Post-Meroitic (‘X-Group’) sites, c.300-550CE

A first assessment of the archaeology of the post-Meroitic (‘X-Group’) period between Gemai and Dal suggest that occupation is most evident in the later post-Meroitic period (late fifth-sixth century). In the ASSN survey area, at least 68 cemeteries were located along with c.20 settlements, many in areas previously not occupied, and most continuing to be occupied into the early medieval (Christian) period. 

There seems to have been a marked expansion of settlement in this inhospitable region around the mid-first millennium CE, a region where Meroitic occupation had been quite limited. The few locations with a more long-standing Meroitic presence do not seem to have survived as major centres, and we see a more fundamental restructuring of settlement landscapes. With relatively little evidence for significant settlement south of Murshid-Gemai prior to the sixth century, a few sites (e.g. Firka and Kosha) may have been in use in the fifth century, with other local elites buried beneath large tumuli, as was the case in Lower Nubia and further south.

The changing character of settlement is evident both in the lack of direct continuity in the occupation of settlements and  the use of cemeteries (if with some notable exceptions). Most ‘X-Group’ settlements lack the more substantial and regular mudbrick architecture encountered in Meroitic settlements in the north. If most Meroitic sites seemed likely to have been planned (state-supported?) foundations, we see would seem to be seeing a more organic process of small agricultural settlements colonizing suitable locations, with what generally remained small farming communities now able to use the saqia waterwheel.

Most of the pottery used in the region (known mainly from burials) is of well-known mass-produced ‘X-Group’ types. At some sites however, there are finds of more crudely manufactured handmade wares, presumably made locally.

‘X-Group’ pottery from 21-N-5 at Ukma West, a cemetery with c.37 post-Meroitic graves and more than 290 medieval (Christian) graves.