El Khandaq is a town in northern Sudan on the River Nile. It is the site of an important fortress with beginnings dating to the Christian Period. During the 19th Century (Turkiyya) the town expanded much beyond the fortress to become one of the places with something like urban institutions in Northern Sudan, although it is now largely depopulated.

Al-Khandaq town:

It seems that the town of al-Khandaq was built over a big cemetery. The graves are every where, inside the inhabited houses, along the roads, beside the graveyards, vaulted roof burials, group burials (Toskiya- local term) and beneath limestone hills (concealed). The qubbas (domed tombs) and shrines of sheikhs are numerous within Khandaq and to its north. - the fort or “Gaila Qaila: dominates the town, its south western tower is visible from the north and the south. While its western wall with the remains of south western and middle tower dominates the area from the west. Its remains are still there but are in bad need for urgent support specially the towers. Its northern wall which extends east-west doesn’t exist and at the eastern end is cut by animals and people walk way. It seems that most of its stones have been used to build the police station early 20th century and later, some of the houses. What adds more to its destruction is the presence of fertilizers inside the fort where people came and dig. The pottery shards from the surface go back to the Christian and Islamic period. The town as once a famous river port was the residence place of wealthy merchants, as their houses show. There are two storyes houses of mud brick with many rooms and one story houses; they had been deserted since early 70ths when the trade traffic declined and merchants moved to Khartoum and Omdurman.

Khandaq Position

Ethnographic observations and Females crafts

The females of al Khandaq were famous for making objects out of palm leaves and wheat stalks. These ranges from food lid or cover “tabaq’ to baskets used as food container or for food carrying, roof hanging device to keep food fresh, mats etc. Females also prepare hearths or stands out of lime mixed with animal dung. The extraction of lime was once one of their jobs to use for flooring and making of hearths. An ethnographic observation of a female oven maker was carried as remains of ovens were observed in the deserted houses and are still used by some families.

Public building:

The police station, established 1902 is still there but the post office and the customs point do no longer exist. The remains of the old butchery are still visible to the north of the boys’ elementary school. The indigo factory is represented by large granite stones and traces of the basins but the main area has been used for cultivation. The rest house which has been established 1905 overlooking the river from its high position is standing but needs urgent restoration.

Principal investigator

Intisar Soghayroun Elzein, project director, Dept. of Archaeology, University of Khartoum.
Azhari Mustafa Sadig:- field director Pre- and proto-historic archaeology, Dept. of Archaeology, University of Khartoum
Isabella Welsby Sjöström :- field director medieval and post-medieval archaeology
Sana M.A. al-Batel: field director: Folklore and social studies, Sudan Academy for Science.
Yahia Fadl Tahir Field director: Ecology and Environment, Dept. of Archaeology University of Khartoum


Prof. Ali Osman M. Salih. Dept. of Archaeology University of Khartoum
Howaida M. Adam. Dept. of Archaeology University of Khartoum
Ahmed Husein Abd el Rahman. Dept. of Archaeology University of Khartoum
Abd el Rahman M. Saeed. Dept. of Archaeology University of Khartoum
Husna Taha M. Al Ata. Dept. of Archaeology University of Khartoum

Team 2007
The Team, Al Khandaq 2007