It has been a busy week – arriving in Khartoum, finishing the paperwork, travelling to the north, arriving in Ginis, settling in our digging house, sorting the material and equipment and organizing the gang of workmen for our excavations as well as the boat transport to the west bank. All went very smoothly thanks to great support from our Sudanese friends and colleagues, especially the help of our inspector Huda, our friends Waleed in Khartoum and Magzoub here in Abri as well as our driver Imad and cook Ali.
We will start with extended excavation in the small settlement AtW 001 – in 2022, a first test trench provided interesting results, suggesting that there was a use at the site from Classic Kerma times through the Thutmoside period (for details see Budka 2022).
We managed to prepare everything for our first day of excavation tomorrow: Chloe and Sofia set up the new grid and took all necessary measurements, I was busy with taking micromorphological soil samples from the section of our 2022 trench – Huda was a great help here, not only in taking working pictures.
It was the first time I took these samples using plaster of paris, quick-setting gypsum plaster – and although the sediment is partly very soft and challenging to sample, it worked really well. We hope that the analysis of these samples will allow us a more detailed understanding whether our excavated area was an open space or a roofed space, what kind of activities apart from the visible fire places and the dumping of food waste are traceable and much more! Very exciting, especially since we did not yet find standing architecture although loose mud bricks are present at the site.
Today is our day off and tomorrow we will start week 1 of excavations at AtW 001 with our local workmen – stay tuned, this site is really full of potential!
Budka 2022 = J. Budka, Early New Kingdom settlement activities in the periphery of Sai Island: towards a contextualisation of fresh evidence from Attab West, MittSAG – Der Antike Sudan 33, 2022, 45‒61.
While winter is back in Munich, Chloe, Sofia and I have safely arrived in Khartoum this night. It’s wonderful to be back in Sudan and we cannot wait to be heading to the north on Monday insha’allah. Paperwork and shopping still need to be done, but then all is set.
In the field in the Attab to Ferka region we will be busy with several tasks:
Excavations at Ginish East and Attab West, especially the continuation of work at the Kerma cemetery GiE 003 and at the intriguing settlement site AtW 001
Survey in various areas, especially on the west bank and into the desert
Drone Aerial Photography in all of the concession area, but especially on the west bank.
Furthermore, we plan some ethnoarchaeological research about pottery making and goldworking/goldsmithing and metal working.
The 2023 team comprises all our ERC DiverseNile staff – Chloe, José, Kate, Giulia and Sofia. I am delighted that our team will be strengthened by two students of Al-Neelain University (Tasabeh Obaid Hassan and Mohamed Abdeldaim Khairi Ibrahim) and one PhD Candidate from the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles (Matei Tichindelean). Our NCAM inspector will be our old friend and colleague Huda Magzoub who has been supporting us in the last years.
We have a very promising 2-month season ahead of us and we will keep you updated (if the connection in the north allows it ;-)).
It’s been a busy start to the year here in Munich with our upcoming field season in Sudan. However, the organisation for this year’s DiverseNile Seminar Series by Chloe Ward is well under way and we hope to have a full programme for you soon. For now, we are delighted to announce that the first talk will be given by our very own Kate Rose (PostDoc of the DiverseNile project) on Tuesday 25th of April (13-14 CET).
The theme of this year’s DiverseNile Seminar Series will focus on interdisciplinary approaches to archaeological research in the Nile Valley. This ties in well with the aims of the DiverseNile project and will allow us to reflect on the wide range of methods and theories that can be used in archaeological research. Other speakers for the series will include Fatma Keshk (IFAO/PCMA), Carl Walsh (Barnes Foundation), and Frederik Rademakers (British Museum).
We are very much looking forward to see you all at these online seminars – stay tuned for the detailed programme!
Last year I spent the turn of the year in Sudan. This year our field work is a little later, but there are other very happy events on the occasion of the new year. It is my great pleasure to welcome our new PostDoc of the DiverseNile project in Munich today.
Jose Manuel Alba Gomez is an archaeologists and Egyptologists with a wide range of interests and much fieldwork expterise in funerary archaeology. From 2009 onwards, he was a team member of the Proyecto Qubbet el-Hawa of the University of Jaén, Spain; for several years he acted as the co-director of this important archaeological mission in Aswan, Egypt.
Jose shares my interest in pottery and I am delighted that he is now strengthening our DiverseNile team. His prime focus will be Work Package 2, the variability of funerary monuments in the Attab to Ferka region.
