Upcoming DiverseNile Seminar Series: Carl Walsh about „Monsters in the Bed“

It’s almost June and the next DiverseNile Seminar Series is approaching. We are delighted that the next lecture will be given by Carl Walsh on June 6. The very promising title is: “Monsters in the Bed: Hybrid Furniture and Composite Creatures in Kerman Cross-Cultural Interactions”.

Carl is an archaeologists who has received his PhD in 2016 from the University College London. He is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Barnes Foundation, USA. He is an expert on the Kerma culture and has successfully placed Kerma and Nubia in his publications within wider theoretical and archaeological discussions of the eastern Mediterranean during the Bronze and Iron Ages.Carl kindly provided us with an abstract of his talk – this nicely illustrates why you really should not miss it!

The Kerma state in Upper Nubia (modern Sudan) was a major cultural, political, and economic power in northeast Africa, especially in its later phase during the Classic Kerma period (1700-1550 BCE). While originally viewed as an isolated periphery of Egypt, this kingdom is now understood as heavily interconnected with other Nile Valley and desert groups in northeast Africa—and perhaps even further afield in the Mediterranean and western Asia. This paper builds on recent approaches on Kerman cross cultural interactions through examining the evidence for Egyptian influences in furniture forms and styles during the Classic Kerma period. The distribution and forms of furniture—bedframes, beds, and stools—are examined across Kerma sites and periods and are argued to be indigenous Kerman status objects. At the start of the Classic Kerma period, however, new hybrid furniture types incorporated Egyptian furniture designs alongside fantastical imagery of composite creatures and fauna. The incorporation of these foreign styles and development of composite creatures is argued to be part of a concerted effort by the Kerman court to construct inter-regional identities through shared “international” visual vocabularies and courtly habitus. Diplomacy provided a social and embodied framework for these engagements, which connected different court and elite groups in a wider diplomatic system within northeastern Africa, the Mediterranean, and western Asia during the later second millennium BCE (Abstract by Carl Walsh).

Sudan Studies Conference Naples

First day back in the office after a fantastic few days in Naples for the 7th Sudan Studies Research conference.

The conference took place in the beautiful Palazzo Du Mesnil by the Naples sea front with some magnificent views. It was also a great opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues. Although this was tempered of course by the ongoing conflicts in Sudan. Despite this, the conference organisers decided to go ahead with the conference and you can read their statement here https://www.sudan-conference.com/post/april-2023-update. It was also made clear that the conference did not officially close and it is hoped that an online session can be held later in the year for Sudanese colleagues who could not present, hopefully under better circumstances.

The conference included a range of different papers covering a number of themes, including updates on recent fieldwork. I provided a short update on our most recent field season, as well as some of the work we have been doing with André Vila’s 1970s survey data (see previous blog posts about this here and earlier see also the earlier blog posts by Rennan Lemos and Veronica Hinterhuber).

And this was a great opportunity to discuss some of our ongoing work and research as part of the DiverseNile project. It was also great to be able to hear updates from other projects as well, which covered a range of different time periods from the Pleistocene to the modern day.

Distribution of sites identified in the region (and the MUAFS concession) during the 1970s survey directed by André Vila

The keynotes were also diverse in theme, but both extremely interesting with Dr Donatella Usai focusing on life in during the Holocene on the White Nile, providing fascinating insights on this early period in Sudan (you can read more about this research and the wide range of methods used here: https://doi.org/10.1080/0067270X.2019.1691846). Johannes Auenmüller gave the Friday keynote focusing in detail on the remains of a workshop at Amara West (this also included references to a new publication on resource management and metal production which is definitely worth a read: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2023.105766). This was also a useful reminder of the fantastic resources available through the Amara West ResearchSpace website (https://amara-west.researchspace.org/resource/rsp:Start), including a whole range of material and data such as all of the excavators notebooks.

As well as specific archaeological sites or periods in Sudanese history (and prehistory), a large number of presentations focused on material science and scientific analyses. This ranged from archaeobotanical evidence (for example Mohammed Nsreldein and Simone Riehl) to the study of ancient glass (Juliet Spedding). Abdelhadi Abdellatif Salih also gave a fascinating talk on teeth mutilation in Sudan, and was able to present his research live over zoom from Khartoum.

As well as archaeological research, a number of papers focused on more recent Sudanese society including Nadir A. Nasidi on the democratisation of Shari’ah in Sudan between 1983 and 2015, and Beau Stocker on the translation of musical rhythmic traditions in Sudan and South Sudan. Mahmoud A. Emam also presented on ethnoarchaeological approaches to the study of the use and role of amulets in ancient Sudan.

 A number of papers also addressed the importance of ongoing conservation and preservation, this included the Italian Mission at Jebel Barkal (presented by Francesca Iannarilli) who, in part, discussed restoration work on the Palace of Natakamani and future plans for the preservation of monuments in the area. A talk in the final session of the conference (delivered by Abdelrhman Fahmy) focused specifically on new developments in the protection of archaeological lime mortar.

The conference was nicely wrapped up with a visit to the National Archaeological Museum in Naples and their Egyptian and Roman galleries. I would like to take the opportunity to thank all of the organisers, Samantha Tipper, Sofia Kakembo, Elena D’Itria, Gilda Ferrandino, Francesco Rega, and Marco Baldi, for a fascinating and very well organised conference.

The ongoing situation in Sudan were of course raised by most speakers and attendees of the conference, with all hoping for a swift resolution to the conflicts. With the organisers stating in their opening address that they hoped this conference and research on the archaeology of Sudan would be taken as a sign of ongoing support.

On behalf of the DiverseNile project I would also like to extend our ongoing support to the people of Sudan at this time, and our hopes for democratic civilian rule in the country.