DiverseNile Seminar Series 2022: Full programme now available

As anounced earlier, our DiverseNile Seminar Series 2022 will focus on material culture and society in Bronze Age Nubia and respective perspectives from landscape and resource management. I am delighted that the final programme is now available and includes a great line-up of international speakers:

I am very grateful to all speakers and especially to Rennan Lemos for organising this exciting online seminar. Registration is open and possible via email. If you registered already last year, we will just send you the 2022 Zoom link hoping that you will join us again! See you at our kick-off on January 25!

Surveying between Attab and Ferka: the 2021/2022 season

We have returned safely from Sudan and our short preparation season of the Munich University Attab to Ferka Survey Project (MUAFS) in its research concession between Attab and Ferka from Dec. 29 to January 9 was very successful.

Huda, our driver Saif and I getting ready to leave for another day of surveying the area (photo: C. Geiger).

Huda and I conducted a foot survey in areas of Attab East, Attab West, Ginis East, Ginis West and Ferka West. The focus was on the identification of sites already recorded by Vila. We were able to document a total of 79 sites, comprising 21 new MUAFS sites. The sites range in date from Palaeolithic times to the Medieval and Ottoman eras. The types of sites are mostly camp sites, habitations, and tombs/cemeteries, but also include rock art and stone wadi walls.

Surveyed area of the 2021/2022 season (map: C. Geiger).

Whenever possible, we collected diagnostic pottery and lithics from the sites for dating purposes. I was able to document most of them by photography and also managed to draw 35 Kerma and New Kingdom sherds. Most interesting are some newly documented New Kingdom sites, attesting to both a use in the 18th Dynasty and a Ramesside presence in the periphery of Amara West.

One example of a newly documented site, unfortunatly recently plundered (photo: J. Budka).

One particularly striking site, a cluster of cleft tombs at Ginis East, has never been documented before but was unfortunately lately plundered. And this is not an isolated example! Recent plundering, modern gold working, new electricity lines and damaged caused by car tracks, roads and new buildings are unfortunately very frequent, have increased since 2020 and stress how urgently we need to document this rich area in the Middle Nile.

The surveying campaign carried out by Cajetan resulted in the setup of new benchmarks using a GPS Antenna and a totalstation in Attab East, Ginis East and Ginis West. We will use these benchmarks as basis for future measurements during our planned excavations. Drone aerial photography was successfully conducted in Ginis East, Ginis West and Ferka West.

All in all, I am very grateful to the support of our Sudanese friends and colleagues – without them our work at site would not have been possible in these very difficult times of political changes. We collected a large amount of new data and will now be very busy processing these here in Munich – and of course we will keep you updated.

Getting ready to fly to Sudan

The Christmas weekend is just about to end, and I am currently packing my last suitcase – despite of omicron & the pandemic, but of course with much caution and aware of the most recent political developments in Sudan, we are getting ready to fly to Khartoum tomorrow.

It will be a very brief season with a tiny team – just Rennan, Cajetan and I will travel. One focus of our planned work is on the study & documentation of object’s stored in the Sudan National Museum, coming from Vila’s survey in the 1970s in the present MUAFS concession. Rennan will focus in particular on ceramics and small finds from some of the New Kingdom tombs. Especially Ramesside material is highly interesting and raises many questions concerning the continuity of sites in the pre-Napatan era.

Up in the north, at our excavation house in Ginis East, I will focus on some logistics, preparing the upcoming excavation season planned for spring 2022. I also plan some survey work with our inspector and Cajetan will concentrate on setting survey points and taking measurements.

Of course, we will keep you updated – maybe not during the season, depending on the quality of the internet and connection.

Hoping that most of our plans will work out, but also very much prepared for surprises and the need to improvise, I am just really very happy to be soon back in Sudan, after almost 2 years!

DiverseNile Seminar Series 2022: Perspectives from landscape and resource management

We are very pleased to announce the DiverseNile Seminar Series for 2022. As a follow up of this year’s event, we will now focus on material culture and society in Bronze Age Nubia and respective perspectives from landscape and resource management.

