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.

References

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.

Regionality of stone quarrying in Nubia: the case study of a granite quarry at Ferka West

The most recent publication of the ERC DiverseNile Project focuses on landscape and resource management in Bronze Age Nubia. Here, I would like to present some thoughts on the regionality of stone quarrying in Nubia with a case study from the MUAFS concession.

Stone is a natural resource which has typically been associated with Egypt, being regarded as a raw material of little importance for Nubian cultures. However, the quarrying of stone played a role in the complex framework of cultural exchange of Middle Nile communities with Egypt (see Budka 2024). Whereas Nubian sandstone (quartz sandstone) only started to be used as building material in the Middle Nile during the Middle Kingdom, mostly for Egyptian fortresses, there is evidence for a much earlier use of natural- and dry-stone architecture, in both settlement architecture and funerary buildings (cf. Liszka 2017). Sandstone architectural pieces were also well integrated within Nubian monumental architecture (e.g., the columns and stelae at the eastern Deffufa in Kerma, see Budka 2024 with references). Some of the most important sandstone quarries during the New Kingdom can be found at Sai Island – we have studies these quarries already during the ERC AcrossBorders Project and will come back to the topic within the framework of our present project in the near future thanks to the expertise of our PostDoc Fabian Dellefant.

Granite is another important stone quarried in Nubia. While the most renowned granite quarry used for building projects and objects in ancient Egypt over millennia is located in Aswan, there are also a number of granite quarry sites in the Middle Nile. They are less well known and seem to have been used for a considerably shorter amount of time.

The quarry site of Tombos with an unfinished royal statue.

One quite famous example is the site of Tombos close to the Third Nile Cataract. The site includes a large quarry of magmatic rocks, principally granite and granitic gneisses, with known activity from the 18th Dynasty until Napatan and Meroitic times, particularly for statues and stelae. One particularly striking left-over in the quarry is the beautiful, although unfinished royal statue of presumably Napatan date.

There is no clear evidence that the quarry site of Tombos was used prior to the New Kingdom (Klemm, Klemm and Murr 2019, 28).

Another type of granite, pink granite, is available just south of the Dal Cataract in the MUAFS concession. This brings me to my case study: site 3-L-6 is a large red granite quarry at the foot of Jebel Kitfoggo in Ferka West – well noted by Vila and others during the 1970s survey (Vila 1976, 72−73). We visited the site during our 2022 survey of the MUAFS project – the landscape is fantastic and the pink granite very picturesque.

The site 3-L-6 at Jebel Kitfoggo is one of the highlights in the MUAFS concession area.
A large number of stone working traces can be observed at the pink granite quarry 3-L-6.

Fragments of unfinished columns in the southern part of the site testify to an intensive use in Medieval times for architectural pieces (Welsby 2002, 173).

The quarry was clearly used for architectural pieces like columns.

This is supported by evidence from settlement site 3-G-30, just to the north of 3-L-6, where Medieval ceramics were found on the surface. The building technique and general layout of these stone-built huts are also typical of the Medieval era.

Part of site 3-G-30 in close vicinity of the granite quarry.

Although several Kerma sites are also identifiable in the surroundings of 3-L-6, there is no evidence for Bronze Age or Iron Age use of the granite quarry at Jebel Kitfoggo.

It is interesting to stress that both Tombos and Jebel Kitfoggo were used for a relatively limited time span compared to other quarry sites. These examples illustrate regional patterns in quarrying in the Middle Nile, but they also show the need to consider political and historical circumstances when investigating the management of raw material and resources (Budka 2024).

References

Budka 2024 = J. Budka, Introduction. Regionality of resource management in Bronze Age Sudan: an overview and case studies, in: J. Budka and R. Lemos (eds), Landscape and resource management in Bronze Age Nubia: Archaeological perspectives on the exploitation of natural resources and the circulation of commodities in the Middle Nile, Contributions to the Archaeology of Egypt, Nubia and the Levant 17, Wiesbaden 2024, 19−33.

Klemm, Klemm and Murr 2019 = Klemm, D., Klemm, R. and Murr, A., Geologically induced raw materials stimulating the development of Nubian culture, in: D. Raue (ed.), Handbook of Ancient Nubia, Vol. 1, Berlin; Boston 2019, 15−38.

Liszka 2017 = Liszka, K., Egyptian or Nubian? Dry-stone architecture at Wadi el-Hudi, Wadi es-Sebua, and the Eastern Desert, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 103 (1) (2017), 35−51.

