Pan-grave faunal practices – Ritual deposits at five cemeteries in Lower Nubia


en Anthropozoologica 48 (2) - Pages 287-297

Published on 27 December 2013

This article is a part of the thematic issue Animals in Funerary space

Middle Nubian Horizon faunal material has rarely been the main focus of study, both in relation to the daily consumption of animals as well as the symbolic and ritualised use of fauna in a burial context. Owing to the excavation history of the area, the data available in the archaeological literature is often based on other sources than actual excavated faunal material. This article presents an interpretation based on an analysis of five Pan-grave cemeteries excavated by the Scandinavian Joint Expedition to Sudanese Nubia (SJE) in 1961-64, focusing on the large SJE 47 cemetery. The results reveal a consistent tradition of faunal deposit practices and the existence of two distinct types of deposits varying in both context and content. The most characteristic evidence is the large number of cut and painted skulls of goat (Capra hircus), sheep (Ovis aries) and cattle (Bos taurus), deposited in circular ditches around the graves. Through the use of ethnographic analogies and an in-depth analysis of these Pan-grave faunal remains the aim is to position this evidence in a wider context of ritual practices and cultural consumption.


Pan-grave, ritual practices, Nubia, faunal remains, painted skulls.

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