It is my pleasure to open the Seminar Series on January 25 with an introduction and some ideas about global networks and local agents in the Middle Nile. Middle Nile contact space biographies we are currently reconstructing for the Attab to Ferka region provide a complex picture of a social space as a home to diverse groups and actors, rather than a static landscape and the periphery of centre-oriented narratives of New Kingdom Nubia. Our aim within the DiverseNile project is to decode, through our interdisciplinary studies, the economic role of the Attab to Ferka region for the principal centres, as a production area, and as land for animal husbandry and agriculture as well as for mining activities and gold production.

Rennan Lemos managed to gather a splendid group of speakers for the talks, covering a large set of topics from pottery technology to animal husbandry, gold extraction and much more.

We are looking much forward to this event and registration for the online DiverseNile Seminar Series 2022 is already open! Hoping to see many of you there – we will keep you updated about the specific schedule of the talks (always Tuesday, 1pm CET)!

New publication: marginal identities in colonial Nubia in focus

My paper ‘Alternatives to colonization and marginal identities in New Kingdom colonial Nubia (1550–1070 BCE)’, co-authored with Julia Budka, is now published in World Archaeology. This results from initial comparative research on the role of ‘peripheral’ cemeteries in New Kingdom Nubia, combined with results from my PhD on material culture from colonial cemeteries.

The paper is now online but will appear in a special issue edited by Alfredo Gonzalez-Ruibal on ‘The Archaeology of Marginal Spaces’. Our contribution focuses not only on the alternative roles performed by material culture (the focus of my PhD), but mostly on how these alternative roles helped shaping marginal realities that contextually challenged mainstream social norms (i.e. the Egyptian colonization of Nubia in the New Kingdom).
It was a great opportunity to combine evidence that I explored in my thesis with evidence that I’m now looking at for DiverseNile. I believe this combination can still produce more interesting results and I hope you will also find these discussions interesting. As always, I’m always up for exchanging and discussing ideas!

Thinking about style in colonial Nubia

I have thought a lot about style recently ‒ on the one hand about stylistic questions of Ptolemaic coffins for the Ankh-Hor project, as well as for class preparation about Egyptian art, but of course also during the processing of ceramics from Nubia, from the colonial town of Sai Island.

Style is in general a much-disputed label in archaeology and art history. Recent studies have introduced a focus on “style as effect” (Bussels and van Oostveldt 2020, 221 with references), stressing the transformative power of style and discussing style together with objects and agency. Stylistic variations as reflections of intercultural exchange seem to be very evident in the ceramic corpus from colonial Nubia during the New Kingdom.

It is well established that are clear differences regarding the Egyptian style and the Nubian style pottery corpora in colonial Nubia, not only in terms of shape but also regarding the technology with wheel-made Egyptian and hand-made Nubian vessels. From the beginning of my study of pottery from Sai Island, I used the term “Egyptian style” for wheel-made products and soon differentiated between locally produced variants and imported vessels.

But let’s come back to the broad concept of style – I believe the main aim should be to address the complex processes involved in producing objects (as proposed by Marian Feldman 2006 for the “International Style” of the Late Bronze Age). My labels for New Kingdom pottery in Nubia also stress the production process – vessels which appear within the Nubian respectively in the Egyptian tradition, without marking them already as Nubian or Egyptian production. Of interest is the effect and the role these objects took in the framework of cultural encounters – sometimes taking hybrid forms, making it impossible to separate the distinctive traditions from each other. Hybrid pottery products from colonial Nubia must be regarded as something new and separating Egyptian and Nubian elements on these pots is not helpful or applicable. Giulia D’Ercole is currently working within the DiverseNile project on these hybrid products and their significance for cultural encounters, focusing on the production technique including the raw materials.

