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African Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Khormusan Industry (Late Palaeolithic) (Egypt)
c.40,000 - 16,000 BC

Tool-making from Africa's fading Aterian culture reached ancient Egypt around 40,000 BC, generating the Khormusan industry. A start date for this industry is still somewhat negotiable though, being anywhere between 40,000 BC and 30,000 BC, a span of ten thousand years.

The people of this culture developed advanced tools not only from stone but also from animal bones and hematite. With these they were able to hunt and fish along the banks of the Nile. They also developed small arrowheads which resembled those of Native Americans, even though no bows have been found in Khormusan deposits.

Excavations along the Nile have produced a series of discoveries which hint at temporary occupation over time by a number of groups from a number of different directions, and not just within Africa. One of these was Abbevillian - formerly known as Chellean - a culture of Homo Neanderthalis in Europe.

FeatureAnother was Acheulean, both primitive and developed, with this being an even older culture of Homo ergaster and Homo Heidelbergensis, while there also exist signs of an Egyptian form of the Clactonian, another Homo Heidelbergensis culture. All of these cultures show constant habitation of the region even by early humans (see feature link for more on H Heidelbergensis and early human chronology). All of these show constant habitation of the region even by early humans.

All of these primitive cultures, of course, predate the Aterian. The Khormusan itself stretched down the Nile and into what is now Sudan (formerly regions of Nubia). It was originally though to be an Upper Palaeolithic culture, but later revisions brought it down into the Middle Palaeolithic and then into the later period.

The end of the Khormusan industry came around 16,000 BC with the appearance of other cultures in the region, including the Gemaian. The Sebilian culture more directly replaced it though, via the Halfan in-between, although it added little to the extant tool technology which, during its course, had become more refined and specialised by practitioners along the Nile Valley.

Halfan tools

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from External Links: Stone Age Toolmakers Surprisingly Sophisticated (Science), and Palaeolithic Egypt (formerly provided by Minnesota State University but now only available via the Way Back Machine internet archive), and The Khormusan: an Upper Pleistocene industry in Sudanese Nubia (eHRAF Archaeology).)

c.30,000 BC

Just as the Aterian is fading, the Late Palaeolithic begins in Egypt around this time. The Nazlet Khater skeleton is unearthed in 1980 from the banks of the Nile. Two years later it is dated from nine samples which range between 35,100-30,360 years. This specimen is the only complete modern human skeleton from the earliest Late Stone Age period in Africa.

Sahara Desert
The Sahara has undergone a gradual transition from sweeping grassland to dessicated sand on more than one occasion, notably around 30,000 BC (and again around 2000 BC)

Some of the oldest-known buildings are discovered in Egypt by the archaeologist, Waldemar Chmielewski. They are located along the southern border near Wadi Halfa. These are mobile structures which are easily disassembled, moved, and reassembled by hunter-gatherers.

FeatureThe background to this period is one of the rolling grasslands of the Sahara which contain abundant vegetation and food, but which is fading. The climate is beginning to dry up, the rolling grasslands have started receding, and the food supplies have begun to vanish (see feature link for more on a later repetition of the same grassland-to-sand process).

c.16,000 BC

Thanks to the Sahara's cycle of grass-to-sand, humans in this region have been forced to make their way to the Nile Valley with its readily available water, game, and arable land. Over the course of about two thousand years Africa's Khormusan fades into the intermediate Halfan culture.

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