The X Group or Ballana Culture
..."Archaeologically, the post-Meroitic dark age in Lower Nubia
is filled by the cultural remains which Reisner designated sixty years
ago as the "X Group". ...
..."As always, Reisner interpreted the unfamiliar "X Group"
grave type as evidence of the coming of a new people... The cultural
theories of Reisner found instant confirmation in the anatomical evidence
of the X-Group skeletons as adduced by Elliot Smith: "The X Group
people were strongly Negroid aliens who had suddenly made their way
north into Nubia, bringing with them a mode of burial and type of pottery
which Dr Reisner has declared to be distinctly non-Egyptian..."
"It seemed, in sum, that a new group of southern barbarians had
taken possession of the whole of Lower Nubia, displacing Romans and
..."Modern anthropological research has not confirmed the theory
of "X Group" racial distinctness
vis-à-vis the preceding Meroitic population in Lower Nubia"....
..."Given the present state of our knowledge, the continued
use of the non-committal and misleading 'X-Group' designation seems
unjustified. The name 'Ballana Culture', proposed several years ago
by Trigger, is manifestly preferable... It identifies a particular
stage of Nubian cultural development with its principal monumental expression,
and provides a name which instantly enables us to differentiate between
the culture of Lower Nubia and the related but in some ways distinct
post-Meroitic culture of the steppelands, which is designated by Trigger
as the Tanqasi Culture...
"If the archaeological remains of the Meroitic and Ballana phases
point unmistakably to cultural and social continuity, there nevertheless
remain important differences between them which must be explained. In
the cultural sphere we have to account for the disappearance of many
of the higher art which had long been characteristic of Kushite civilization,
and at the same time for the revival of burial rites which seem to hark
all the way back to pre-pharaonic Kerma. In the political sphere we
have to recognize the appearance of a new, independent monarchy in Lower
Nubia which nevertheless represents the last, barbarized manifestation
of the pharaonic tradition. To further complicate the picture we have
a fairly considerable number of late classical texts which make no mention
of Meroe or Meroites, but allude repeatedly to two seemingly new peoples,
the Blemmyes and Nobatae. Finally, we have possible evidence of linguistic
discontinuity between the Meroitic and Post-Meroitic periods which cannot
"Remains of the Ballana Culture have been found from Shellal in
the North to Sesebi, in the Abri-Delgo Reach, in the South... Ballana
sites-both villages and cemeteries- are notably smaller and more dispersed
than are those of the Meroitic period...."
"The typical Ballana tumulus was from 12 to 40 feet in diameter,
and might rise to a maximum height of 15 feet... The tumuli of kings
and nobles could reach far larger proportions. In the ordinary tombs
there was no adjoining offering chamber or surface decoration of the
earth mound. As in the Meroitic period, many graves seem to have lacked
any kind of superstructure; in some places there are whole cemeteries
without any tumuli. In their subterranean arrangements, the Ballana
graves show the same variety of chamber types as do Meroitic graves.
Although cave graves are rare, the basic two-fold division between vaulted
chamber-tombs and niche graves, and the further division of the latter
into end-niche and side-niche types, persists throughout the Ballana
period. However, the relative proportions of the two main types are
reversed: simple niche graves are much more common than are vaulted
tombs in the Post-Meroitic period. A further innovation may be seen in
the re-introduction of the contracted burial posture, and of the southward
orientation of the body in place of the traditional westward orientation
of Meroitic times. The great majority of contracted burials are found
in niche-graves; they may represent nothing more than a natural adaptation
to this rather constricted type of grave chamber. The bodies in chamber-tombs
are most often extended on the back, as in Meroitic times. The practise
of wrapping the dead in a shroud remained usual throughout the Ballana
period. The funerary offerings in Ballana graves are of the same general
types as are found in Meroitic graves, but are considerably reduced
in number and variety. Quantities of cheap, locally made pottery are
the most common grave furnishings. Other objects, except beads, are
rare, and imported goods exceptionally so. Weapons of one kind and another
are found in a good many cases; they include iron spear and arrow heads,
leather quivers of a striking and elaborate design, leather bowguards,
and archers' stone rings..."
"The absence of monumental architecture is one of the most distinctive
and surprising features of the Ballana period. Not only was there no
further building in stone, but the older temples and/or palaces which
had been built at Gebel Adda and at Meinarti in late Meroitic times
were deliberately destroyed. This seems to have been a matter of policy
rather than an accident of war..."
"What little we know of everyday life in Ballana times comes chiefly
from the remains of a few towns and villages which were founded in Meroitic
times but continued to be occupied later... At none of these places
was there any significant break in the continuity of social and cultural
development between Meroitic and post-Meroitic times..."
"...One of the few Nubian manufactures which seems to have flourished
widely in the Ballana period was the pottery-making. It shows, however,
an almost complete break with the traditions of Meroitic times, and
the final disappearance of any vestige of ancient Egyptian influence.
The lack of correspondence between Meroitic and X Group pottery was
one of the factors long regarded as evidence for an "X Group"
invasion..." "...Ballana pottery is so closely similar to
that of Byzantine Egypt, and so different from its Meroitic predecessor...."
"Pottery vessels seem to have been the only luxury goods which
were enjoyed in any quantity by the Ballana people. They are found in
enormous numbers not only in the graves, but even abandoned on the floors
"Iron was certainly another industry of the Ballana period, although
it is by no means abundant either in houses or in graves"....."
Another industry of Ballana times which is attested by a few chance
finds is that of basket-making..."
"Most of the other manufactured goods which are sometimes found
in Ballana graves are the same as, or closely similar to, those of the
Meroitic period, and many of them appear to have been imported..."
" Throughout most of Nubia, archaeological remains of the Ballana
culture give the impression of a decentralized agrarian society, poorer
but more self-sufficient than the society of Meroitic times. Although
differences of wealth are perceptible from family to family and from
village to village, there is no conspicuously differentiated middle