Within New Kingdom Nubia, regional style in ceramics was mostly expressed by surface treatment and decoration (see already Miélle 2014). One exceptional case is that the colonial experiences on Sai resulted in a new style of painting wheel-made ceramics. Deep bowls are attested in all sectors of the town and find parallels in Askut. Stuart Tyson Smith interpreted the preference of wavy lines and painted triangles on these bowls as local Nubian style (Smith 2003, fig. 3.7). Laurianne Miellé concentrated on the pending triangles painted in black on red and which seemingly refer to earlier Nubian decoration patterns known from C-Group vessels and Kerma Moyen bowls (Miélle 2014, 387‒389, fig. 4). However, this is not simply an inspiration by means of motif but there was a striking transformation in the execution style – incised decoration was carried out as painted decoration. Here, the colouring scheme seems to have been influenced by the new black-on-red style which became fashionable in the early 18th Dynasty, both in Egypt and New Kingdom Nubia. The shapes are markedly different from any Nubian style vessels and typically Egyptian; the production technique is also Egyptian, but in local variants of Nile clays. All in all, this new style of painted vessels must be seen as the embodiment of colonial experiences, transforming different cultural traditions to something new with multiple affinities in both directions.

Typical New Kingdom pottery context from the colonial town of Sai (photo J. Budka, processing S. Neumann).

Just as one example, this mixed context of sherds from sector SAV1 West in the colonial town of Sai shows the multiple styles of pottery we typically encounter in this urban centre with a strong cultural diversity in its material culture. There are imported Marl clay vessels from Egypt, one of which is painted and could be labelled as „Levantine style“ (although an Egyptian product); there are two bichrome decorated Nile clay vessels which were maybe produced locally in Nubia, but are very similar in style to Marl clay vessels and Nile clay vessels known from Egypt (see Budka 2015); one example attests the wheel-made painted bowls which seem to express a very specific colonial Nubian style restricted to Nubia (but here the style of painting is less clearly inspired by Nubian incised decoration). And finally, there is an undecorated, wheel-made dish produced locally on Sai and the rim sherd of a Kerma Classique beaker, probably also manufactured locally (and not imported from the Third Cataract region).

Sai is clearly another case study for a distinctive “local variation within a generally shared repertoire of material culture” (Näser 2017, 566) commonly found in New Kingdom Nubia which originates from specific social practices (Lemos 2020). Within the DiverseNile project and with our contact space biography approach, also considering the concept of Objectscapes, I believe we can take the results from Sai further. One aspect I will be working on in the next weeks is whether the intriguing concept of “Communities of Style” (Feldman 2014) is applicable to questions about pottery production in colonial Nubia, first of all for Sai and its hinterland, the MUAFS concession area.


Bussels and van Oostveldt 2020 = Stijn Bussels and Bram van Oostveldt, Egypt and/as style, in: Miguel John Versluys (ed.), Beyond Egyptomania: objects, style and agency, Berlin/Boston, 219–224.

Budka 2015 = Julia Budka, Bichrome Painted Nile Clay Vessels from Sai Island (Sudan), Bulletin de la céramique égyptienne 25, 331–341.

Feldman 2006 = Marian Feldman, Diplomacy by Design. Luxury Arts and an ‚International Style‘ in the Ancient Near East,1400-1200 BCE, Chicago.

Feldman 2014 = Marian Feldman, Communities of Style : Portable Luxury Arts, Identity, and Collective Memory in the Iron Age Levant, Chicago.

Lemos 2020 = Rennan Lemos, Material Culture and Colonization in Ancient Nubia: Evidence from the New Kingdom Cemeteries, in: Claire Smith (ed.), Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology, Cham, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-51726-1_3307-1.

Miélle 2014 = Laurianne Miélle, Nubian traditions on the ceramics found in the pharaonic town on Sai Island, in: Julie R. Anderson and Derek A. Welsby (eds.), The Fourth Cataract and Beyond. Proceedings of the 12th International Conference for Nubian Studies, British Museum Publications on Egypt and Sudan 1, Leuven, 387–392.

Näser 2017 = Claudia Näser, Structures and realities of the Egyptian presence in Lower Nubia from the Middle Kingdom to the New Kingdom: The Egyptian cemetery S/SA at Aniba, in: Neal Spencer, Anna Stevens and Michaela Binder (eds.), Nubia in the New Kingdom. Lived experience, pharaonic control and indigenous traditions, British Museum Publications on Egypt and Sudan 3, Leuven, 557‒574.

Smith 2003 = Stuart Tyson Smith, Pots and politics: Ceramics from Askut and Egyptian colonialism during the Middle through New Kingdoms, in: Carol A. Redmount and Cathleen A. Keller (eds.), Egyptian Pottery. Proceedings of the 1990 Pottery Symposium at the University of California, University of California Publications in Egyptian Archaeology 8, Berkeley, 43–79.

