Sites & cities that bear the name of Nabta Playa

Nabta Playa

Today in : Egypt
First trace of activity : ca. 7,500 B.C.E
Last trace of activity : ca. 3,600 B.C.E

Description : Nabta Playa was once a large internally drained basin in the Nubian Desert, located approximately 800 kilometers south of modern-day Cairo or about 100 kilometers west of Abu Simbel in southern Egypt, 22.51° north, 30.73° east. Today the region is characterized by numerous archaeological sites. The Nabta Playa archaeological site, one of the earliest of the Egyptian Neolithic Period, is dated to circa 7500 BC. Although today the western Egyptian desert is totally dry, this was not always the case. There is good evidence that there were several humid periods in the past (when up to 500 mm of rain would fall per year), the most recent one during the last interglacial and early last glaciation periods which stretched between 130,000 and 70,000 years ago. During this time, the area was a savanna and supported numerous animals such as extinct buffalo and large giraffes, varieties of antelope and gazelle. Beginning around the 10th millennium BCE, this region of the Nubian Desert began to receive more rainfall, filling a lake. Early people may have been attracted to the region due to the source of water. Archaeological findings may indicate human occupation in the region dating to at least somewhere around the 10th and 8th millennium BC. Fred Wendorf, the site's discoverer, and ethno-linguist Christopher Ehret have suggested that the people who occupied this region at that time were early pastoralists, or like the Saami practiced semi-pastoralism (although this is disputed by other sources because the cattle remains found at Nabta have been shown to be morphologically wild in several studies, and nearby Saharan sites such as Uan Afada in Libya were penning wild Barbary sheep, an animal that was never domesticated). The people of that time consumed and stored wild sorghum, and used ceramics adorned by complicated painted patterns created perhaps by using combs made from fish bone and which belong to a general pottery tradition strongly associated with the southern parts of the Sahara (e.g. of the Khartoum mesolithic and various contemporary sites in Chad) of that period. Analysis of human remains by Fred Wendorf and reported in "Holocene Settlement of the Egyptian Sahara", based on osteological data suggests a sub-Saharan African origin for the site's inhabitants, A dental and skeletal analyses by Joel D. Irish also tentatively suggests a mainly sub-Saharan African affinity and origin for Nabta Playa's inhabitants (with sub-Saharan tendencies most commonly detected), but also possible North African tendencies in some, concluding that, "Henneberg et al. suggest that the Nabta Playa people may have been most similar to Negroes from south of the Sahara. The present qualitative dental comparison tentatively supports this conclusion." Some researchers, including Christopher Ehret, have suggested a Nilo-Saharan linguistic affinity for the Nabta people. By the 7th millennium BC, exceedingly large and organized settlements were found in the region, relying on deep wells for sources of water. Huts were constructed in straight rows. Sustenance included fruit, legumes, millets, sorghum and tubers. Also in the late 7th millennium BC, but a little later than the time referred to above, imported goats and sheep, apparently from Western Asia, appear. Many large hearths also appear.

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