C-Group culture

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C-Group culture
C Group bowl.jpg
Bowl of the C-Group, Musée du Louvre
Regions with significant populations
Afroasiatic languages (Berber)
Related ethnic groups
A-Group, B-Group

The C-Group culture was an ancient civilization centered in Nubia, which existed from ca. 2400 BCE to ca. 1550 BCE.[1] It was named by George A. Reisner.[citation needed] With no central site and no written evidence about what these people called themselves, Reisner assigned the culture a letter.[citation needed] The C-Group arose after Reisner's A-Group and B-Group cultures, and around the time the Old Kingdom was ending in Ancient Egypt.[citation needed]


While today many scholars see A and B as actually being a continuation of the same group, C-Group is more distinct.[citation needed] The C-Group is marked by its distinctive pottery, and for its tombs.[citation needed] Early C-Group tombs consisted of a simple "stone circle" with the body buried in a depression in the centre.[citation needed] The tombs later became more elaborate with the bodies being placed in a stone lined chamber, and then the addition of an extra chamber on the east: for offerings.[citation needed]

The origins of the C-Group are still uncertain.[citation needed] Some scholars see it largely being evolved from the A/B-Group.[citation needed] Others think it more likely that the C-Group was brought by invaders or migrants that mingled with the local culture, with the C-Group perhaps originating in the then rapidly drying Sahara.[citation needed]

The C-Group were farmers and semi-nomadic herders keeping large numbers of cattle in an area that is today too arid for such herding.[citation needed] Originally they were believed to be a peaceful people due to the lack of weapons in tombs.[citation needed] Their settling around the forts built by the ancient Egyptians was seen as further evidence.[citation needed] Today some scholars argue the lack of weapons in tombs may have been cultural and that the forts might have been constructed by the Egyptians to control the C-Group peoples.[citation needed]

Most of what is known about the C-Group peoples comes from Lower Nubia, due to the extensive archaeological work conducted in that region.[citation needed] The northern border of the C-Group was around Kubaniek. The southern border is still uncertain, but C-Group sites have been found as far south as Eritrea.[citation needed]

During the Egyptian Sixth Dynasty, Lower Nubia is described of consisting of a number of small states, three of which are named: Setju, Wawat, and Irjet.[citation needed] At this same time in Upper Nubia the Kingdom of Kerma was emerging.[citation needed] The exact relation between the C-Group and Kerma are uncertain, but early Kerma shows definite similarities to the C-Group culture.[citation needed]

Under the Middle Kingdom much of the C-Group lands in Lower Nubia were conquered by Egypt; after the Egyptians left, Kerma expanded north controlling the region.[citation needed] With the conquest of Nubia by Egypt under Tuthmosis I in the late 16th century BCE, the C-Group disappears, merged, along with Kerma, into the Egyptianized Kush.[citation needed]

Dental trait analysis of C-Group fossils found that they were closely related to other Afroasiatic-speaking populations inhabiting Northeast Africa and the Maghreb. Among the ancient populations, the C-Group people were nearest to the ancient Egyptians (Naqada, Badari, Hierakonpolis, Abydos and Kharga in Upper Egypt; Hawara in Lower Egypt) and Pharaonic era skeletons excavated in Lower Nubia, followed by the A-Group culture bearers of Lower Nubia, the Kerma and Kush populations in Upper Nubia, the Meroitic, X-Group and Christian period inhabitants of Lower Nubia, and the Kellis population in the Dakhla Oasis. Among the recent groups, the C-Group makers were morphologically closest to the Shawia and Kabyle Berber populations of Algeria as well as Bedouin groups in Morocco, Libya and Tunisia, followed by other Afroasiatic-speaking populations in the Horn of Africa. The C-Group skeletons and these ancient and recent fossils were also phenotypically distinct from those belonging to recent Negroid populations in Sub-Saharan Africa.[2]


According to Peter Behrens (1981) and Marianne Bechaus-Gerst (2000), linguistic evidence indicates that the C-Group peoples spoke Afro-Asiatic languages of the Berber branch.[3][4] The Nilo-Saharan Nobiin language today contains a number of key pastoralism related loanwords that are of Berber origin, including the terms for sheep and water (e.g., Nile). This in turn suggests that the C-Group population — which, along with the Kerma Culture, inhabited the Nile Valley immediately before the arrival of the first Nubian speakers — spoke Afro-Asiatic languages.[3]


  1. ^ "Ancient Nubia: C-Group–Pan Grave–Kerma 2400–1550 BC". The Oriental Institute. Retrieved 1 July 2016. 
  2. ^ Haddow, Scott Donald. "Dental Morphological Analysis of Roman Era Burials from the Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt" (PDF). Institute of Archaeology, University College London. Retrieved 2 June 2017. 
  3. ^ a b Marianne Bechaus-Gerst, Roger Blench, Kevin MacDonald (ed.) (2014). The Origins and Development of African Livestock: Archaeology, Genetics, Linguistics and Ethnography - "Linguistic evidence for the prehistory of livestock in Sudan" (2000). Routledge. p. 453. ISBN 1135434166. Retrieved 15 September 2014. 
  4. ^ Behrens, Peter (1986). Libya Antiqua: Report and Papers of the Symposium Organized by Unesco in Paris, 16 to 18 January 1984 - "Language and migrations of the early Saharan cattle herders: the formation of the Berber branch". Unesco. p. 30. ISBN 9231023764. Retrieved 14 September 2014. 


  • Oliver, Roland (1978). The Cambridge history of Africa. Vol. 2, From c. 500 BC to AD 1050. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 858 Pages. ISBN 0-521-21592-7.