Evidence related to the so-called "A-Group" Culture is located along the Nile river between Kubbaniya, north of Aswan, and Melik en Nassir, south of the Second Cataract Nordström 1972. By re-examining the evidence, especially the funerary, a regional concentration of the sites in certain main areas was brought to light: Area I, from Shellal to Metardul, the area of the First Cataract and the southern border of Egypt during the Old Kingdom; Area II, from Gerf Hussein to Mediq, where the Wadi Allaqi (rich in gold mines) flows into the Nile; Area III, from Korosko to Tamit, with its desert routes to Dunqul and Kurkur and to the IV' Cataract region; Area IV, from Tamit to Gamai, the Second Cataract area, where the border between Egypt and Kerma was located during the Middle Kingdom and where, supposedly, access to the Western Desert was easier than in other parts of Lower Nubia.
REGIONAL VARIATIONS IN THE SO-CALLED 'A-GROUP' CULTURE OF LOWER NUBIA
Maria Carmela Gatto (1)
Dynamics of Populations, Movements and Responses to Climatic Change in Africa, edited by B.E.Barich and M.C.Gatto, Rome:Bonsignori Editore 1997:105-111.
Evidence related to the so-called "A-Group" Culture is located along the Nile river between Kubbaniya, north of Aswan, and Melik en Nassir, south of the Second Cataract Nordström 1972. By re-examining the evidence, especially the funerary, a regional concentration of the sites in certain main areas was brought to light: Area I, from Shellal to Metardul, the area of the First Cataract and the southern border of Egypt during the Old Kingdom; Area II, from Gerf Hussein to Mediq, where the Wadi Allaqi (rich in gold mines) flows into the Nile; Area III, from Korosko to Tamit, with its desert routes to Dunqul and Kurkur and to the IV' Cataract region; Area IV, from Tamit to Gamai, the Second Cataract area, where the border between Egypt and Kerma was located during the Middle Kingdom and where, supposedly, access to the Western Desert was easier than in other parts of Lower Nubia. Among the main areas, substantial differences in the archaeological documentation were noticed. They can be summarized as follows: typology of the shafts of tombs; pottery; evidence associated with the burials; other materials included in the grave goods. Types of the shafts of the tombs Eight types of shafts can be classified, according to their shape: - type 1 irregular shape; - type 2 round-circular shape; - type 3 oval shape; - type 4a round-circular shape with lateral niche, - type 4b oval shape with lateral niche, - type 4c oval shape with two lateral niches, - type 4d sub-rectangular shape with two lateral niches; - type 5a circular shape with a narrower part on the upper side, called (a sub-rectangular) "bee-hive"; - type 5b double "bee-hive"; - type 6 rectangular shape with rounded corners; - type 7a rectangular shape, - type 7b rectangular shape with four holes, probably destined to be regarded as some kind of funerary bed; - type 8 rectangular shape with lateral niche. All these types of shafts are not invariably represented within A-Group cemeteries. In all the cemeteries types 2, 3 and 6 are the most common, while type 4c is present in just two tombs belonging to cemetery 166 at Korosko, grave numbers 32 and 37 Emery, Kirwan 1935; type 5 can be found only in the area between the First Cataract and Abu Simbel Reisner 1910; Junker 1919; Firth 1912, 1915, 1927; Smith 1962; Emery, Kirwan 1935; type 7b is found only in the Second Cataract region Williams 1989 and, finally, type 8 is restricted to the tombs from cemetery L of Qustul Williams 1986 and one tomb, number 7, from cemetery 142 at Naga Wadi, in the area of Wadi Allaqi Firth 1927 (2). Pottery A-Group pottery can be divided into two main groups, local and imported wares. The latter originated from Upper Egypt, Syro-Palestina, Central Sudan and the neighbouring deserts (some incised-impressed examples of this last ware are very unusual (fig. 1), because they were found only in two cemeteries at the Second Cataract: L at Qustul, that is the royal burial place near Abu Simbel Williams 1986 and 11-H-6 at Saras (Mills, Nordstrom 1966 and personal communication). Such examples are very similar to the C-Group incised-impressed ware, but they are dated to the end of the IVth millennium BC, that is some hundred years before the C-Group flourishing Bietak 1979. Based primarly on surface decoration, the local ware can be classified as follows: - UTILITY WARE Black Mouthed, Red-Brown Polished, Rippled Ware; Black, Rippled Ware; Red-Brown Polished Ware; Smooth Coarse Red-Brown Ware; - REFINED WARE Incised-Impressed Black-Brown-Red Ware; Exterior or Interior Painted Ware; Simple Fine Ware. The ratio between local and imported wares is very different in the various areas: Area I - 22% local ware and 78% imported ware (only nagadian) ; Area II - 50% local ware and 50% imported nagadian wares (there also being some examples of other imported ware) ; Area III - 67 % local ware and 33 % nagadian ware : Area IV - 72.5 % local ware, 26 % nagadian ware and 1.5 % other imported wares. The percentages of the ware classes vary in every region. For example, we can see that nagadian Black Topped ware, Petrie's B class, represents 89% in the first area, while in the other areas it is very scarse. On the contrary, in the first area the local Black Mouthed class is practically unknown. Fig. 1- An example of imported pottery with incised decorations. Other grave goods Concerning the other grave goods a difference can be