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Nubia: 'Early Khartoum'

A.J. Arkell excavated in 1944 near modern Khartoum a Mesolithic site, with the remains of a culture which he called 'Early Khartoum'. No traces of houses or huts were found but the remains excavated must belong to a settlement at least occasionally inhabited. Early Khartoum is a Mesolithic culture with some bone working and a microlithic stone industry. The use of pottery perhaps indicates contacts with Neolithic cultures. There was a limited use of wild grain. From the faunal remains it seems certain that these people lived by hunting and fishing; no domesticated animals were found.

stone implements

Most implements are made from quartz pebbles and are small in size (microliths). However, there are also some crescents or scrapers larger in size. The grinders were possibly used for grinding wild grain, as they often show signs of use (a smooth side). The use of the stone rings it not known. They were always found broken, and possibly they were intended to be used in that condition.

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pebble hammer stones and pebble grinders
fragment of stone ring
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bone working

About 270 examples or fragments of harpoon heads and spearheads were found. Some of the smaller examples belonged probably to arrows. Some of the harpoon heads (UC 13946) were decorated with incised lines.

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The pottery

No pottery vessel was found intact. Most characteristic for the 'Early Khartoum' is the 'wavy line ware'. A wavy decoration was incised with a combing tool in the clay before it was dry. The tool was perhaps the spine of a fish bone (catfish - Synodontis schall); examples of such bones were found on the site. Other decorations are the 'dotted wavy line' decoration; other pots were perhaps undecorated. The shape of the vessels can be reconstructed as bowls with simple rims.

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Arkell 1949 (the excavation report)


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