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Wild Food: Plants, Fish and Small Animals on the Menu for Early Holocene Populations at al-Khiday, Central Sudan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

J. Dunne, S. Salvatori, L. Maritan, K. Manning, V. Linseele, T. Gillard, P. Breeze, N. Drake, R. P. Evershed, D. Usai

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-281
Number of pages27
JournalAfrican Archaeological Review
Volume39
Issue number3
DOIs
Accepted/In press2022
PublishedSep 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: The authors thank the Leverhulme Trust (RPG-2016-115) for funding for ‘Peopling the Green Sahara? A multi-proxy approach to reconstructing the ecological and demographic history of the Saharan Holocene’. The authors wish to thank the NERC for partial funding of the National Environmental Isotope Facility (NEIF; contract no. NE/V003917/1) and NERC (contract no. NE/V003917/1) and funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013) and European Research Council Grant Agreement number 340923 for funding GC-MS capabilities, together with NERC (contract no. NE/V003917/1) and the University of Bristol for funding the GC-IRMS capabilities. Ian Bull, Alison Kuhl and Helen Whelton are thanked for technical help. Fieldwork was funded by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Centro Studi Sudanesi e Sub-Sahariani. We also thank the Director and Staff of the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums, Khartoum, Sudan, who granted permissions for excavation. Funding Information: The authors thank the Leverhulme Trust (RPG-2016-115) for funding for ‘Peopling the Green Sahara? A multi-proxy approach to reconstructing the ecological and demographic history of the Saharan Holocene’. The authors wish to thank the NERC for partial funding of the National Environmental Isotope Facility (NEIF; contract no. NE/V003917/1) and NERC (contract no. NE/V003917/1) and funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013) and European Research Council Grant Agreement number 340923 for funding GC-MS capabilities, together with NERC (contract no. NE/V003917/1) and the University of Bristol for funding the GC-IRMS capabilities. Ian Bull, Alison Kuhl and Helen Whelton are thanked for technical help. Fieldwork was funded by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Centro Studi Sudanesi e Sub-Sahariani. We also thank the Director and Staff of the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums, Khartoum, Sudan, who granted permissions for excavation. Publisher Copyright: © 2022, The Author(s).

King's Authors

Abstract

Al-Khiday, located on the bank of the White Nile in Sudan, offers an exceptionally preserved stratigraphic sequence, providing a unique opportunity to use organic residue analysis to investigate diet and subsistence during the Khartoum Mesolithic and the Early Neolithic, a period of nearly 3500 years (7000–4500 cal BC). While the vast and diverse Mesolithic fish assemblage indicates a strong reliance on products from aquatic habitats, floodplains, vegetated marshes, and open water, results from the lipid residue analysis suggest that the fish were not cooked in ceramic pots, but consumed in other ways. Rather, pots were more specialized in processing plants, including wild grasses, leafy plants, and sedges. These results, confirmed by experimental analysis, provide, for the first time, direct chemical evidence for plant exploitation in the Khartoum Mesolithic. Non-ruminant fauna (e.g., warthog) and low lipid-yielding reptiles (e.g., Adanson’s mud turtle and Nile monitor lizard), found in significant numbers at al-Khiday, were likely also cooked in pots. There is little evidence for the processing of wild ruminants in the Mesolithic pots, suggesting either that ruminant species were not routinely hunted or that large wild fauna may have been cooked in different ways, possibly grilled over fires. These data suggest sophisticated economic strategies by sedentary people exploiting their ecological niche to the fullest. Pottery use changed considerably in the Early Neolithic, with ruminant products being more routinely processed in pots, and while the exploitation of domesticates cannot be confirmed by a small faunal assemblage, some dairying took place. The results provide valuable information on Early and Middle Holocene lifeways in central Sudan.

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