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Gebel Ramlah—a Unique Newborns’ Cemetery of the Neolithic Sahara

Czekaj-Zastawny, A, Goslar, T, Irish, JD and Kabaciński, J (2018) Gebel Ramlah—a Unique Newborns’ Cemetery of the Neolithic Sahara. African Archaeological Review, 35 (3). pp. 393-405. ISSN 0263-0338

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Open Access URL: https://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10437-018-9307-1 (Published version)


Post-Pleistocene climatic improvement in the Northern Hemisphere after ca. 9550 BC allowed human populations to recolonize large parts of North Africa in what is today the Sahara Desert. In the Egyptian Western Desert, the beginnings of human occupation date as early as ca. 9300 BC. Occupation continued until the middle of the third millennium BC when final desertification of the area no longer afforded human occupation. The settlement of the Neolithic cattle and sheep/goat herders developed along with the rhythm of alternating wet and dry climatic oscillations. One of the areas occupied intensively during the early and middle Holocene was Gebel Ramlah. Pastoral populations established their settlements around the shores of a paleo-lake adjacent to a rocky massif, to exploit the local savannah environment. During most of the Neolithic, they buried their dead dispersed outside of their settlements. Only during the Final Neolithic (after ca. 4600 BC) did they place them exclusively in cemeteries. Of six Final Neolithic cemeteries investigated at Gebel Ramlah to date, one is entirely unprecedented, not only in North Africa but also globally at such an early date. For just under 200 years (ca. 4500–4300 BC), it served exclusively for the inhumation of infants who died around (perinate) or shortly after the time of birth (neonate). Thirty-two burial pits contained skeletal remains of 39 individuals, not only infants but also at least two adult females accompanied by perinates/neonates. Older children (> 3 years) were interred at a nearby cemetery that primarily comprised adults.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 2101 Archaeology
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Divisions: Natural Sciences & Psychology (closed 31 Aug 19)
Publisher: Springer Nature America, Inc
Date Deposited: 22 Mar 2019 09:38
Last Modified: 03 Sep 2021 23:41
DOI or ID number: 10.1007/s10437-018-9307-1
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/10215
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