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before Mesopatamia

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Joined: 08 Sep 2005
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Location: Sepat Pa Maahes

PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2005 8:21 pm    Post subject: before Mesopatamia Reply with quote

(1)Department of Anthropology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK 99775, (2)Department of Anthropology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX 75275, (3)Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Al. Solidarnosci 105, 00-140 Warsaw, Poland.
Session: Paleopathology I: Contributed Papers.
With the Aswan High Dam Project as a catalyst, many human skeletal samples of Late Paleolithic (ca. 18-12,000 BP) and post-Neolithic (5400-650 BP) Nubians have been recovered. These samples have provided a wealth of physical anthropological data. Conspicuous by their absence are remains from the vast intermediate Neolithic period (ca. 9800-5400 BP). These peoples are little-studied, either archaeologically or osteologically. One major exception involves the archaeological research of the Combined Prehistoric Expedition (CPE) to the Nubian Desert of Egypt and Sudan. Discoveries at Neolithic sites near Bir Kiseiba and Nabta Playa suggest the inhabitants had a complex social system involving cattle worship and sacrifice. They were also builders of stone shrines, megalithic alignments, and calendar circles. However, their skeletal remains are generally lacking, and those that were recovered are poorly preserved. Thus, to date, studies pertaining to the remains are few in number-being limited to worn teeth and partial skeletons.

Recently, the CPE intensified efforts to recover and analyze human remains at Nabta. As a result, sample size increased, and the amount of dental, osteological, paleopathological, and other data obtained multiplied accordingly. These efforts culminated in the discovery of a unique Final Neolithic (5650-5400 BP) cemetery 30 km west of the main settlements.

This presentation will provide an initial description of the recently recovered remains. Standard physical anthropological observations will be presented, along with more specialized data pertaining to preliminary estimates of biological affinity-on a continent-wide and regional scale. These observations are intended to help better understand and characterize an enigmatic people, who inhabited a consequential yet little known time and place in North African prehistory.

Funding for the first author was provided by the Hierakonpolis Expedition (Dr. Raymond and Beverly Sackler, and the Friends of Nekhen) and the CPE.
"O Egypt, Egypt, of your reverent deeds only stories will survive, and they will be incredible to your children! For divinity goes back to heaven, as Egypt will be widowed and deserted by god and nature."
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2005 4:28 pm    Post subject: earliest civilization? Reply with quote

Idea http://www.fulcrumtv.com/blackmummy.htm

The programme explores the enigmatic central Saharan society which once spanned the entire north African continent. We unravel their tale through the story of the discovery of the black mummy, Uan Muhuggiag. It soon becomes obvious that these people were responsible for an extraordinary array of innovations which later became famous under the Egyptians. Their presence re-writes the history of Egypt and of the entire continent of Africa.

The background: the lost society of the central Sahara and the rise of ancient Egypt
The origins of ancient Egypt are archaeology’s greatest unsolved mystery. What prompted this remarkable culture to develop such distinctive rituals as mummification? Where did they get their ideas? As far as we know, Egypt was only preceded by one great civilisation: Mesopotamia. Although Mesopotamia is a far older culture – there is no evidence to suggest that these people had developed any similar funerary practises. But if Egyptian innovations did not come from earlier known civilisations – where did they come from?

The answer has come from an unlikely quarter – the barren Sahara desert. In the last few decades evidence has been mounting that the Egyptian civilisation was not the first advanced society in Africa. At the same time as Mesopotamia rose in the near east, another culture thrived in Africa. Although few people have heard of it – this central Saharan culture is providing evidence for the invention of ritual activity which had previously been attributed to the Egyptians.

The first clue for archaeologists was the abundant rock art found all over the central Sahara from Libya to Egypt to Mali. The rock art depicts animals like crocodiles and rhinos – which do not live in deserts. It also shows scenes of hunting and rituals involving men wearing animal masks. All of this art was a firm clue that this area was once a hive of activity. It spurred archaeologists to dig and over the past fifty years they’ve uncovered an entire unknown society.

The society was nomadic – groups of animal herders wandered all over the region and eventually spread their uniform culture throughout the continent of north Africa. They lived in huts and had time to make art and invent rituals. By the time the culture reached its pinnacle around 6ooo years ago these people had invented rituals which indicate a fairly complex world view. They were communicating with the heavens and using funerary rituals like mummification to treat their dead.

But all of this evidence indicated an Eden-like place – one with trees, grasses and abundant running waters. And yet nothing could be further from this picture than the Sahara today. Although archaeologists had already assembled the clues, the science of climatology solidly confirmed what all had suspected: this area was once a lush savannah landscape. Changes in the tilt of the earth’s axis had caused drought in the Sahara and brought this thriving society to an end. But with the demise of the central Saharan culture, people wandered all over northern Africa in search of greener pastures. The Nile valley was an obvious destination. Around 6000 years ago central Saharan ideas arrived in the Nile valley – adding mummification and other rituals to the potent mix which was to become the Egyptian civilisation.

The mummy and archaeology in Libya:
An Italian team of archaeologists first explored the Libyan Sahara almost fifty years ago. In 1958 they struck gold. Professor Fabrizio Mori discovered the black mummy at the Uan Muhuggiag rockshelter. The mummy of a young boy, Uan Muhuggiag was destined for controversy. He was older than any comparable Egyptian mummy and his mere existence challenged the very idea that Egyptians were the first in the region to mummify their dead. Although the Italian team from the university of Rome “La Sapienza”, has since discovered other mummified tissue, they have not yet discovered another complete mummy in the region. But Uan Muhuggiag was no one off. The sophistication of his mummification suggested he was the result of a long tradition of mummification. Investigations in the area continue under the direction of Dr Savino di Lernia and Professor Mario Liverani.

Professor Mauro Cremaschi of CIRSA (University of Milan and University of Rome “La Sapienza”) heads the Italian Climatology team which focuses on the Acacus area of Libya. Dr Kevin White (Reading University) heads an English team focussing on the nearby Fezzan region. Both teams are using the latest satellite technology to clarify our picture of climate in the central Sahara over the past several hundred thousand years.

Another lost Libyan civilisation:
The Fezzan project, headed by Professor David Mattingly (University of Leicester) focuses on the Garamantes civilisation which thrived from 1500bc-500ad. The Garamantes were known by the Romans as barbarians but evidence from the Sahara shows a large, sophisticated civilisation. Remains show substantial architecture and a complex society replete with numerous luxuries. Almost 100,000 tombs litter the Fezzan escarpment – to date these bodies are the most concrete testimony to this little-known people.

further reading
Mummies, Disease and Ancient Cultures by A and E Cockburn & T Reyman l Ancient Egypt: Life, Myth and Art by J Fletcher l Rock Art of the Sahara by H Hugor & M Bruggman l Holocene Settlement of the Egyptian Sahara by F Wendorf l Archaeology of Sub Saharan Africa by J Vogel l Archaeology and Environment in the Libyan Sahara by B Barich l Garamantes of the Fezzan by Charles Daniels

interesting links

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"O Egypt, Egypt, of your reverent deeds only stories will survive, and they will be incredible to your children! For divinity goes back to heaven, as Egypt will be widowed and deserted by god and nature."
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