Our objective to illustrate on the level of funerary practices the cultural diversity in the MUAFS concession in northern Sudan by disentangling burial grounds from previous cultural categorisations, will be addressed later in January with new excavations at Ginis. The Kerma cemetery GiE 003 (Vila’s site 2-T-39) comprises approximately 150 tombs – our excavations in 2022 yielded already 28 burial pits, but more data from this key site in our concession are needed. GiE 003 clearly promises an exciting start for Jose – welcome again to Munich and to our team!
Rock art in Sudan has become one of my favourite topics ever since I worked in the Fourth Cataract region in the 2000s. Within the MUAFS concession between Attab and Ferka, there are not many sites with rock drawings. Unsurprisingly, rock art is restricted to certain areas with fitting geology and large boulders – in our concession these are the districts of Ferka, Mograkka and Kosha (Fig. 1). Close to Mograkka, one particularly handsome engraving was chosen as the basis for the MUAFS logo.
Some of these sites are located in close proximity to Kerma funerary sites. This holds especially true for 3-P-14 (Kosha West), 3-G-18 (Ferka East) and 3-P-5 (Kosha East).
3-G-18 is located on rocky outcrops within the large plain of Ferka and directly adjacent to the Kerma cemetery 3-G-16 (Fig. 2). Kerma cemetery 3-G-19 is also not far away. These sites are of particular interest because they are the northernmost Kerma sites in our concession.
The largest rock art site is located at the border between Mograkka and Kosha East, site 3-P-5, with more than 400 individual rock art pictures (Vila 1976, 79‒87). The motifs comprise mostly cattle, antelopes, some human depictions, birds, dogs and other animals (Figs. 3-4).
While Vila left the dating as unclear, most of the rock art pictures at 3-P-5 seem to belong to the Kerma period (Budka 2020). Similar to 3-G-18 in Ferka, there are Kerma sites in the close proximity to 3-P-5 which support this dating.
In all phases of the Kerma culture, the dominant motif of rock art is cattle. Of course this reflects the importance of cattle herding to Kerma people – some aspects of which were recently addressed by Jérôme Dubosson at one of our DiverseNile Seminar Series 2022. In the words by Louis Chaix: “Cattle are a key constituent element of the civilization of Kerma. They played a major role in the diet of the population and as a source of secondary products such as milk, hides, and raw materials for making tools. They also contributed to agriculture as traction animals.” (Chaix 2017). Within the DiverseNile project, we aim to address the local role of cattle for the Kerma people by means of a multidisciplinary approach, combining landscape archaeology with bioarchaeology and of course analysing all kinds of archaeological findings like animal bones, animal figurines and engraved figures of cattle in rock art.
Coming back to the question of rock art, the spatial proximity of rock art panels depicting cattle and Kerma funerary sites was already noted by Cornelia Kleinitz in the Fourth Cataract region (Kleinitz 2007). As tempting as it is to link these rock drawings with Kerma funerary cult, at the Fourth Cataract and also in the MUAFS concession, a precise dating of cattle depictions in rock art often remains impossible.
Nevertheless, we will soon be back in the field in Sudan – one of the goals for the 2023 season is to expand the documentation of rock art in our concession, with a special focus on possible Kerma sites. Contextualising rock art sites clearly has much potential for a closer understanding of their date and function.
Budka, Julia 2020. Kerma presence at Ginis East: the 2020 season of the Munich University Attab to Ferka survey project. Sudan & Nubia 24, 57-71.
Chaix, Louis 2017. Cattle: a major component of the Kerma culture (Sudan). Edited by Umberto Albarella, Mauro Rizzetto, Hannah Russ, Kim Vickers, and Sarah Viner-Daniels. Oxford Handbooks Online 2017 (April), 15 p.; 4 figs. DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199686476.013.2
Kleinitz, Cornelia 2007. Rock art and archaeology: the Hadiab survey. Sudan & Nubia 11, 34-42
Vila, André 1976. La prospection archéologique de la Vallée du Nil, au Sud de la Cataracte de Dal (Nubie Soudanaise).Fascicule 4: District de Mograkka (Est et Ouest), District de Kosha (Est et Ouest). Paris.
November is usually one of the busiest months of the year. This holds especially true when one has just returned from fieldwork in Egypt and even more since some conferences are now organised as hybrid events, allowing in person attendance.
