What is it about?

Tens of thousands of stone tumuli and early Islamic monumental tombs, as old as two thousand years, are the most prominent feature of the archaeological landscape of Eastern Sudan. This paper examines their spatial organization, discovering two different levels of influences. One is geological opportunism, meaning that the monuments are only found in correspondence of rocky outcrops and topographic features that were favourable for construction. The second is the societal structure of the Beja community that has resided in the region for the past two thousand years, whose traditions led to the creation of large groups of tombs whose geometric characteristics resemble clusters of stars and galaxies.

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Why is it important?

Our findings give a glimpse of the incredible archaeological richness of an often overlooked African region, as well as showcasing the potential of using statistical analyses to tackle complex archaeological questions.


Writing this article was a journey that started hands-on in the Sudanese savanna with the local communities, whose oral tradition and knowledge of the territory were fundamental for the success of this work. We hope for this publication to be the starting point of an institutional process of valorization of the regional archaeology, worthy in our opinion to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Stefano Costanzo

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This page is a summary of: Creating the funerary landscape of Eastern Sudan, PLoS ONE, July 2021, PLOS, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0253511.
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