Human responses to climate change have long been at the heart of discussions of past economic, social, and political change in the Nile Valley of Africa. Following the arrival of Neolithic groups, the 5th millennium BCE witnessed a cultural florescence in the Dongola Reach of Upper Nubia. Like much of the wider Nile Valley, these Neolithic groups maintained elaborate funerary traditions and a distinctive subsistence economy centered on animal herding. Against the backdrop of increasing aridity, this region subsequently saw the development of the agropastoral, socio-politically complex kingdom of Kerma (Ancient Kush) a key geopolitical rival of Egypt from 2500 – 1450 BCE. However, the role of plant foods and timing of the initial transition to an agricultural economy in the Dongola Reach remain relatively unknown. Consequently, it is currently unclear whether rare finds of Near Eastern domesticated cereals reported from Neolithic funerary contexts reflect local farming or purely reflect the consumption and symbolic display of trade commodities by emergent elites. 

This talk presents new findings from an ongoing PhD project based here at the University of Queensland, that has focused on the direct analysis of human dental calculus and dietary isotopes from individuals from two key sites in Upper Nubia, Kadruka 1 and Kadruka 21. Conducted in conjunction with methodological studies aimed at enhancing the quality of data recovered from dental calculus, these findings contextualise the limited existing evidence for domesticated cereals and enable a critical reappraisal of agricultural trajectories in Upper Nubia.  

About the presenter

Charlie received his Honours BA in 2017 at The University of Queensland. He is currently completing his PhD in archaeology at the same institution and is an Affiliated Researcher with the Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. Charlie has done extensive archaeological fieldwork in Australia in addition to several regions of Africa.

About Archaeology Working Papers

The Working Papers in Archaeology seminar series provides a forum for dissemination of archaeological research and ideas amongst UQ archaeology students and staff. All students are invited to attend the series and postgraduate students, from honours upwards, are invited to present their research. The aim is to provide opportunities for students, staff and those from outside UQ, to present and discuss their work in an informal environment. It is hoped that anyone interested in current archaeological directions, both within and outside the School and University, will be able to attend and contribute to the series.