A Middle Kerma Period burial in Ginis East

While our PostDoc Hassan Aglan is busy with finalising the documentation from our excavation in 2023 in Kerma cemetery GiE 003, I went back to some tombs we excavated there already in 2022. Today, I would like to present a very interesting burial which is characteristic for the Middle Kerma Period (see Budka 2022).

Feature 26 during excavation in 2022 (photo: M. Bergner, © DiverseNile)

Feature 26 in Trench 2 is a representative circular pit of the Middle Kerma period with typical dimensions (2.4m in diameter). Like the other structures in GiE 003, this grave was also looted. Nevertheless, some interesting finds were found: human and animal bones; pottery; a wooden fragment; a snail which is pierced and functioned as a pendant; a pebble pendant; 86 small sandstone disc beads; 10 small faience disc beads (blue); 1 large flat disc bead made of shell/bone; 1 small green faience disc bead and one copper dagger.

The charming pendant made from a pierced snail (photo: R. Lemos, © DiverseNile)

Feature 26 is the only burial in Trench 2 which yielded some personal adornments (a beautiful snail pendant and a pebble pendant, both of Nubian tradition) as well as grave goods like a dagger and two animal offerings in situ. That various materials were used for beads in diverse sizes in this tomb is also remarkable.

Various beads from Feature 26 in different materials (photo: R. Lemos, © DiverseNile)

The dagger is especially significant – unfortunately, MUAFS 027 is a broken piece (12.2 cm in lenght), decorated with four lines stemming from the tip until the bottom, forming a triangular pattern.

Broken dagger from Feature 26 (photo: R. Lemos, © DiverseNile)

Copper daggers are well attested from funerary contexts in Kerma city and are probably associated with ceremonial use. Following Andrea Manzo (2016), this dagger can be interpreted as an indicator of elite status and Kerma identity (see also Walsh 2022).

However, one of the ceramic vessels from Feature 26, 363-3/2022, a small black topped bowl with irregular incised decoration is slightly unusual but has parallels in both the Kerma tradition and the Pan-Grave horizon (de Souza 2019, 214, fig. 19a).

While most of the ceramics found in Feature 26 are typical for Middle Kerma burials, this vessel maybe also links to the Pan-Grave horizon and illustrates the cultural diversity attested in GiE 003.

This might illustrate cultural encounters between various Nubian groups in the region. Considering the discovery of Feature 50 in Trench 5 in 2023, this is now especially likely.

Similar to Feature 50, two almost complete animal skeletons were found in Feature 26. They were carefully excavated by our inspector Huda Magzoub and appear to be goat/sheep, but this needs to be confirmed by zooarchaeological analysis. At the Kerma cemeteries of Ukma and Akasha, also gazelle offerings were frequently found in Middle Kerma circular pit types (see Vila 1987, 32-33 and e.g. Tomb 2, 39, fig. 41; Maystre 1980, 190).

Overall, Feature 26 offers a wealth of stimulating questions and shows how much potential there is in the cemetery GiE 003 and that our work is far from finished.


Budka 2022 = J. Budka, Investigating Nubian funerary practices of marginal communities: new evidence from a Kerma cemetery at Ginis, Egitto e Vicino Oriente 45 (2022), 37‒62.

Manzo 2016 = A. Manzo, “Weapons, ideology and identity at Kerma (Upper Nubia, 2500-1500 BC)”, Annali Sezione Orientale 76 (1-2) (2016), 3-29.

Maystre 1980 = C. Maystre, Akasha I, Genève 1980.

de Souza 2019 = A. de Souza, New horizons: the Pan-Grave ceramic tradition in context, Middle Kingdom Studies 9, London 2019.

Vila 1987 = A. Vila, Le cimetière Kermaique d’Ukma Ouest, Paris 1987.

Walsh 2022 = C. Walsh, “Marginal Communities and Cooperative Strategies in the Kerma Pastoral State”, JNEH 10, https://doi.org./10.1515/janeh-2021-0014

Reconstructing the burial of Feature 50 in cemetery GiE 003

I’m thrilled and privileged to have become part of the DiverseNile team in November 2023. My primary role entails consolidating and organizing the data on the variability of funerary monuments excavated in the Attab to Ferka region of Northern Sudan during the 2022 and 2023 seasons. Our PI Julia Budka has given me the specific task of preparing the documentation of Feature 50 from Trench 5 in the Kerma cemetery GiE 003 (see Budka 2022). Interestingly, this burial shows many features associated with the Pan-Grave culture.

Different models of Feature 50.

The filling of Feature 50 comprised a diverse array of artifacts (see Budka, Rose, Ward 2023, 34), including pottery sherds, bones of at least one individual and three goats, beads, remnants of a wooden bed, alongside a mix of dense clay or mud fragments. The latter might have constituted a section of the superstructure wall surrounding the burial (cf. Irish 2007, 59, Figs. 2-3). Due to their dispersed nature within the tomb, not all of these finds were unearthed together or found within a single layer, necessitating their documentation either partially or separately. 

Using Metashape and Adobe Photoshop to rectify photos.

Because different parts of the same level were documented separately, I endeavored to amalgamate all these disparate 3D models into one comprehensive representation using Adobe Illustrator. This involved consolidating all the finds in a unified layout. Additionally, I utilized site photos, rectified them through programs like Metashape or Photoshop, and incorporated them into the combined models.

Using close-up photos for the finer details

I also leveraged daily site information, occasionally using the models as close-ups for finer details. Furthermore, throughout this process, I engaged in numerous discussions with Julia to ensure accuracy and completeness. 
In the end, through our collaborative efforts, we successfully integrated all elements into a single cohesive representation, meticulously illustrated using Adobe Illustrator.

I and Julia Budka discussing the different details of Feature 50.

The clarity of having everything consolidated sparked the idea of creating a reconstruction view using Adobe Illustrator. Inspired by this, I began exploring parallel cemeteries associated with the Pan-Grave horizon, including C-group burials (which are a bit earlier but nevertheless useful parallels). To enhance the visualization, I utilized Photoshop to craft different positions for the goat skeletons. However, despite these efforts, the original view remained somewhat unclear. This led me to consider creating a 3D model reconstruction using Google Sketch-Up, providing a clearer representation of all the features and finds.

Finally, I managed to develop a preliminary 3D reconstruction, but further investigation is needed. Interestingly, Pan-Grave burials, contrasting to Kerma burials, normally do not have wooden funerary beds.

My preliminary 3D reconstruction of Feature 50.

One last aspect: It’s incredible how something as simple as a color choice can drastically alter the way we perceive a scene. Chloe’s observation about the light blue floor of my reconstruction resembling a swimming pool was certainly amusing, but it prompted a smart adjustment to a grayish color to avoid any unintended connotations. These lighthearted moments amidst the serious work of archaeological reconstruction bring a sense of fun and camaraderie to the team.


Budka 2022 = Budka, J., Investigating Nubian funerary practices of marginal communities: new evidence from a Kerma cemetery at Ginis, Egitto e Vicino Oriente 45 (2022), 37‒62.

Budka, Rose & Ward 2023 = Budka, J., Rose, K. & C. Ward, Cultural diversity in the Bronze Age in the Attab to Ferka region: new results based on excavations in 2023, MittSAG – Der Antike Sudan 34 (2023), 19−35.

Irish 2007 = Irish, J.D., Overview of the Hierakonpolis C-Group dental remains, Sudan & Nubia 11 (2007), 57-72.