Vila 1976 = Vila, A., La prospection archéologique de la Vallée du Nil, au Sud de la Cataracte de Dal (Nubie Soudanaise). Fascicule 3: District de Ferka (Est et Ouest),Paris 1976.

Welsby 2002 = Welsby, D.A., The Medieval Kingdoms of Nubia: Pagans, Christians and Muslims Along the Middle Nile, London 2002.

Landscape and resource management in Bronze Age Sudan

I am very proud to announce the publication of a new volume of the ERC-funded DiverseNile Project: the copies of Landscape and resource management in Bronze Age Nubia: Archaeological perspectives on the exploitation of natural resources and the circulation of commodities in the Middle Nile, Contributions to the Archaeology of Egypt, Nubia and the Levant 17, Harrassowitz Verlag, 2024, edited by Rennan Lemos and me have just arrived and simply look great!

This volume is a direct result of many discussions held in the first DiverseNile seminar series organised by Rennan Lemos in 2021 as well as the second one in 2022, partly co-organised by Chloë Ward. The input of various colleagues working on several aspects of research extraction and management in ancient Nubia provided an opportunity to further develop an idea originally focused on gold into a collective effort to understand Nubian resource management in the Bronze Age. We are deeply grateful to all contributors to this volume, whose work illustrates the rich potential for a better understanding of how resources were extracted, managed, and utilised in complex ways in Nubia by various groups, including both Egyptians and indigenous communities, but also desert nomads. The table of content of the volume can be found here.

We are especially grateful to Manfred Bietak and the CAENL editorial board for accepting this volume for publication in their series and for organising the peer review. The publication was finalised in a difficult time for Sudan as a result of the conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces. As much as we are delighted to offer a further contribution to the investigation of ancient Sudan, we are also deeply concerned about the risks the people and the cultural heritage of Sudan are facing.

We fully support all our friends and colleagues in Sudan and would like to express our appreciation for their commitment to the preservation of the Sudanese cultural heritage in these extremely challending times. With the first anniversary of this terrible conflict and humanitarian tragedy approaching, it is timely to renew our concerns about and thoughts with the Sudanese people. Peace for Sudan!

In focus: Living at New Kingdom Sesebi

The next lecture in our DiverseNile Seminar Series 2023 is coming up: on Tuesday, July 4, Kate Spence (University of Cambridge) will be talking about her research in the temple town of Sesebi – “Living at Sesebi: investigating the houses of the New Kingdom town”.

Kate is an internationally well-recognised expert on New Kingdom urban sites and especially house architecture in Amarna and Sesebi. She has published seminal works on the topic and, in my opinion, one of her publications on the 3D form of Amarna houses (Spence 2004) is especially remarkable and extremely useful to be discussed with students in classes on Egyptian domestic architecture.

I am especially delighted that Kate will be giving this talk about lived experiences in New Kingdom houses at Sesebi for several reasons. First, because the site of Sesebi is a fantastic parallel for Sai Island and second, it has always struck me as an especially intriguing site with huge potential (especially for understanding settlement patterns in New Kingdom Nubia). Thus, thirdly, it is not only a great topic for the DiverseNile Seminar Series, but also of much relevance for domestic architecture in the Attab to Ferka region and our own research.

Kate’s recent fieldwork project at Sesebi (co-directed with Pamela Rose) reflects the new boom in urban archaeology in Upper Nubia since the 2000s, with an increase in archaeological fieldwork at sites like Amara West,Tombos, Sai, Dukki Gel and of course Sesebi.

The new work at Sesebi started in 2008 and concentrates on a re-assessment of the work by the Egypt Exploration Society in the 1930s. The most important result of this new mission is that structures and material remains, especially pottery, have been found which pre-date the reign of Akhenaten – the king who is normally associated with the site. It is very likely that Sesebi was already founded at the very beginning of the 18th Dynasty (Spence and Rose 2009, 39, 42; Rose 2017; Spence 2017) – maybe as early as Sai Island.

Join us next Tuesday at the DiverseNile Seminar and learn more about living at New Kingdom Sesebi through Kate Spence’s promising lecture!

References

Rose 2017 = Rose, P., Sesebi: Ceramics, chronology and society, 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 2017, 465–473.

Spence 2004 = Spence K., The three-dimensional form of the Amarna house, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 90, 2004, 123-152.

Spence 2017 = Spence, K., Sesebi before Akhenaten, 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 2017, 449–463.

