Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Cemetery Dates to Time Before Noah

Alice C. Linsley

The oldest known cemetery in the Sahara dates to 7500 B.C., about 4000 years before biblical Noah. The material evidence indicates a settled population at the edge of a very large lake or trough, possibly Lake Mega-Chad  which connected to the Benue Trough.

According to a recent report, "The burial density, tool kit, ceramics, and midden fauna suggest a largely sedentary population with a subsistence economy based on fishing and on hunting of a range of savanna vertebrates."

The initial discovery was made by National Geographic photographer Mike Hettwer in 2000, and the excavation work was led by University of Chicago archaeologist, Paul C. Sereno.

Gobero skeleton measures 6 feet
Photo (c) Mike Hettwer, courtesy Project Exploration

Noah lived around 2500 B.C. in the region of Lake Chad which was at that time a much larger lake.  About 7500 B.C., at the time that this graveyard was used, Lake Chad had an area of about 249,000 miles.  It is likely that the graveyard that Paul Sereno uncovered was originally at the edge of Lake Mega-Chad.

Bor'No, in the Chad Basin, means "Land of Noah." This is the only place on the surface of the Earth that claims to be the biblical Noah's homeland. On the map above, the city of Kano (Cain) is shown to the southwest of Lake Chad. Directly south of Kano is Nok (not shown on map), named after Cain and Seth's father-in-law, Nok (Enoch). Cain and Seth married daughters of Nok. This is evident because the brides named their first-born sons after their father Nok/Enoch, according to the bride's naming prerogative.

Paul C. Sereno, known for his discovery of about 10 species of dinosaurs, has been studying the 200 human burials at the Gobero site, on the edge of a paleolake in Niger, on the rim of the Chad Basin. These provide a record of human occupation in this area from 8000 B.C. to about 2500 B.C., and yield tools, pollen, and other finds that help reconstruct a picture of how people lived. The oldest burials, dating to about 7500 B.C., represent the earliest cemetery in the Sahara.

Sereno has once again made a name for himself. He has what is now the largest collection of Early to Mid-Holocene bones ever discovered at a single site in Africa. When I asked him about the frequency of triple burials such as that shown in the photo to the right, Sereno replied that "There is only one triple burial, and only one ever found like this."

Sereno reports that "It is a woman and 2 children of 5 and 8 years."

According to Sereno, the Early Holocene people left when it became arid, but the area was repopulated by a taller people around 4600 B.C. when humid conditions returned.  There is no doubt that the residents of this area experienced flooding as the region was much wetter than today. There was flooding on and off over a long period, likely caused by monsoons moving into West Central Africa from the Indian Ocean. Wet conditions prevailed from 7700-6200 (phase 2). Sereno states, "The darkened bone color of all human skeletons in phase 2 burials is indicative of sustained inundation." (Read about Sereno's findings here and here.)

Another wet period corresponds to the time that Noah would have lived in the region of Lake Chad, between 3000 and 2000 B.C.


Anonymous said...

This is certainly an interesting photo. I assummed that the photo whas of a man, woman, and child grasping each other. I noticed that the long bone of the femur was twice that of the person in the middle, could this have been a giant? Lisa

Alice C. Linsley said...

Not a giant, Lisa. A woman, perhpas the mother of the young children beside her.

An 8000 year old dug out canoe(for average to small persons) was discovered in this area. You can read about that here: