New radiocarbon dates for postglacial reoccupation of the Sudanese Nile

Lenka Varadzinová, Ladislav Varadzin, Stanley H. Ambrose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Radiocarbon dates from secure cultural contexts along the Sudanese Nile are crucial for understanding the potential role of the Nile as a corridor for postglacial human dispersal across northern Africa. Dates from this region show reoccupation of the Sudanese Nile south of the Second Nile Cataract was delayed by 0.4–0.7 ka compared with the Sahara, where a dramatic increase in the number of radiocarbon dates suggests a massive colonisation of the previously hyper-arid region as early as 10.9–10.6 ka. We present a series of 44 radiocarbon dates from the site of Sphinx at the Sixth Nile Cataract in central Sudan that moves the beginnings of postglacial reoccupation of the Sudanese Nile from 10.2 to 10.7 ka and synchronizes occupation here with the first wave of early Holocene human expansion across northern Africa. These new dates support the role of the Nile as a corridor for expansion from sub-Saharan Africa. In addition to radiocarbon dates, this study also presents evidence for expansion from material culture. Our data show that the early Holocene Early Khartoum culture, which includes one of the earliest pottery traditions in Africa, appears in central Sudan as a “package” and may have been brought into the region from unknown settlement enclaves located further to the south, possibly in the upper White Nile or Blue Nile. The four-millennia-long and nearly continuous sequence of dates from Sphinx attests to stability of hunter-gatherer settlement around the Sixth Nile Cataract. It also suggests adaptability and resilience of local hunter-gatherers in the face of climatic and environmental fluctuations that affected northern Africa during the early to middle Holocene.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107953
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
StatePublished - Mar 1 2023


  • Early Khartoum culture
  • Geochronology
  • Holocene
  • Hunter-fisher-gatherers
  • Northern Africa
  • Ostrich eggshell
  • Postglacial human expansion
  • Tooth enamel

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Geology


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