Spence and Rose 2009 = Spence, K. and Rose, P., New fieldwork at Sesebi, Egyptian Archaeology 35, 2009, 21–24.

A Hyksos royal name scarab from Kerma cemetery GiE 003

As announced last week, the first preliminary report about Kerma cemetery GiE 003 in Attab/Ginis East has just been published (Budka 2022).

Today, I would like to discuss one of the highlights from this cemetery which was published in the EVO paper: a glazed steatite royal scarab with the name of a Hyksos king.

Scarab MUAFS 005. Photos: Rennan Lemos, editing: Marion Devigne, ©DiverseNile Project.

Found in Feature 4, the name of Pharaoh Y’amu is given on the bottom of this piece, MUAFS 005. Already on the day of its discovery, Manfred Bietak kindly helped remotely with the initial reading of the royal name of this scarab – many thanks for this! I am also particularly grateful to Karin Kopetzky, who provided detailed information about the dating criteria of this piece. The design of its back, head, legs, and sides all directly correspond to other known attestations of Y’amu (Tufnell 1984, 32, 35, 37, pl. 61: 3416, 3417, 3418, 3419; Ward 1984, 164) whose exact position within the sequence of 15th Dynasty rulers is unfortunately not clear (see Ben-Tor 2007, 107-108).

Scarabs are in general rare in cemetery GiE 003 and only two pieces have been found in our excavations. The context of scarab MUAFS 005, Feature 4, appears to belong to the later part of the Classic Kerma period, possibly contemporaneous with the Theban 17th Dynasty. As is known from other marginal regions of the Kerma empire like the Fourth Cataract area, our Hyksos scarab might have been circulating in Nubia for some time before ending up in GiE 003’s Feature 4.

The Hyksos king Y’amu has not been attested to in Nubia before the discovery of his scarab MUAFS 005 in GiE 003. Interestingly, in Ward’s sequence he would postdate the other Hyksos rulers attested to at Sai and Kerma as well as at the northern sites. Ward (1984, 164) placed Y’amu in the second half of the 15th Dynasty, but this sequence has been discussed and is not archaeologically confirmed (Ben-Tor 2007, 108 with references).

The textual evidence for contact between Kerma rulers and Hyksos kings has already been addressed from a variety of perspectives. In this context, the appearance of Tell el-Yahudiyeh ware in Nubia and of Kerma wares in Egypt, especially at the Hyksos capital Avaris, were also noted as possible indicators of exchange. Alexander Ahrens and Karin Kopetzky recently examined the appearance of Hyksos scarabs in the context of Kerma burials (Ahrens, Kopetzky 2021). Royal Hyksos scarabs are known from Ukma, Akasha, Sai, and Kerma, as well as several Lower Nubian sites (Aniba, Dakka, Sayala, Masmas, Faras, Mirgissa, Uronarti and Debeira). All of the kings mentioned on these sealings ruled during the early Hyksos period, and it is logical to assume that this was when the Hyksos engaged in direct trade with the Kerma kingdom (Ahrens, Kopetzky 2021, 295 with references and discussion). During the early Second Intermediate Period, the fortresses in Lower Nubia were under Kerma control, and the Hyksos were probably keen to establish trade and direct contact to achieve “continued access to resources and particularly to the Nubian gold essential for trade in the Eastern Mediterranean” (Ahrens, Kopetzky 2021, 295). The Lower Nubian fortresses have always been linked to gold mines and access to gold – recent work has stressed also the importance of Kerma gold working sites in Batn el-Haggar (Edwards 2020, 406-407; 415), and the same is likely for the Attab to Ferka region, especially for Ginis and Kosha. Could the Hyksos scarabs found at Ukma, Akasha, and Sai reflect not only international trade but also, indirectly, gold exploitation between the Second and Third Cataracts during Kerman rule? And could the same apply for the newly found scarab in Ginis?

It is tempting to assume that this new Hyksos scarab can be seen in connection to an intense period of Kerman exchange with the Hyksos kingdom, which sought gold from not only former Egyptian fortresses in Lower Nubia but also sites further south under Kerma rule. Sai’s importance during the Kerma Period might be linked to both the island’s strategic position and its location in a gold-rich region, making it ideal for supervising gold exploitation as we know it from the New Kingdom. Maybe the halting of trade with the Hyksos in the second part of the 15th Dynasty was one of the reasons why the character of Sai as a Kerman stronghold changed during Classic Kerma times (for this change see Gratien 2014; Manzo 2016). It remains to establish possible changes towards the end of the Classic Kerma period in marginal regions like Ginis – and cemetery GiE 003 with its use from Middle Kerma to Classic Kerma times and its close proximity to gold exploitation sites (as well as its connection to desert nomads presumably involved in the gold trade) has here lots of potential for future analysis.