Though it will be quite a challenge, I am extremy grateful to have been invited to two events in the next days of which the topics are very close to my special fields and also to WP 3 Material culture of the DiverseNile project.
My own presentation on Saturday has the title: „What makes a pottery sherd a small find? Processing re-used pottery from settlement contexts“.
Re-cut pot sherds are among my favourite small finds and they occur in great numbers at domestic sites in both Egypt and Sudan (e.g. Qantir, Elephantine, Amarna and Sai Island). As multi-functional tools they attest to material-saving recycling processes.
Re-used pottery sherds offer many intriguing lines of research, first because of the recycling process and questions related to objects biographies. Second, the multiple function of tools created from re-cut sherds allows to investigate diverse sets of tasks and practises in settlement contexts. Third, lids and covers created from pottery sherds illustrate the blurred boundaries between categories of finds in the archaeological documentation, especially between ceramic small finds and pottery. Lids are also commonly part of ceramic typologies when produced as individual vessels. Can we determine if it made a difference to the ancient users whether a lid was made from a re-used sherd or as a new vessel? I will use the nice example of a complete Kerma vessel found with a stone lid in situ in one of our tombs in cemetery GiE 003 as case study to discuss these points.
My lecture in Mainz mainly aims to address some terminological and methodological issues arising from processing re-used pottery sherds as small finds as well as dating problems. I will outline the recording procedure established in the framework of the ERC AcrossBorders project for New Kingdom Sai and how we have adapted this workflow for the ERC DiverseNile project.
On Sunday, I will be heading to Cairo for the next event, the conference “Living in the house: researching the domestic life in ancient Egypt and Sudan”. The conference is organized by Dr. Fatma Keshk on behalf of the Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale and the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, University of Warsaw, Research Center in Cairo. The main focus of this event is settlement archaeology in its multi- and interdisciplinary aspects in ancient Egypt and Sudan. Chloe will also join the conference and we are expecting much input for the DiverseNile project, especially WP 1, settlements.
At the “Living in the house” conference, my lecture on Monday will again focus on ceramics, but this time on cooking ware.
I will present some results from the ERC Project AcrossBorders comparing cooking practices in two contemporaneous sites of the New Kingdom, Elephantine in Egypt and Sai Island in Nubia. I will also show a few examples from the MUAFS concession and how they fit to the other evidence. Preliminary results from organic residue analysis from Egyptian-style and Nubian-style cooking pots allow us to ask questions about diet and culinary traditions. My aim is to illustrate that dynamic and diverse choices within the New Kingdom reflect a high degree of cultural entanglement and challenge previous assumptions, for example of the role of Nubian cooking pots as cultural markers.
I am very much looking forward to these two workshops and especially the exchange and discussion with many colleagues.
It’s hard to believe – but tomorrow the last DiverseNile seminar of this year will take place. Chloë works already on the programme for next year, so we will continue with this successful online format discussing important aspects of the archaeology of the Middle Nile.
Tomorrow, Elizabeth Minor (Wellesley College), will be speaking about „Social Complexity and Community Resilience Strategies under a Changing Climate on the Middle Nile: Life at Es-Selim R4“.
The site of Es-Selim R4 (Minor et al. 2020) is an intriguing Kerma Period settlement located in the Northern Dongola Reach. Preliminary results suggest that Es-Selim R4 represents an opportunity to determine a cultural sequence for rural Kerma settlement sites, being inhabited from at least the Kerma Ancien period through to the Kerma Moyen period. Most interestingly, the site also allows to shift perspectives and to investigate the nature of socio-economic interactions between Kermans and Egyptians on a regional level.
Elizabeth is a Visiting Assistant Professor in Anthropology at Wellesley College. She received her Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies from UC Berkeley, and her research focuses on the Kingdom of Kerma and cultural connections between ancient Egypt and Sudan. She has a special interest in understanding interregional and local social relationships – and we will hear more about this in her lecture.
For those interested in Kerma art, I highly recommend Elizabeth’s most recent article on key elements of Classic Kerma religious imagery (Minor 2022). In this though-provoking analysis she traces possible echoes of Kerman animal representations in later Kushite religion.
I am delighted that Elizabeth is joining us tomorrow! In case you cannot attend, be sure to check out the recording of her lecture – it will be available soon on LMU Cast.