Indigenous – really an ingenious term?

In recent decades, Egyptology and Sudan Archaeology have undergone some long needed substantial changes – through a gradual shift in perspective, Nubia’s cultures, long disparaged as copies of the “superior” Egyptian one, were finally acknowledged as what they were – clearly distinct and independent cultures in their own right, reflecting the extraordinarily long and rich cultural history of Nubia, the region of the Middle Nile valley.

A deeper questioning of the views of early researchers, who – bound to their zeitgeist – shaped Nubia’s allegedly inferior image for a long time, took already place in the 1980s and 1990s (see f.ex. the important articles by Adams 1981 and Trigger 1994). Trigger for example excellently analysed the influence of the circumstances of respective times on colonial and post-colonial archaeology. Furthermore, researchers like Charles Bonnet and also my own teacher, Steffen Wenig at the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, who introduced me to the uniqueness of the Nubian cultures, worked hard to correct the out-dated picture of earlier times – laying the foundation, on which we continue to build.

And in fact, the scientific community of today has not only become aware of the dangers of Egyptocentric approaches towards Nubia, but is also including other long neglected topics such as gender archaeology (see f.ex. Minor 2018). However – and as usual – there is still a need for further optimisation in various areas.

Today, I would like to shed light on a sensitive aspect within our scientific work – namely the language we use in relation to Nubia, here by the example indigenous (resp. indigeneity). This term was, opposed to previous colonial mind-sets, introduced to distinguish and emphasise the unique character of Nubian cultures compared to Egyptian ones (e.g. already by Trigger 1994: 343).

In this sense indigenous was and isclearlyused with only good intentions – it however poses problems on two interrelated levels, which I would like to discuss firstly by looking at the term „indigenous“ in its modern use and secondly by presenting its controversial debate in this context. It is precisely this critical discussion that, as you will see in the following, mostly affected my discomfort in applying this term on past Nubian societies as well.

As first and surely minor problem to be mentioned is the (in the general understanding) primary (and not entirely congruent) association of indigenous with Australia’s and North America’s First Nations, as the term firstly emerged in the 1970s out of the American Indian Movement and the Canadian Indian Brotherhood. In this respect indigenous was explicitly chosen by their leaders – as a way of a clear self-identification as well as to unite those peoples for a better representation in international and political arenas such as the United Nations (Tuhiwai Smith 1999: 7).

That indigenous now encompasses modern First Nations in an international or global context dates back in the 1980s, when a specific definition of the term was developed by the UN (J.M. Cobo):

Indigenous peoples (…) are those which, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies (…), consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing in those territories (…). They form at present non-dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve (…) to future generations their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity, (…) in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal systems. (Cobo 1983: E/CN.4 Sub.2 /1983/21/Add.8; see also Klenke & Socha 2013: 33).

Astonishingly, it than still took two decades until the UN-Resolution “Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous“ was adopted by the General Assembly in 2007 defining the framework for the survival and well-being of indigenous peoples all over the world – being the today most comprehensive global instrument for their rights.

While clearly being an urgently needed step in the right direction, the modern use of indigenous is – quite understandably, as you will see below – subject ofon-going debates, not only in the scientific but also in the concerned communities themselves.

The criticism is manifold, starting already at a rather general level, where f.ex. researchers like Tuhiwai Smith point out the problematic indeterminacy of the term which seems “to collectivize many distinct populations whose experiences under imperialism have been vastly different.” (Tuhiwai Smith 1999: 6).

But also in fields like ethnology and cultural anthropology, the term indigeneity resp. the need of its clear differentiation of the (similar but not equal) concept of ethnicity (both as a practice of negotiating social identity) has led to many controversial discussions. Since a more detailed presentation of this highly interesting topic would request another blog, only the two most opposite poles are touched in the following and further readings recommended here (f.ex. contra: Kuper 2003 and 2005; pro: Kenrick & Lewis 2004): Thus, the harshest critics complain that the term’s underlying linkage of territory, culture, history, and descent would evoke associations of primordiality and essentialist identity – an opinion sharply rejected by others, seeing in such implied racist components a colonial undermining and further intensification of the struggles of First Nations (see detailed Klenke & Socha 2013: 30–33).

