The Nubian Past: An Archaeology of the Sudan

By Habtemichael, Daniel | African Studies Review, September 2007 | Go to article overview

The Nubian Past: An Archaeology of the Sudan


Habtemichael, Daniel, African Studies Review


HISTORY David N. Edwards. The Nubian Past: An Archaeology of the Sudan. London: Routledge, 2004. xii + 348 pp. Photographs. Tables. Illustrations. Bibliography. Index. $125.00. Cloth. $44.95. Paper.

David Edwards's book is a major contribution to, and major synthesis of, the archaeology of the Sudan. Combining archaeological evidence accumulated over the last tiiirty years with earlier materials, this volume brings to light die history of Sudan from 10,000 B.C.E to 1900 C.E. Edwards's book is not die first book along diese lines. The first significant synthesis was A. J. Arkell's A History of the Sudan: From the Earliest Times to 1821 (Athlone Press, 1961 [1955]), in which an Egyptological approach was dominant and the ancient history of Sudan was viewed mainly in die light of Egyptian sources, with an emphasis on Nubia as the core region in the cultural history of the Sudan. The geographical focus was the Nile valley, as most early archaeologists working in the Sudan were trained as Egyptologists and thus were more inclined to explain die cultural developments in Sudan in terms of Egyptocentrism and Egyptian influence rather than local dynamism. The second syndiesis was W. Y. Adams's Nubia: Corridor to Africa (Allen Lane, 1977), in which the history of the Sudan was still equated with die history of Nubia (and Egypt still considered a crucial actor in this history). Edwards's synthesis, however, based on an extensive archaeological record ranging from prehistoric times to the Islamic period and including new interpretative frameworks, introduces local contributions.

By bringing up to date die archaeology of the Sudan over die last thirty years, Edwards's book breaks new ground. It incorporates the macroregional archaeological investigations of the Nile Valley south of the Third Cataract, in the western regions in die Libyan Desert and Darfur, in eastern regions that include Kassala, and in the Southern Sudan up to Equatoria. Such a comprehensive macro-regional approach changes our perceptions of the archaeology of the Sudan. It also contributes to shifting the conceptual approaches, moving from more traditional site-focused reports to settlement and landscape archaeology, and from Egyptocentric perspectives to macro-regional contexts, thus diminishing the previous isolation of the archaeology of Sudan from die larger field of African archaeology.

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