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nabta playa

The Combined Prehistoric Mission Field School (Southern Methodist
University, Polish Academy of Sciences, & Geological Survey of Egypt)
Director: Romuald Schild, Polish Academy of Sciences; Field Director: Fred
Wendorf, Southern Methodist University

During the 2000 field season the Combined Prehistoric Expedition organized
and carried out the field school in Saharan prehistory for 13 students at
Site E-00-1 in the Nabta Playa Area, South Western Desert, at the request of
officials of the Egyptian Antiquities Organization and the Geological Survey
of Egypt. The academic program was reported on in last year's Annual Report.
Elaborated here is the fieldwork, which concentrated on a narrow
deflational basin where at least two varieties of Early Neolithic
archaeology occur. These include a previously unknown type of assemblage
related to El Ghorab entity. It contains relatively numerous shards with
deeply impressed designs in a herringbone pattern (wolf's tooth) over the
entire vessel exterior.

To the south, a sample of ostrich eggshells gave a 14C age of 8200 65
years BP (A-11080). The other Early Neolithic entity is known as Al Jerar,
dated elsewhere between 7800 and 7300 14C years BP. Al Jerar materials
yielded abundant pottery and associated stone tools. A typical Middle
Neolithic point with a concave base and a small collection of typical
pottery was found in the southern end of this site. At Site E-78-8, the
Middle Neolithic occurrences are dated between 7100 and 6600 14C years BP.
Ceramics of Late and Final Neolithic occurred over the entire area of Site
E-00-1. Well-made brown and red colored pottery, sometimes with red slips,
all with smoothed, sometimes burnished exterior, with no (or very rare)
impressed or incised designs, is characteristic of Late Neolithic in the
Western Desert. Some of the bowls also have smudged interiors and black
rims ('black-top ware'). The Late Neolithic pottery looks very much like
some Badarian pottery in Middle Egypt and some Abkan pottery in Sudanese
Nubia, near Wadi Halfa.

The distinctive Final Neolithic pottery at Site E-00-1 is gray in color and
made with clay from the Qusseir clastic member of the Nubia Formation. This
clay was quarried from outcrops, presumably nearby, and thus represents a
new technological step that sets it off from all of the earlier pottery
found in this part of Egypt, which was made from the playa clays. Some of
this Qusseir clastic pottery was colored red by covering the exterior with
ochre after it had been fired. Some pots also had 'ripple ware' exteriors,
probably local copies of the ripple ware made in the Nile Valley during the

At Area B a sample of charcoal associated with Final Neolithic gave an age
of 5420 160 years BP (A-11083). Four disturbed Late and Final (?)
Neolithic burials were also excavated at Site E-00-1. Of these, two were
double, one single, and one a bundle burial with ochre colored bones. A
sample of charcoal found just under one of the two skeletons in a double
burial gave an age of 5830 60 years BP (ETH-22674), placing it in the
ending Late Neolithic. Morphological characteristics of the teeth recovered
from the burials at Site E-00-1 show close links with sub-Saharan human

For more information please visit,
and look for "Late Neolithic Research in the Egyptian Sahara"

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