However, besides this discussion and not least in regard of the role ethnology and cultural anthropology played within colonialism (f.ex. defining ethnic groups for easier administration of colonised regions), there is a general consent to emphasise the aspect of self-definition as most significant criterion in this question (Klenke & Socha 2013: 31).

It is this precisely criterion – self-definition – that leads to my problems in using the term indigenous for ancient societies as those of Ancient Nubiaas well as for modern ones – as the term clearly bears the label of being an external attribution and not a self-defined one. And indeed, concerned peoples themselves are well aware of this problematic connotation, as it was f.ex. recently clearly put into words by the “Indigenous Foundations” (University of British Columbia) themselves:

“Although the term ‘Indigenous’ may be considered to be the most inclusive term of all, (….) it could be also seen as a contentious term, since it defines groups primarily in relation to their colonizers”.

(https://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/aboriginal_identity__terminology/; on the question “Who speaks for whom?” see also Sillar 2005: 90–92).

All these aspects shown here clearly illustrate that also in modern discourses the search for a satisfactory solution for an adequate and autonomous terminology concerning modern First Nations is not at all finished yet.

The argument of self-definition mentioned above however is just as valid when dealing with past societies, in our case within Egyptology. Whereas no Egyptologist would use the term indigenous in context of the conquest of Egypt by the Nubian 25th Dynasty (would a sentence such as “Piye subdued the indigenous people of Thebes/Upper Egypt” not sound quite unfamiliar?), it is very often applied when addressing f.ex. the Kingdom of Kerma or the later Kingdom of Kush.

But, although well intentioned, in labelling Nubia’s ancient cultures as indigenous the same external perspective is expressed that was criticised above, in this case on Ancient Nubian peoples and their very own territories – even implying their subaltern position in relation to “their” Egyptian conquerors. Thus, this term evokes the uncomfortable feeling of an (unconscious) continuation of colonial stereotypes, just in a different guise – be they ancient or modern. And it is precisely these implications that bring us back to the point of an anachronistic Egyptocentric perspective that we are, after all, trying to overcome.

In this sense, such negative implications clearly illustrate, that, in all of the efforts to optimise our approach to Ancient Nubia, also the used terminology and language should continuously examined, especially since it can cause so much harm – as Tucholsky excellently stated in his famous bon mot „Language is like a weapon“.

With reflecting our terminology by f.ex. avoiding the term indigenous,also a self-reflection of our own perspectives can be further enhanced – why not adopt this time, not entirely but wisely, kind of a “Nubiocentric” stance? After all – there is no need to classify the Nubian cultures/peoples as indigenous, there is no need to define them in relation to Egypt – why not addressing them as what they are?: As Nubian peoples or cultures in their own right and in their own territories – as Kerma people of the strong Kingdom of Kerma, as Kushites of the powerful Kingdom of Kush, and so on and on…

Certainly there are grey areas, especially when dealing with periods of stronger interconnections between Nubians and Egyptians, like the New Kingdom Colonial Period.

In this context, the DiverseNile project is perfectly suited for new directions, developing and applying new and better alternatives (see f.ex. the terms Nubian-style and Egyptian-style for vessels locally produced in Nubia, introduced and used by our PI Julia Budka and my colleague Giulia D’Ercole, New research goals at the time of Covid-19. Testing Raman Spectroscopy on Nubian and Egyptian-style pots) – thus further contributing to the still needed advocacy, Nubia’s ancient cultures need and deserve.

With these thoughts – which also go to the Sudanese people in these difficult times – I would like to conclude here and invite everyone interested to further discuss these important questions, also beyond the example chosen today, here with us in this space!


Adams, W.Y. 1981. Paradigms in Sudan Archaeology, in: Africa Today 28(2), 15–24.

Cobo, J.R.M. 1983. Study of the Problem of Discrimination against Indigenous Peoples. Final report submitted by the Special Rapporteur, Mr. José Martínez Cobo. https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/publications/martinez-cobo-study.html

Kenrick, J. and Lewis, J. 2004. Indigenous Peoples’s Rights and the Politics of the Term “Indigenous”, in: Anthropology Today 20(2), 4–9.

