African Archaeology: Why is the Al Khiday 2 Cemetery Unique?

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Over the years, archaeologists have observed one thing in common among prehistoric cemeteries worldwide—the dead were buried in a fetal position. The prehistoric dwellers in central Sudan, however, had “unusual” burial rites as evidenced by the prone and extended position of the skeletons found in Al Khiday 2.

Archaeologists of the Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente Archaeological Mission excavated 50 individuals of mixed gender and age that were buried lying on their front. Radiocarbon dating results of bones, shells, charcoal, and organic sediments suggest that the burials date to pre-Mesolithic times. The excavation took place from 2006 to 2008. The samples were sent to Beta Analytic in Miami for radiocarbon dating.

The Al Khiday 2 excavation wasn’t the first site where archaeologists found prone burials as there had been isolated cases in southern Egypt and the Czech Republic. This pre-Mesolithic cemetery, however, remains unique in the magnitude of prone burials found. According to Donatella Usai, et al., the Al Khiday 2 cemetery is one of the most important sites in the context of African archaeology. Why the dead were buried in such an atypical manner remains to be explored.

Source: Excavating a Unique Pre-Mesolithic Cemetery in Central Sudan by Donatella Usai, et al., Antiquity Volume 84 Issue 323 March 2010


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