Prehistory of the Region

The global evolution of human populations in the Kerma region is attested for almost one million years. 

The history of the human population of this part of Upper Nubia is evidently punctuated by undocumented periods. However, recent research has allowed a more refined understanding of the millennia preceding the birth of the first kingdom of sub-Saharan Africa.

The first evidence of settlement in the region is found at the site of Kaddanarti. The site is a camp marked by the presence of flint tools (mostly choppers and chopping tools) and now-gone animal bones. It dates back to between one million and half a million years ago. Although the people of this epoch walked on two legs and made tools, they do not correspond to the definition of modern man. As suggested by discoveries made in Ethiopia, Kenya and Chad, the region might have been inhabited during an even more ancient period.

Surveys conducted during the last few years have led to the identification of more recent sites dated to the Acheulian period (between 500,000 and 200,000 B.C.) and particularly to the Middle Palaeolithic (between 200,000 and 35,000 B.C.). The most spectacular deposit is found at the summit of an ancient volcano, 40 km from the Nile. Knapping workshops, flakes, and basalt tools are found today in the place where they were abandoned several tens of thousand of years ago.

During the Upper Palaeolithic (between 35,000 and 10,000 B.C.), the climate became particularly arid and this period is not attested in the region. Human populations were probably forced to move closer to the Nile and the remains of their presence are today found buried under several metres of sediments or were swept away by the floods.

The Epipalaeolithic (between 10,000 and 7000 B.C.) is a well-documented period. Climatic variations during the Holocene have greatly influenced human population. Between 10,000 and 6000 B.C., increased humidity promotes the formation of lakes in the Sahara and of abundant savannah-like vegetation. The majority of now-arid areas were in those days inhabitable, which facilitated contacts throughout the Sahara along an east-west axis. On the other hand, the banks of the Nile were difficult to reach and populations chose to settle away from the floodplain.


At the onset of the fifth millennium, the beginning of an arid phase causes people to move closer to the river and settle in the Nile Valley. Nowadays, it is possible to highlight the main social and economic transformations that took place through the millennia and that led to the development of a powerful kingdom dominating the region: sedentary lifestyle, livestock farming, agriculture, trade development, population growth, social disparity and the birth of the first cities.

 For further information, read the publications of M. Honegger

Archaeological sites : El-Barga, Wadi El-Arab, Kaddanarti, Busharia