A-Group culture

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The A-Group culture was an ancient civilization that flourished between the First and Second Cataracts of the Nile in Nubia. It lasted from c. 3800 BC to c. 3100 BC.[1]


Vessels of the A-Group, Musée du Louvre.

In 1907, the Egyptologist George A. Reisner first discovered artifacts belonging to the A-Group culture.[2] Early hubs of this civilization included Kubaniyya in the north and Buhen in the south, with Aswan, Sayala, Toshka and Qustul in between.[1]

The A-Group makers maintained commercial ties with the Ancient Egyptians. They traded commodities like incense, ebony and ivory, which were gathered from the southern riverine area. They also bartered carnelian from the Western Desert as well as gold mined from the Eastern Desert in exchange for Egyptian products, olive oil and other items from the Mediterranean basin.[1]

A-Group incense burner found at Qustul

Excavations at an A-Group cemetery in Qustul yielded an old incense burner, which was adorned with Ancient Egyptian royal iconography. However, further research established the antecedence of the predynastic Egyptian regalia:

The earliest known examples of Egyptian royal iconography, such as, e.g., the representation of the Red Crown on a late Naqada I (c. 3500 BC) pottery vessel from Abydos or the triumphal scenes in the painting from Hierakonpolis Tomb 100 (c. 3400-3300 BC) are much older than the Qustul censer. It seems thus that it was the Qustul rulers who adopted symbols of royal authority developed in Egypt and not vice versa.[3]

Decorated bowl of the A-Group, Musée du Louvre.

The A-Group makers left behind a number of cemeteries, with each necropolis containing around fifty graves. Most of what is known about this culture has been gleaned from these tombs, over 3,000 of which have been excavated. The burials are of two kinds: a more common oval pit, and a similar pit featuring a lateral funerary niche. Skeletons found within these graves were observed to be physically akin to their peers in Upper Egypt. The specimens typically had straight hair of a black or dark brown hue. On average, the men were 169.9 cm in height and the women stood around 155.5 cm. Some individuals were wrapped in leather and positioned on reed mats. All of the tombs contained various burial items, including personal ornaments, utensils and ceramics.[4] The A-Group culture came to an end around 3100 BC, when it was destroyed, apparently by the First Dynasty rulers of Egypt.[1]

Dental trait analysis of A-Group fossils found that they were closely related to Afroasiatic-speaking populations inhabiting Northeast Africa and the Maghreb. Among the ancient populations, the A-Group people were nearest to the Kerma culture bearers and Kush populations in Upper Nubia, followed by the Meroitic, X-Group and Christian period inhabitants of Lower Nubia and the Kellis population in the Dakhla Oasis, as well as C-Group and Pharaonic era skeletons excavated in Lower Nubia and ancient Egyptians (Naqada, Badari, Hierakonpolis, Abydos and Kharga in Upper Egypt; Hawara in Lower Egypt). Among the recent groups, the A-Group makers were morphologically closest to Afroasiatic-speaking populations in the Horn of Africa, followed by the Shawia and Kabyle Berber populations of Algeria as well as Bedouin groups in Morocco, Libya and Tunisia. The A-Group's dental morphology has been found to be phenotypically distinct from those belonging to recent Negroid populations in Sub-Saharan Africa.[5]

B-Group culture[edit]

Reisner originally identified a B-Group culture, however this theory became obsolete when H.S. Smith demonstrated that the "B-Group" was an impoverished manifestation of the A-Group culture.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d "Ancient Nubia: A-Group 3800–3100 BC". The Oriental Institute. Retrieved 1 July 2016.
  2. ^ Shinnie, Peter L. (2013). Ancient Nubia. Routledge. p. 43. ISBN 1136164650. Retrieved 30 June 2016.
  3. ^ Török, László. Between Two Worlds : The Frontier Region Between Ancient Nubia and Egypt, 3700 BC-AD 500. In Probleme Der Ägyptologie. Leiden: Brill. 2009. ISBN 9789004171978
  4. ^ Shinnie, Peter L. (2013). Ancient Nubia. Routledge. p. 50. ISBN 1136164650. Retrieved 30 June 2016.
  5. ^ Haddow, Scott Donald. "Dental Morphological Analysis of Roman Era Burials from the Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt". Institute of Archaeology, University College London. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  6. ^ H.S. Smith, The Nubian B-Group, in: Kush 14,1966: pp. 69-124.

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