Minor 2022 = Minor, Elizabeth 2022. Afterlives of Kerma religion: rams, lions, and fantastical winged animals (hippopotami and giraffes) in Classic Kerma and later Kush contexts. Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections 35, 141-154.
Minor et al. 2020 = Minor, Elizabeth, Sarah M. Schellinger, Christopher Severa, Ahmed el-Ameen Ahmed el-Hassan, and Sajda Adam Omer Ahmed 2020. Laying the groundwork: the 2020 survey season and community outreach programme at the Kerma Period settlement site es-Selim R4 in the Northern Dongola Reach. Sudan & Nubia 24, 100-111.
The event is hosted at the Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale du Caire and was organised by Valentina Gasperini, Gihane Zaki and Giuseppe Cecere. I am very thankful to the organisers for giving me the opportunity to present the DiverseNile project in this context. I will be talking about “Cross-cultural dynamics in the Attab to Ferka region: reconstructing Middle Nile contact space biographies in the Late Bronze Age.”
I will present the material evidence for complex encounters of various Egyptian and Nubian groups in the region of Attab to Ferka in the hinterland of the New Kingdom urban sites of Sai Island and Amara West. The rich archaeological record of this part of the Middle Nile reveals new insights into the ancient dynamics of social spaces. I will give some case studies from both settlements and cemeteries and will focus on the intriguing domestic site AtW 001 and the Kerma cemetery GiE 003.
I will discuss our recent idea that the material culture and evidence for past activities at such sites suggest complex intersecting and overlapping networks of skilled practices, for example for pottery production – see here also the latest blog post by Giulia D’Ercole.
I will also argue that the evidence from cemetery GiE 003 supports the general picture emerging regarding cultural exchanges in the Kerma empire. There was no single Kerman cultural input to interactions with the Hyksos, Egyptians and nomadic people but we must consider various hierarchical local responses determined by different communities’ ability to consume, shaping what can be called marginal communities in the Kerma state (cf. Lemos & Budka 2021 and most recently Walsh 2022). We are making very good progress in understanding the communities in the Attab to Ferka region and I am much looking forward to the next days and the possibility to discuss cultural exchanges throughout the centuries in the Nile Valley (and beyond) with all the participants of this exciting IFAO conference.
Lemos and Budka 2021 = Lemos, R. and Budka, J., Alternatives to colonization and marginal identities in New Kingdom colonial Nubia (1550-1070 BCE), World Archaeology 53/3 (2021), 401-418, https://doi.org/10.1080/00438243.2021.1999853
I am very pleased to announce another recruitment for the ERC DiverseNile project: Kate Rose has joined us this week and will be focusing on Work Package 4, “The Biography of a Frontier Landscape in the Middle Nile.”
Kate is an anthropological archaeologist in the final stages of completion of her PhD at Harvard University. In her dissertation, she studied the relationship between gender and power through spatial analyses of royal cemeteries in the Napatan region.
Kate has worked and served in various leadership positions on excavations in Spain, Jordan, Turkey at the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük, Egypt at the site of Tell el-Amarna, and also in Sudan at the cemeteries of El-Kurru, Nuri, Jebel Barkal, and El-Zuma.
Her experience as a field archaeologist and methodological expertise in GIS and spatial analyses makes her well-suited to explore our landscape questions aiming to reconstruct the contact space biography of the Attab to Ferka region. Kate will investigate questions of how physical spaces and landscapes constitute and are constituted by social dynamics. She will be closely collaborating with all team members, especially with Chloë and Sofia.
Welcome to Munich and our team, Kate! We are very happy to have you as a new team member.
The so-called „vorlesungsfreie“ (lecture-free) summer time is now over – the winter term at LMU will start on Monday. Next week is also the next DiverseNile Seminar – this time it will be given by our own Giulia D’Ercole, who has just returned from her maternity leave.
Giulia will speak about some core tasks of our work package 3, material culture and cultural diversity in the Attab to Ferka region. Under the title „Material meanings, technology and cultural choices: Pottery production in Bronze Age Nubia“ she will outline a number of theoretical and methodological aspects of her study of ceramics produced in the Middle Nile, including Nubian-style, Egyptian-style and also so-called hybrid vessels. Case studies from Sai Island but also from the new MUAFS concession will be presented.
I am very happy that Giulia is back in office and very much looking foward to her lecture on Oct. 18 – anyone interested in Bronze Age technology and/or pottery shouldn’t miss it!