Shaheinab Gouge

Gouge Shaheinab aggsbach

This is a typical “Shaheinab Gouge” (7 cm long), found somewhere the Sahara during the 1980ies.

The site of Shaheinab was excavated 1949-1950 by A.J. Arkell for the Sudan Antiquities Service. Shaheinab is located between Jebel Aulia and the Sixth Cataract. Arkell’s work  proved that the site was an occupation area with remains of ash, pottery with different decorative patterns, numerous amounts of lithic artifacts, shells and animal bones.  This site, dated to about 5 k.a. BP was called   Khartoum Neolithic or “Gouge culture”.

At Shaheinab, two  or three animal species were already domesticated: dwarf domestic goat (Capra sp.), twisted horned goat or sheep (Capra or Ovis sp.) and perhaps one other variety of sheep (Ovis; though the latter is only known from one bone). However, 98% of the animal bones found belong to wild specimens. 

It has to be remembered, that in the Middle East the faunal shift from non-domestic animals (gazelle and deer) to domesticates (ovicaprids like sheep and goats ) already had occurred at ca 8,000-BC during the PPNB, following the domestication of Einkorn and Emmer during the PPNA after9800 BC. In contrast, like other sites in the area Shaheinab lacks any evidence for food – production. The term Khartoum Neolithic has been applied to a number of assemblages in Sudan and the Sahara (Tenere) which share some general features with that of Shaheinab. Such axes are even known from Fayum. If the use of Shaheinab Gouges over a rather large area indicates some kind of cultural identity seems to be rather unlikely.

The” Khartoum Mesolithic”  (8-5 k.a. BP)was discovered and initially described by A.J. Arkell with the publication of the Khartoum Hospital settlement excavation. The site, although not stratified, furnished a wide inventory of the material culture of a previously unknown early Holocene pottery-bearing Mesolithic culture. These hunter–gatherer–fisher groups produced elaborate ceramics together with bone instruments, a geometric chipped–stone industry, sandstone grinders, grinding stones and many other stone and bone instruments. The faunal inventory from the site, which also included large mammals and gastropods, pointed mainly to a fishing-based subsistence strategy. After the pioneering work of Arkell from the 1970s onwards, several other “Mesolithic” sites in central Sudan have been excavated or superficially examined both to the north and south of the country’s capital city, and many other sites with Early Khartoum pottery scattered on their surface have been located, providing a picture of an impressively wide distribution of this culture.

How the Khartoum “Neolithic” refers to the preceding “Mesolithic”, which is actually re-evaluated by modern excavations at stratified sites remains unclear, but along the White Nil, there are certainly many more undisturbed sites, that will help to answer this question within the next years, if the political situation remains “stable”.

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About Katzman

During my whole life I was fascinated by stone age artefacts. Not only the aesthetic qualities of these findings, but also the stories around them and the considerations arising from their discovery, are a part of my blog. Comments and contributions are allways welcome! About me: J.L. Katzman (Pseudonym). Born in Vienna. Left Austria in 1974 and did not regret. Studied Medicine and Prehistory at a German University. Member of a Medical Department at a German University. Copyright 2010-2017 by JLK. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to use material in these posts so long as you cite the work.
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