The archaeological activity of the last decade in Sudan has been centered on some large excavations and above all on general interventions that can be said of reconnaissance, rescue and restoration. Of the large surface that constitutes the Sudan, open to archaeological research is only the part north of Khartoum, in a traditional connection between Egyptian and Sudanese archeology. But a common feature of this last period of research is instead an accentuation of interest in indigenous aspects, even if seen in many cases as obviously linked to Egyptian influences. Of the two typically Sudanese cultures – that of Kerma and that of Meroitic – an attempt was made to understand the ways of development and the propulsive function within the framework of a African archeology potentially expanded with respect to the sites already known and studied. For the definition of these more precise identifications, the international congresses of Meroitic studies, which involved an ever increasing and varied number of scholars, were important, as well as excavations and prospecting (Toronto 1977; Berlin 1980; Rome 1984; Khartoum 1988 ; Berlin 1992; London 1996) and an exhibition of antiquities (from prehistoric times to the Islamization of the country) which took place in Brooklyn in 1978 and which brought together for the first time in a single setting testimonies that illuminated each other.
A brief review of the main excavation sites can highlight what is new. A whole group of localities located in the Khartoum region continued to shed light on the Neolithic period thanks to the Italians in Geili (al-Geylī) and Saggai (al-Saqqā’ī), the Poles in Kadero, the French and Sudanese in Šendī in Kadādā. A Swiss mission has resumed exploration work in Kerma, leaving the necropolis to test the remains of the town instead and to reconstruct the history of the duffufa, the grandiose raw brick monument of uncertain date and uncertain nature which is almost the symbol of the city and whose long history of reconstructions and changes has been recognized and its Templar function determined. If these splendid excavations have allowed us to see much more in the history of this center, a research on the Kerma culture in all its development by a French scholar (B. Gratien) has been invaluable as a point of support to evaluate, through the possibilities of appropriate comparisons, how wide the area of diffusion of this culture was: so much so that the suspicion may arise that Kerma is actually more the place where it completely manifests itself than the center of irradiation.
Meroitic antiquities are present in numerous necropolises scattered throughout the country (῾Abrī, Sedeinga, Kerma, Geili, etc.); but more interesting are the researches carried out in the cities, especially in Merōs and Nabata (Ǧebel al-Barkal). In the first, a Canadian mission excavated a series of temples and studied the succession of moments in the city’s history through a precise stratigraphy. The work is now being resumed by a joint Sudanese and German mission. In the complex of the royal pyramids of al-Băgrāwiyya, an energetic restoration has replaced fragments of reliefs in their place and reconstructed the ancient appearance of the monuments. In Nabata an Italian mission worked in the Meroitic area, identifying among other things a palace from the beginning of the Common Era which, although greatly destroyed,
The other particularly important moment in the archeology of the northern Sudan is the Christian one. The capital of a Christian kingdom in Dunqulā has long been explored by a Polish mission which has recently brought to light ecclesial buildings and has inserted the history of this center into that of the Christian archeology of Nubia. A new chapter in the research of this era has been opened by an English mission in Sōbā, on the White Nile, near Khartoum. This is the capital of that kingdom of Alodia archaeologically very little documented, and the excavations since their beginning (1981) have shown the possibility of results. It is a work that also has an exemplary importance because it allows you to connect in a chain archaeological researches that go deeper and deeper into Africa, moving from a more well-known to a less well-known area. To complement these construction site activities, a no less lively prospecting activity for regions less known up to now should be pointed out, which has identified numerous prehistoric remains, or crowded and various fields of graffiti (thus the French al Ǧebel Qarqūd). An Italian mission explored, in particular, the region around Kassalā, the delta of the river al-Qāš, identifying funerary and non-funerary structures, which on the one hand may be connected with Ethiopian antiquities, on the other hand have similarities with the culture Kerma. It is a new field which, too, leans on known elements, prospects for research in uncharted terrain. To these hints on the more recent Sudanese archaeological reality should be added the news about the accidental discoveries that have already occurred, which show an interesting spread towards the South of elements of Meroitic civilization: but they are still scattered and uncertain elements, and only a promise of future developments.