Skip to content

March 29, 2022

Trending Topics in Sudanese Research

The first hybrid version of the Sudan Studies Research Conference has just wrapped up, hosted both in Warsaw and remotely across the world. At the event, researchers gathered to discuss Sudanese affairs and discover innovative approaches to research in Sudan and South Sudan. 

We’ve collected some of the most impactful and engaging research from the conference - from ancient Nubian rituals and practices, to early human migration, and more. Discover a selection of conference posters below and the entire content library on the Sudan Studies event page.


A pain in the neck: Impact of possible head loading on the cervical spine of ancient Nubians

Several studies have looked into the development of osteoarthritis and spondylosis in the cervical spine, linking these issues to different factors such as age, obesity, diet, trauma, and activity or lifestyle. However, few bioarchaeological studies have been carried out on the general degeneration of the spine in African populations and developing nations, where repetitive loading of the back or head is often a requirement of daily life.

Dr Samantha Tipper of Anglia Ruskin University sought to fill this gap in data by studying vertebrae in a total of 515 ancient Nubian adult individuals. The results indicated that activities involving the repetitive loading of the spine can cause an early onset of issues such as osteoarthritis and spondylosis. These activities can include carrying water or produce on top of one’s head, practices Sudanese individuals continue today. More research is needed as a next step, not only to explore spinal issues in ancient Nubians, but also to learn what these findings mean for modern African individuals and communities.

How did Ancient Nubians use textiles to commemorate their dead?

This study explores the Unravelling Nubian Funerary Practices project, hosted at the PCMA-University of Warsaw (2021-2022). The interdisciplinary project seeks to reconstruct funeral rites involving the wrapping of the dead and to examine the significance of textiles in burial rites. To this end, two case studies were documented: the first, a Meroitic grave on Sai Island where three people were buried, and the second fragmented remains from the grave of fifteen individuals in Old Dongola, dated to 10th-11th c.

Ancient Nubians carried out extremely intricate practices when it came to burying their dead, from the preparation of the body through cleansing, anointment, and more, to the rituals at the grave site, and re-intervention in and above the tomb. Textiles were often used to bind, wrap, support, or even stuff the body. Years after discovery, these preserved textiles were analyzed using modern technology in order to map burial sites. Archaeologists found that success in reconstructing grave sites was dependent on the quality of preservation and level of archaeological documentation when artifacts were first discovered.


Visiting ancient royal cemeteries in Sudan from the comfort of your own home?

In this video presentation, Harvard University researcher Katherine Rose shows how drones can be used to provide specific landscape and spatial details of ancient royal cemeteries that maps cannot. The author walks us through Kushite royal cemeteries, analyzing each site with the help of 3D models and ensuring the culture and the history of the Kushites is preserved. 

These 3D models are also accessible on open access platforms, ensuring archaeologists and history enthusiasts from across the world can access key insights into ancient regal burial without leaving their desks.


Tracking human migration across the Sahara

 By using linked bodies of water, mollusks, fish, hippos, crocodiles and other aquatic creatures have been able to travel across the Sahara, as the recovery of their remains in the mud of lakes and rivers has shown. In response to these discoveries, archaeological experts decided to search for evidence of human migration as a result of this aquatic dispersal. They found serrated harpoons, which are used for hunting aquatic fauna in addition to “wavy-line” or “dotted wavy-line” pottery. By tracking the distribution of these items from East to West Africa, researchers were able to create maps determining possible routes of ancient human trans-Saharan travel. They noted that “if a diverse range of species (including fish) can cross the Sahara, it is impossible to envisage the Sahara functioning as barrier to hominin (human) dispersal.”

This study
shows how creative analysis, experimentation, and the examination of unlikely objects can help us make groundbreaking discoveries regarding the past, present and future of our species.