Cemetery 117

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Cemetery 117 (also Site 117) is an ancient cemetery discovered in 1964 by a team led by Fred Wendorf near the northern border of Sudan. The remains discovered there have been determined to be between 13,140 to 14,340 years old.

The original project that discovered the cemetery was the UNESCO High Dam Salvage Project.[1] This salvage dig project was a direct response to the raising of the Aswan Dam which stood to destroy or damage many sites along its path. The site is often cited as the oldest known evidence of warfare.[2]

The site comprises three cemeteries, two of which are called Jebel Sahaba, one on either side of the Nile river and the third cemetery being called Tushka.

59 bodies were recovered at Cemetery 117, as well as numerous other fragmented remains. There were twenty-four females and nineteen males over nineteen years of age, as well as thirteen children ranging in age from infancy to fifteen years old. Three additional bodies were also discovered, but their age and sex could not be determined due to damage and missing pieces. The skeletons were dated using radiocarbon dating and were found to have been approximately 13,140 to 14,340 years old.[3] Of the people buried in Jebel Sahaba, about forty percent died of violent wounds. Pointed stone projectiles were found in their bodies at places that suggest the bodies had been attacked by spears or arrows. The wounds were located around the sternum, abdomen, back, and skull (through the lower jaw or neck). The lack of bony calluses, a natural result of healing around these types of wounds, indicates that the attacks were most likely fatal.[citation needed]

The bodies and any other artifacts recovered by the UNESCO High Dam Salvage Project were donated by Fred Wendorf to the British Museum in 2002.[4] This collection includes skeletal and fauna remains, lithics, pottery, and environmental samples as well as the full archive of Wendorf's notes, slides, and other material during the dig.

See also[edit]


  • F. Wendorf, 'Site 117: A Nubian Final Paleolithic Graveyard near Jebel Sahaba, Sudan'. In: F. Wendorf, Editor, The Prehistory of Nubia, Southern Methodist University, Dallas (1968), pp. 954–987.