Polish archaeologists study the first shepherds in Africa

Polish archaeologists study the first shepherds in Africa

Today, the border between Egypt and Sudan is a desert scorched by the sun. But more than 10,000 years ago, thousands of animals walked among the dense trees. Polish archaeologists are looking for traces of people who lived there and used the natural environment.

“We really don’t know who our excavation targets are communities in settlements and cemeteries”-told Professor PAP. Jacek Kabacinski of the Poznań Branch of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Scientists led the expedition in the Gebel Ramlah area, about 140 kilometers west of the famous rock temple of Ramses II in Abu Simbel. Poles have been working here since 2009.

So far, they have been paying attention to the cemetery of the 5th century BC. This suggests that maybe we are dealing with different, independent people who use a very limited space for funeral purposes. “-Scientist explained.

There used to be a large lake in Gebel Ramlah-today only its outline is visible in desert areas. Archaeologists have discovered the remains of many settlements in various periods of the Neolithic Age nearby. They believe that in the past, people lived in shabby shacks there (no surviving residential structures in the area survived). So how do you know that sediments are being discovered?

“We found traces of cavities, where food was stored or waste was thrown away. We also found weird, grinders, broken ceramic vessels and flint tools, and the remains of hunted gazelle. The remains of goats, sheep and cows raised-everything clearly shows that people live, work and eat in these places”-Kabaczynski.

Last season brought unexpected discoveries. In this settlement, archaeologists have discovered some workshops that process rocks containing large amounts of hematite into o-stones. Cher stone is a red pigment, usually used in funerals. Earlier, Polish researchers discovered many tombs covered with this dye. “This is the first known hematite processing laboratory found in the western desert so far.” Kabatinski.

In his opinion, in addition to its symbolic meaning, cher stone is also very important in daily life, because this mineral is antiseptic and can facilitate leather trimming. He added: “Maybe it is also used to dye clothes.”

According to the scientist, it is likely that in the late Neolithic period (5th century BC), herders from various parts of Northeast Africa (from the Mediterranean coast to sub-Saharan Africa) visited the area around the lake and lived temporarily Up the area. Their meeting place may be a cemetery buried on the raised shore of the lake, and the dead are buried in numerous cemeteries.

According to research conducted by Poles, in the initial period (approximately 11,000-8,000 years ago) these tombs were located in settlement areas. At the time, similar practices occurred in other parts of the world, especially in the Middle East.

“However, outside the residential areas, the corpses are gradually +cleared. We can see it in Gebel Ramlah-in the millennium after the millennium, the tombs are getting further and further away from the residence, and finally, in the early 5th century BC, a separate cemetery was established outside the settlement , The deceased was buried. Kabaczynski.

What are the reasons for creating such places? The scientist believes that this practice may be related to the development of beliefs. In this way, by putting the dead together, it is easier to “control” the dead. “They must be a special place today, surrounded by places of pilgrimage”-said the archaeologist.

Researchers emphasize that the most valuable cultural relics come from the cemetery: on the deceased’s last journey, elaborate dishes, jewelry, and even decorations hundreds of kilometers away, such as shells from the Red Sea, were provided.

Professor Kabasinski emphasized that the best living conditions in the region existed in the 7th century BC, and the climate gradually dried up. In the following thousands of years, the lake only appeared seasonally.

People are forced to travel long distances from one reservoir to another. This is the period of grazing livestock, so reaching the water source means that these communities become or not become “”. Kabaczynski. As she pointed out, it is only during these more difficult times that people begin to establish profound connections. As a result, strange objects appeared in the Gebel Ramlah area, such as the aforementioned Red Sea shells found in the grave.

The researchers concluded: “It is the climate crisis that forces herders to be more mobile and indirectly promotes the development of connections with other communities.”

At the end of the 5th century BC, the shepherds of Gebel Ramlah left their ancient territory due to the extent of desertification in the area. They seem the most likely direction to go is the Nile Valley, where there is the source of life.

“The scientific community has been debating to what extent the arrival of the community from the current western desert has contributed to the emergence of pharaonic civilization. Its origin and the emergence of Western shepherds are not accidental,” Kabatinski.

This year’s research was funded by funding provided by the National Science Center and the Joint Venture Foundation for Prehistory.

PAP-Polish Science, Szymon Zdzierałowski

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