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The long-distance exchange of amazonite and increasing social complexity in the Sudanese Neolithic

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 October 2018

Andrea Zerboni*
Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra ‘A. Desio’, Università degli Studi di Milano, Via L. Mangiagalli 34, I-20133 Milano, Italy
Sandro Salvatori
Centro Studi Sudanesi e Sub-Sahariani, Via Canizzano, 128/D, 31100 Treviso, Italy
Pietro Vignola
C.N.R.-Istituto per la Dinamica dei Processi Ambientali, Via S. Botticelli 23, I-20133 Milano, Italy
Abd el Rahman Ali Mohammed
National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums, Khartoum, Sudan
Donatella Usai
Centro Studi Sudanesi e Sub-Sahariani, Via Canizzano, 128/D, 31100 Treviso, Italy Dipartimento di Scienze dell’Antichità, Sapienza Università di Roma, Via dei Volsci 122, I-00185 Roma, Italy
*Author for correspondence (Email:


The presence of exotic materials in funerary contexts in the Sudanese Nile Valley suggests increasing social complexity during the fifth and sixth millennia BC. Amazonite, both in artefact and raw material form, is frequently recovered from Neolithic Sudanese sites, yet its provenance remains unknown. Geochemical analyses of North and East African raw amazonite outcrops and artefacts found at the Neolithic cemetery of R12 in the Sudanese Nile Valley reveals southern Ethiopia as the source of the R12 amazonite. This research, along with data on different exotic materials from contemporaneous Sudanese cemeteries, suggests a previously unknown, long-distance North African exchange network and confirms the emergence of local craft specialisation as part of larger-scale developing social complexity.

© Antiquity Publications Ltd, 2018 

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