al-Jamrab (White Nile region, central Sudan): a Contribution to the understanding of the MSA of Eastern Africa”. Journal of African Archaeology 16, 193-209.
Usai D. and S. Salvatori, 2019. “The Mesolithic period on the White Nile region and the al-Khiday sites”. In M. Brass (ed.) Sudan Beyond Nubia, Azania 54 (4), 445-467.