Klenke, K. and Socha, P. 2013, Emerging Indigeneity – Völkerrechtswissenschaft und ethnologische Praxis subnationaler kultureller Gemeinschaften, in: Bizer, K. et al. (eds). Sui generis. Rechte zum Schutz traditioneller kultureller Ausdrucksweisen. Göttinger Studien zu Cultural Property 5, Göttingen: Universitätsverlag Göttingen, 21–42.

Kuper, A. 2003. The Return of the Native, in: Current Anthropology 44, 389–402.

– 2005. The Reinvention of Primitive Society. Transformations of a Myth. New York: Routledge.

Minor, E. 2018. Decolonizing Reisner: the Case Study of a Classic Kerma Female Burial for Reinterpreting Early Nubian Archaeological Collections through Digital Archival Resources, in: Honegger, M. (ed.), Nubian Archaeology in the XXIst Century: Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Conference for Nubian Studies, Neuchâtel, 1st–6th September 2014. Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 273. Leuven: Peeters, 251–262.

Sillar, B. 2005. Who’s indigenous? Whose archaeology?, in: Public Archaeology 4(2–3), 71–94.

Trigger, B.G. 1994. Paradigms in Sudan Archaeology, in: The International Journal of African Historical Studies 27(2), 323–345.

Tuhiwai Smith, L. 1999. Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. London: Zed Books.

Call for papers: Sudan Studies Research Conference Munich Edition 2022

In these difficult times, when all of our thoughts are with the Sudanese people, we are pleased to announce the upcoming Sudan Studies Research Conference 2022 to be held at LMU in Munich on June 25 2022. The event is co-organised by Sam Tipper, the Conference Director of this format of meetings first held in 2017 at Durham University, and a group of Postdocs of my DiverseNile project, Rennan Lemos, Giulia D’Ercole and Veronica Hinterhuber.

We invite paper proposals and posters from postgraduates, postdoctoral and other researchers working on subjects with a focus on Sudan (ancient and modern). The deadline for submitting abstracts (with c. 200 words) is 31 January 2022.

We are very much looking forward welcoming an international group of primarily young researchers working on Sudan here in Munich next year – the conference is organised as a hybrid event and online participation will also be possible.

The ‚hidden hands‘ who sustained New Kingdom colonial Nubia: progress report of Work Package 2

Sudan’s revolution is well underway. Millions of Sudanese took off to the streets of Khartoum and other locations across the country to demand freedom of choice. This is most inspiring for us as human beings living in the present, but also as scholars writing about the Nubian past.

I have so far directed my attention to understanding the general logics of what was happening in contexts outside mainstream colonial sites to try to identify how colonial peripheries in New Kingdom Nubia became centres of human experience that produced alternatives to colonial social relations.

In the New Kingdom colonial period, a wave of Egyptian-style objects flooded Nubia and determined on which grounds various social negotiations would take place—i.e. based on people’s adoption and use of foreign objects in local contexts. On the one hand, this means that if you managed to consume Egyptian-style shabtis or jewellery, you’d probably have a good chance of negotiating an ambivalent sense of identity in-between ‚Egypt‘ and ‚Nubia‘. However, if you didn’t manage to possess such objects, your previous life would probably have changed little anyway, at least from an archaeological point of view—after all, we need the stuff to be able to reconstruct human experience anyway…

So, I have been interested in the experiences of those who could not really negotiate in colonized Nubia; those who couldn’t really find effective ways of making inputs to culture, despite their immense inputs to society: though we don’t know who were those people living and dying outside of mainstream colonial sites, there’s a huge chance we’re actually talking about farmers and other labourers who were the ‚hidden hand‘ that supported colonial economy. (Julien Cooper’s recent suggestion that desert dwellers were the ‚hidden hand‘ of the Egyptian gold enterprise in the Nubian deserts, Cooper 2021, is so interesting that it deserves to be expanded to seek other ‚hidden hands‘ that remained invisible in our narratives so far.)

