Featured Researcher: Congratulations Dr. Yahia Fadl Tahir Fadl from the University of Khartoum, Department of Anthropology on receiving an award in AmSARC’s Small Grant Program!

His project, “Boulders and Stone Structures in Nubia: The Rituals and Beliefs Realms during Prehistoric-Bronze Period”, is described here with some illustrations.

Stone and human have long interactions since Paleolithic period when it was used as tools. Later, human created many stone features for different purposes, one of which seemingly mainly for rites of life and religious ceremonies. This paper tries to shed light on the role of boulders and stone structures as realms of rituals and beliefs during Prehistoric-Bronze Period in Nubia. Archeological and ethnoarcheological works were carried out in Nubia with special reference to the Third Nile Cataract Region, El Sikkot Region and El Ga’ab Depression. The rocks at which the practice took place are rock gongs, wind-makers, cairns, stone pillars, rock holes, rock drawings and wadi walls. They often found in close spatial relationship to Neolithic (5000-3000 BC), Pre-Kerma (3000-2500 BC) and Bronze Age of Kerma (2500-1500 BC) occupations, as they are associated with animal’s rock drawings in the three regions. Archeological evidence and ethnoarcheological data suggest the use of rock gongs as musical instruments for rites, religious ceremonies, rainmakers and protection from devils at the Third Nile Cataract Region. Wind-makers rocks, used for rituals of wind blowing in Sai and Kulb Islands at El Sikkot Region, where natives believe on that. Excavation of cairns revealed that they are related to Mesolithic (10000-7000BC) subsistence economy shrines and potentially for other rituals in El Ga’ab Depression. Stone pillars and Megaliths were used for commemorative practices including, the mortuary sphere and symbolic connection to the heavens in El Ga’ab Depression. Rock holes used for crushing the sandstone for wiping their body with or licking the powder seeking for bless. Cupules were frequently connected to licking the powder in wedding ceremony, circumcision, protection and rainwater at the Third Nile Cataract Region. Some rock drawings are records of human religion and ideology. As far rain rituals, were acted at boulders with long vertical lines or certain animals, which belong to the roundhead drawings. Roundhead and Shaman drawings are depicted in the Third Nile Cataract Region at which seemingly Shamanic worshipping were practiced. Footprints are numerous and being symbol for cult and sacred places in the three regions. Many long low wadi walls, built by compiling and billing stones, were reported in the Third Cataract Region dated to 7th – 2th millennium B.C with debating functions. The study found that at the end of most wadi walls there is a single grave denoting to special shrine may be for an elite, speculatively for procession ritual practice. Certain stone pillars found on hilltops or plateaus in El Ga’ab Depression, are they sacred places? It is unanswered question. The study concluded that most of the rituals and traditions in the areas are similar to those in the world and specially to Northern, Western and Eastern Africa. Seemingly, the religiosity grew from simple rituals to the violence rituals involving sacrifice of human and animal for deceased elites during Bronze Age (Kerma). As well, the religious institutions developed in Nubia from prehistoric times with simple boulder to huge mud-brick building during Kerma period.