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Jebel Moya, south-central Sudan

Brass, M. 2016. Reinterpreting chronology and society at the mortuary complex of Jebel Moya (Sudan). Oxford: Cambridge Monographs in African Archaeology 92, Archaeopress.

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The largest known pastoral cemetery in sub-Saharan Africa is found in the Jebel Moya massif, southcentral Sudan. It was excavated from 1911 to 1914 by Henry Wellcome and first published in 1949. With more than 3100 human burials, the site provides extraordinary scope for exploring the interaction of indigenous and external cultural traditions on the southern boundary of the Meroitic state. This research revises our understanding of Jebel Moya and its context. The few known archaeological localities of the southern Gezira and pre-Meroitic and Meroitic-era cemeteries are compared to elucidate the nature of pastoral social organisation at Jebel Moya.

After reviewing previous applications of social complexity theory to mortuary data within and outside of Africa, new questions are posed for the applicability of such theory to pastoral cemeteries. Reliable radiometric dating of Jebel Moya for the first time by luminescence dates is tied into an attributebased approach to discern three distinctive pottery assemblages. Three distinct phases of occupation are discerned, dating from (1) the early fifth millennium BC, (2) the mid-second to early first millennium BC, and (3) a mortuary phase from the first century BC into the sixth century AD. Analytically, new statistical and spatial analyses such as cross-pair correlation function and multi-dimensional scaling provide information on zones of interaction across the mortuary assemblages. Finally, an analysis of Meroitic and non-Meroitic mortuary locales from the central Sudan and Upper and Lower Nubia are examined to show how changing social, economic and power relations were conceptualised, and to highlight Jebel Moya’s potential to serve as a chronological and cultural reference point for future studies in south-central and southern Sudan.

I am greatly indebted to my former Ph.D supervisor at the Institute of Archaeology (University College London), Professor Kevin MacDonald, who first suggested Jebel Moya as a potential candidate for my doctoral research, which this study is the result of. Our discussions and meetings have always been lively and highly stimulating, and his guidance invaluable. I would also like to thank my secondary supervisors, Professors Andrew Bevan and Dorian Q. Fuller. Professor Bevan provided incalculable assistance and guidance with the spatial analyses, while Professor Fuller gave very graciously of his time to answer any questions I had about wider Sudanese archaeology.

The support of other colleagues in the Institute of Archaeology and the intellectual freedom offered by the Institute has been significant. The director, Professor Sue Hamilton, encouraged me to publish the luminescence dates on the Jebel Moya pottery. Professor David Wengrow and Dr Richard Bussmann were always available for queries, and provided the opportunity to speak to the British Association of Near East Archaeology 2015 conference hosted by the Institute.

Dr Neil Spencer and Dr Derek Welsby kindly provided access to the Jebel Moya collection at the British Museum, and Dr Welsby extended gracious invitations to present my research to The Sudan Archaeological Research Society in 2008 and 2015. Dr Marta Lahr kindly granted access to the records archived at the Duckworth Laboratory, University of Cambridge, while the Griffiths Institute (Oxford) provided access to their collection. I am indebted to Professors Azhari Sadig, Mike Parker Pearson, Andrea Manzo, and Dr Donatella Usai and my colleagues from many conferences and organisations, notably the annual African Archaeology Research Day in the UK, Later Prehistory of Northeastern Africa (LPNEA 2011 and 2015, Poznan, Poland) and the Society of Africanist Archaeologists. There are too many people to thank individually but you know who you are.

A very special thank you goes to my wife, Dr Isabelle Vella Gregory, for her unstinting support and for her invaluable discussions and input at vital stages of my research. Any mistakes which remain are my responsibility. Finally, my research would not have been possible without the generous financial support of the Wellcome Trust, for which I am very grateful.

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