I’m currently teaching a course on postcolonial and decolonial approaches to the archaeology of the Nile valley. This also greatly inspires my research and the way I look for interesting things in the archaeological record to „hear“ the voices of those who remained silenced by major constraints to action in antiquity. So far, what I find most interesting is people’s sense of collectivism. In social and geographical peripheries—here I’m referring to non-elites working for colonial elites at temple-towns and farmers and other workers living/dying in the outskirts of these major sites—individual inputs to culture are rare as consumption was limited and scarcity was rampant. However, when there’s scarcity, there’s also wisdom—Brazilian geographer Milton Santos would agree (Santos 2001).

This sums up my research in this first year as a DiverseNile postdoc. I have been focusing on finding interesting features in the archaeological record of excavated/surveyed sites in the peripheries of colonized Nubia while waiting to be back in Sudan to celebrate the achievements of local people past and present. I have discussed these topics in more detail in three forthcoming publications, which should be available very soon:

Lemos, R. (forthcoming). Heart scarabs and other heart-related objects in New Kingdom Nubia. Sudan & Nubia 25.

Lemos, R. (forthcoming). Can we decolonise the ancient past? Bridging postcolonial and decolonial theory in Sudanese and Nubian archaeology. Cambridge Archaeological Journal.

Lemos, R. and J. Budka. (forthcoming). Alternatives to colonization and marginal identities in New Kingdom colonial Nubia (1550–1070 BCE). World Archaeology (themed issue on ‚The archaeology of marginal places and identities‘).


Cooper, J. (2021). Between the Nile and the Red Sea: Medjay Desert Polities in the Third to First Millennium BCE. Old World: Journal of Ancient Africa and Eurasia 1 (1): 1–22. https://doi.org/10.1163/26670755-01010001

Santos, M. 2001. Por uma outra globalização: do pensamento único à consciência universal. 6th ed. Rio de Janeiro: Record.

From the field in Egypt to the digital classroom

Just one week ago, I closed the very successful 2021 season of the LMU Ankh-Hor project and finished my last tasks of the pottery study for the South Asasif Conservation Project. It has been 5 amazing and intriguing weeks in Luxor, and it was great to be back in the field, especially because it was the first time since the covid-19 crisis.

This week, the winter term at LMU has started and I am also busy preparing a short field trip to Sudan in November. In respect of teaching, I will continue to combine aspects of my current research in Egypt and Sudan with classes for both undergraduates and graduates. There are two personal highlights in my classes this winter term – one seminar focuses on the First Cataract area where I have been working since 1997 and here in particular on the role of the region as link between the Lower and Middle Nile. We will discuss cultural contacts over 5 millennia and complex two-ways of interactions which is very much in line with both my previous AcrossBorders project and the current DiverseNile project.

The second highlight is a seminar I will be co-teaching with Rennan Lemos. Under the title “Egyptian History: Colonial Narratives on Ancient Egypt” we will explore particular topics in the archaeology of colonialism in northeast Africa, with a special focus on Egypt and Nubia. Among others, we will discuss case studies like the question of power of colonial centres during the New Kingdom and the formation of „peripheries“ in colonised Nubia. Particular attention will be paid to the role of objects and material culture and how these shaped colonial interactions; but we will also discuss how the remnants of colonial discourses characterised earlier scholarship about ancient Egypt and Sudan.

The archaeological study of colonialism in the ancient past is a very broad field and for Egypt and Sudan, a large number of various objects and images can be discussed – both regarding their context in antiquity and their interpretation by modern scholars.

Both Rennan and me are very much looking forward to this seminar which will offer the students fresh insights from our ongoing research about cultural diversity in the Middle Nile and will provide us, without doubt, with much food for thought. We believe that the new method of contact space biography I introduced for DiverseNile will reveal an alternative narrative regarding colonial Nubia, stressing the importance of social practices, communities, and the subsistence strategies of marginal regions in Egyptian and Sudanese archaeology. Discussing these points with a group of students will undoubtedly be an enrichment.

Although it is still partly difficult to adapt from the splendid atmosphere of the Theban Westbank and from a dig schedule to Munich and Vienna and the daily routine in the office/home-office, this winter and our teaching term promise much input for all of us! Looking much forward to the feedback from our participants.