observed between the main areas. Amulets of falcons, scorpions, elephants and so on are frequentely found in northern Lower Nubia, whereas in the area of the Second Cataract they are very rare. Here the most frequent items are mortars, grinding stones, pestels, pebbles, leather skins. But the most clearest example is represented by the palettes. Many of the A-Group graves yielded cosmetic palettes, but, while in the northern part of Lower Nubia (that is Area I and a part of Area II) palettes have the same characteristics as the predynastic ones, in the rest of the region (part of Area II, Areas III and IV) they have the typical AGroup palettes's shape (more or less a rhomboidal shape). Evidence associated with the burials Leather remains, such as caps, bags and fragments of cow hides, are frequently found in the Cataract Region, while in the northern part of Lower Nubia the materials associated with the burials are reed mats, linen and goat skins. Objects associated with children's graves in the North are gold and lapis lazuli, in the South ostrich egg-shells and strainers. Faunal remains are common within the burials: in the northern areas kids and dogs are present, whereas in the Cataract Region only cattle are present. It is interesting to remember that both in the North and in the South there are many animal tombs (dogs and cattle respectively) associated with the human graves. Conclusion The differentiations within the A-Group archaeological material that I have mentioned are just the most clear ones, but there are many others. I think that this heterogeneity is due to the different chronological and socio-economic evolution of the A-Group in Lower Nubia. According to the chronology of the imported Egyptian pottery, in Areas I and II the earliest evidence is dated to Nagada Ic-11a and the latest to Nagada IIIb (perhaps more to N. IIIa than N. IIIb), while Areas III and IV yielded material that can be dated to N. IId-IIIb. The presence in the area of the First Cataract of a very high number of Egyptian objects and pottery and, moreover, of linen, chaff and kids, could be linked to a sedentary group with an agropastoral subsistence, very similar to the one practiced by the nagadians. In this respect, I believe that they could be nagadians. In the area of Wadi Allaqi and Wadi Korosko, the subsistence strategy could be mainly supported by trade between Predynastic Egypt (and the First Cataract region) and, on the other side, the pastoral populations of the Egyptian Eastern and Western Deserts (and possible pastoral groups of the Second Cataract). In the Cataract Region, instead, the considerable presence of cattle skins in the graves, as well as the presence of cattle dung in some kinds of pottery, could be linked to a different agro-pastoral subsistence pattern, related to the cattle-raising pastoral groups living in the neighbouring deserts (some A-Group pottery was found in the Laqiya area, Nubian Eastern Desert). Therefore, trade could have been so important as to create a kind of bipolarism between Upper Egypt and Lower Nubia (in particular between Upper Egypt and Lower Nubia as far as Dakka and the rest of the region). The Egyptians exported wine, beer, cheese and so on, while the Nubians and the pastoral desert groups exported animal skins, cattle, ivory and perhaps gold. This kind of social dimorphism between the sedentary and the nomadic or semi-nomadic groups of Egypt, Nubia and the Deserts remained in equilibrium until the end of the IVth millennium BC. After that, with the emergence of the pharaonic state, the situation changed and it could have been the cause u. in-C collapse of the Nubian economy and the complete decline of A-Group society. Because of the great differences between the evidence from the northern and southern regions, the so-called "A-Group" Culture doesn't seem to be an homogenous culture, but, rather, it seems to pertain to at least two groups with the same cultural background but with different characters: one in the Wadi Allaqi and its neighbourhood and the other in the Second Cataract Region. The evidence from the First Cataract, in my opinion, suggests Nagadians. For all these reasons I would suggest that we can call the evidence from the area between Gerf Hussein and Melik en Nassir "A-Groups" (and not AGroup) and all the sites of the First Cataract Nagadians. Nevertheless. a fresh examination of all the material is very important for a better understanding of the cultural dynamics of Lower Nubia (3). Notes 1 Study carried out for my Master's Degree dissertation. 2 In Egypt the same type of shaft was found at Hierakonpolis: grave 8 (Fort Cemetery i of Dc Morgan's excavation, with a Nubian painted bowl as part of the grave goods (Needler 1984) and grace = 1K, Locality 6, Hoffmann's excavation (Hoffman 1982). 3 A study of all the A-Groups pottery is now being carried out as part of my PhD. research project. REFERENCES Bietak M. 1979, 'Ceramics of the C-Group Culture'. Meroitica 5. Berlin: 107-127. Emery W.B. andKirwan, L.P. 1935, Excavations and Survey between Wadi es Sebua and Adzndan 1929-1931. Bulaq: Cairo Government Press. Firth C.M. 1912, The Archaeological Survey of Nubia, Vol. II. Cairo: Department. Firth C.M. 1915, The Archaeological Survey of Nubia, Vol. III. Cairo: National Printing. Firth C.M. 1927, The Archaeological Survey of Nubza, Vol. IV. Cairo: Department. Gatto M.C. in press.'A Very Preliminary Review of the A-Groups Ceramic Material'. 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