Before Farming

A story of colourful diggers and grinders

the Sangoan and Lupemban at site 8-B-11, Sai Island, Northern Sudan

Before Farming (2004), 2004, (3), 1–28.

Abstract

The site of Sai 8-B-11 in northern Sudan contains a succession of occupation levels comprised within a sedimentological sequence that spans the end of the Middle and the early Upper Pleistocene. Located on the southeastern pediment of a Nubian Sandstone inselberg, the site reveals itself at the present surface by a large concentration of artefacts eroding out of Nilotic silt deposits. Our excavations have shown that this Upper Pleistocene floodplain covers a sequence of alternating gravels and sands filling up an ancient depression of Middle Pleistocene age in which early Middle Stone Age assemblages are stratified. The two lowermost can be attributed to the Sangoan because of the presence of core-axes and distinctive flake reduction strategies. Given the evidence of systematic blade production and the presence of a lanceolate in addition to small and regular core-axes, the upper assemblage of this sequence is qualified as Lupemban. The Sangoan levels are interstratified with late Acheulean clusters. In contrast to the latter, the behaviours documented in the Sangoan including pigment exploitation, grinding activities, specialised lithic production and possibly symbolic uses of colour, show a remarkable degree of complexity. We interpret this interstratification of two very different behavioural systems as an indication of population intrusion in the area. It follows that Sai 8-B-11 is a site of significant consequence with regard to the origin and dispersal of Homo sapiens and of modern behaviour.

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Author details

Van Peer, Philip

Rots, Veerle

Vroomans, Jeanne-Marie