WATERS RISING: THE BEGINNINGS OF AN EXPEDITION OF SALVAGE ARCHAEOLOGY
Fishing on the Nile.
Elizabeth and Steve Stigstad with Maureen and Arne Carlson.
The Falucca ride across the Nile from Semna to Gemaii, 1965.
The belongings of the villagers awaiting transport to Kashm el Gerba.
Cathy Carlson with Nubian women.
The start of construction of the Aswan dam in 1960 and the subsequent expansion of Lake Nasser threatened to overtake Sudanese villages along the Nile along with the neighboring archaeological sites. In the winter of 1964-65, Roy Carlson, Gordon W. Hewes, and Peter Robinson of the University of Colorado Museum undertook archaeological survey of their concession on the west bank of the Nile at the Murshid Bend, and located sites to be excavated the following season (1965-1966) under permit from the Sudan Antiquities Service with funding from the National Science Foundation. Four sites in Nubia -Wadi Karagan, Awandi, Khor Shiba, and Magendohli, and a fifth site Khor Abu Anga in Omdurman – were excavated under the direction of Roy Carlson. Local doub pickers mining building materials were destroying the site at Khor Abu Anga. Preliminary reports on the excavations were published in Kush in 1966-67, and a final report on Khor Abu Anga and Magendohli in 2015 by BAR (International Series 2768) in Oxford. The artifacts, other than those retained by the Sudan Antiquities Service, are now in the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Simon Fraser University in Canada.
Magendohli is a quarry and work-shop site with Levallois lithics and Aterian artifacts including stemmed points and scrapers. It covers the top of a bedrock jebel named Magendohli translated as “house down” probably because of a ruined structure at its summit. Despite prior excavations focusing on the ruined structure, the site had not been recorded as a Paleolithic site. Lithic tools and debitage were abundant especially in the north end of the site. The site was designated 11-H-9. Debbie Wallsmith, an SFU graduate student, wrote a thesis on part of the Magendohli assemblage in 1983, but the final analysis of the material by Roy Carlson was not published until 2015.
Roy Carlson surveying and mapping the Awandi site near Duweishat in 1966.
Bringing supplies to the Magendohli site.
Men sorting surface finds collected in quaffas at Duweishat.
Excavating at 16-J-18 near Duweishat in 1966.
Excavations at Khor Shiba.
Daniel Carlson with a hand axe at Magendohli.
Artifacts being excavated from a house at Khor Abu Anga.
Nuer workers excavating at Khor Abu Anga, while camels pass by.
Nuer workers and Daniel Carlson excavating at Trench 5, Khor Abu Anga.
Excavations at Test Trench 1, Khor Abu Anga.
Workers excavating at Khor Abu Anga.
A local boy near the Khor Abu Anga site.
Nuer workers excavating at Khor Abu Anga.
Khor Abu Anga
The Commissioner of Antiquities believed the site at Khor Abu Anga to be the most important Paleolithic site in the Sudan due to the previous work there by A. J. Arkell. Khor Abu Anga (translated “Father Anga’s gulley) is a seasonally dry stream bed near Omdurman. Due to erosion and mining by doub pickers many artifacts were found on the surface of the site. These artifacts were collected and test pits were excavated followed by major excavations in two separate parts of the site that resulted in determination of a stratigraphic sequence of Acheulian through Sangoan through Lupemban.
Cultures Represented in the Archaeological Record
Acheulian seems to be the earliest culture evident in the archaeological record of the sites excavated. The diagnostic artifact of Acheulian culture is the hand axe. The Acheulian assemblages at Khor Abu Anga mostly consisted of surface finds. The thin, carefully retouched, late Acheulian hand axes there suggest a technological climax of that industry.
The Sangoan is a sub-Saharan lithic culture with hand axes, core axes, cleavers, and flake tools, although these tool types are not present in all assemblages at Khor Abu Anga. The diagnostic artifact of Sangoan culture, like Acheulian, is the hand axe. However, Sangoan hand axes are usually smaller and more crudely flaked without significant retouch.
An Acheulean hand axe, excavated at Khor Abu Anga.
Some Lupemban bifaces collected from Khor Abu Anga.
Lupemban culture is differentiated from the Sangoan by the presence of small (less than 10 cm in length) pointed bifaces that must have been used as projectile points, by the increase in frequency of lanceolate bifaces that presumably tipped spears, by the appearance of shouldered bifaces, and by the increase in stemmed scrapers. The Lupemban also sees the disappearance of hand axes.
Aterian lithics were the primary finding at Magendohli. Stemmed points and scrapers found within assemblages of predominantly Levallois technology, have long been considered diagnostic of the Aterian culture of North Africa.
A doup picker at the Khor Abu Anga site.
The North end of Magendohli; the excavation is pictured in the upper left.
The analysis of the collections excavated at Magendohli and Khor Abu Anga had long been delayed, first by initial problems of shipping the artifacts and secondly by Dr. Carlson’s accepting a position at SFU as Chair of the new Department of Archaeology. Dr. Carlson’s many students wanted to learn about Pacific Northwest Archaeology and not African which contributed to the delay of analysis until Dr. Carlson, upon his retirement, was able to once again turn his attention to the African artifacts. Completion of this analysis brought about the recent publication of Dr. Roy Carlson’s monograph entitled Khor Abu Anga and Magendohli: Stone Age Sites on the Sudanese Nile.
Many thanks to Carlson for his work on these archaeological sites, for his determination in completing the project after decades of imparting his knowledge to students here at SFU, his continued work with staff and students at SFU. Thanks must also go out to all those who came along side Dr. Carlson and made the expedition possible through their expertise, labour, and funding.
Photography by Dr. Roy Carlson. Web page written by Chelsea Brown and Spencer Hobson, edited by Dr. Roy Carlson and Dr. Barbara Winter, 2016.
Adapted for AEM by Melissa Rollit 2016.