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      Creating the funerary landscape of Eastern Sudan

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          Abstract

          Funerary landscapes are eminent results of the relationship between environments and superstructural human behavior, spanning over wide territories and growing over centuries. The comprehension of such cultural palimpsests needs substantial research efforts in the field of human ecology. The funerary landscape of the semi-arid region of Kassala (Eastern Sudan) represents a solid example. Therein, geoarchaeological surveys and the creation of a desk-based dataset of thousands of diachronic funerary monuments (from early tumuli up to modern Beja people islamic tombs) were achieved by means of fieldwork and remote sensing over an area of ∼4100 km 2. The wealth of generated information was employed to decipher the spatial arrangement of sites and monuments using Point Pattern Analysis. The enormous number of monuments and their spatial distribution are here successfully explained using, for the first time in archaeology, the Neyman-Scott Cluster Process, hitherto designed for cosmology. Our study highlights the existence of a built funerary landscape with galaxy-like aggregations of monuments driven by multiple layers of societal behavior. We suggest that the distribution of monuments was controlled by a synthesis of opportunistic geological constraints and cultural superstructure, conditioned by the social memory of the Beja people who have inhabited the region for two thousand years and still cherish the ancient tombs as their own kin’s.

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Role: ConceptualizationRole: Data curationRole: InvestigationRole: VisualizationRole: Writing – original draft
                Role: ConceptualizationRole: Data curationRole: Formal analysisRole: MethodologyRole: SoftwareRole: VisualizationRole: Writing – original draft
                Role: Investigation
                Role: Funding acquisitionRole: SupervisionRole: Writing – original draft
                Role: Funding acquisitionRole: InvestigationRole: ResourcesRole: Supervision
                Role: Editor
                Journal
                PLoS One
                PLoS One
                plos
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, CA USA )
                1932-6203
                7 July 2021
                2021
                : 16
                : 7
                Affiliations
                [1 ] Dipartimento Asia, Africa e Mediterraneo, Università degli Studi di Napoli "L’Orientale", Napoli, Italy
                [2 ] McCord Centre for Landscape - School of History, Classics and Archaeology, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom
                [3 ] NCAM—National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums, Khartoum, Sudan
                [4 ] Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra ‘A. Desio’, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milano, Italy
                New York University, UNITED STATES
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Article
                PONE-D-21-07238
                10.1371/journal.pone.0253511
                8262793
                34232956
                e055a2cf-6190-458e-bdc2-4eab294ea6cb
                © 2021 Costanzo et al

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Page count
                Figures: 10, Tables: 3, Pages: 24
                Product
                Funding
                Funded by: ISMEO
                Award Recipient :
                Funded by: Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation
                Award Recipient :
                Funded by: Italian Ministry of Education, University, and Research
                Award ID: Dipartimenti di Eccellenza 2018–2022 - WP4—Risorse del Patrimonio Culturale
                Award Recipient :
                Funded by: Regional Government of the Kassala State, Sudan
                Award Recipient :
                Funded by: University of Naples "L'Orientale"
                Award Recipient :
                This research was made possible through the support of the fundings awarded to the Italian Archaeological Expedition to the Eastern Sudan (IAEES) by the University of Naples “L’Orientale”, the ISMEO — Associazione Internazionale di Studi sul Mediterraneo e l’Oriente, and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. The IAEES is also supported by the Regional Government of the Kassala State, Sudan. Additional financial support was provided by Italian Ministry of Education, University, and Research through the project 'Dipartimenti di Eccellenza 2018-2022’ (WP4 — Risorse del Patrimonio Culturale), awarded to the Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra ‘A. Desio’ (University of Milan, Italy). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Categories
                Research Article
                Social Sciences
                Archaeology
                Earth Sciences
                Geology
                Metamorphic Geology
                Social Sciences
                Sociology
                Culture
                People and Places
                Geographical Locations
                Africa
                Sudan
                People and Places
                Population Groupings
                Religious Faiths
                Islam
                Computer and Information Sciences
                Geoinformatics
                Geographic Information Systems
                Earth Sciences
                Geography
                Geoinformatics
                Geographic Information Systems
                Earth Sciences
                Geomorphology
                Topography
                Landforms
                Valleys
                Biology and Life Sciences
                Ecology
                Ecosystems
                Deserts
                Ecology and Environmental Sciences
                Ecology
                Ecosystems
                Deserts
                Ecology and Environmental Sciences
                Terrestrial Environments
                Deserts
                Custom metadata
                This new DOI represents all accessible versions of our R script code, and will always resolve to the latest one. The latest and definitive version, ready for the upload, was validated during the last stage of the peer reviewing process. It already has a reserved DOI ( https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4384806) and will contain the references to the main PLOS publication R script Code and dataset: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4384806.

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