References:

Ahrens, Kopetzky 2021 = A. Ahrens, K. Kopetzky, “Difficult times and drastic solutions: the diffusion of looted Middle Kingdom objects found in the northern Levant, Egypt and Nubia”, in M. Bietak, S. Prell (eds), The enigma of the Hyksos, volume IV: Changing clusters and migration in the Near Eastern Bronze Age. Collected papers of a workshop held in Vienna 4th-6th of December 2019, Wiesbaden 2021, 253-313.

Ben-Tor 2007 = D. Ben-Tor, Scarabs, Chronology, and Interconnections: Egypt and Palestine in the Second Intermediate Period, Fribourg, Göttingen 2007.

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.

Edwards 2020 = D.N. Edwards (ed.), The archaeological survey of Sudanese Nubia, 1963-69: the pharaonic sites, Oxford 2020.

Gratien 2014 = B. Gratien, Saï I. La nécropole Kerma, Paris 1986.

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

Tufnell 1984 = O. Tufnell, Scarab Seals and their Contribution to the History in the Early Second Millennium BC, Warminster 1984.

Ward 1984 = W.A. Ward, “Royal-name scarabs”, in O. Tufnell, Scarab Seals and their Contribution to the History in the Early Second Millennium BC, Warminster 1984, 151-192.

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).

Good news during very sad times for Sudan: our DiverseNile 2023 samples successfully sent to lab for INAA and OM analyses

Archaeologist is a meaningful career although our amazing job is constantly challenging under many respects and it often is physically and emotionally demanding. This is especially true for those among us who work in the field and even more for archaeologists who are part of projects, like ours, that investigate very remote and fragile geographical areas. And Sudan was in the past, and is clearly still nowadays, an extremely fragile and unpredictable land both in terms of its environmental and climatic conditions, resources, borders, cultural entities, and interregional socio-political relationships. This can be certainly attributed to the vastness of the country and to its long history of intricate and fragmented cultural, linguistic and religious identities which intertwine with an alike complex mosaic of many diverse and complementary landscapes and ecological niches.

Having said that, with these words, I do not want in any way to justify under the umbrella of the general geo-political complexity of the country, the horrible conflicts and fighting that have been going on in the capital city of Khartoum for days now and that make us seriously fear for the lives of our colleagues and friends there, as well as for the possibility of being able to return to work in our beloved Sudan. This insane war has in fact to do with geo-political balances and power games, and at the moment I consider myself blessed to have still had the privilege of having a successful field season there and hence returning just in time to get safely back home, in Munich – our team left Khartoum just five weeks ago, before all this catastrophe started!

Even more grateful we can consider ourselves, although in the last days ours is not just normal business, to manage to successfully export to Germany all our bunch of samples for laboratory analysis. And this was possible as usual thanks to the kind cooperation of our inspector and friend, Huda Magzoub, and of the NCAM in Khartoum.

A few days ago, just before the Easter break, my desk, or rather, every flat surfaces of my office (!) was still covered by a multitude of tiny, beautiful ceramic sherds for analysis. These samples, selected during the two weeks of field season I spent in Ginis, include a total of 131 specimens, attributable to Nubian-style and Egyptian-style ceramics made in Nile clays. Of these, 129 were eventually destinated to INAA and have been already successfully delivered to the AI of Vienna, where they are now in the wise hands of our colleague, Johannes Sterba. 28 intended for Optical Microscopy were additionally sent to Prague and are currently in the process of being manufactured as polished thin sections.

The sample incorporate mainly ceramic material from the Bronze Age sites in the area of Ginis and Attab, and specifically from the two excavated settlement sites of Attab West 001 ( 60 sherds in total) and Attab West 002 = Vila Site 2-S-54 (17 sherds in total), and from the cemetery GiE 003 in Ginis East (44 sherds in total). To these are added 10 samples from a surface collection conducted by our PI, Julia Budka, in the district of Kosha East (Kerma cemetery 3-P-7).

All in all, this material is highly significant in terms of diachronic representativeness of the area, covering in fact a wide time span from the Middle Kerma to the Kerma Classic and up until the 18th Dynasty of the New Kingdom period. Furthermore, these samples appear extremely promising with our general aim of understanding cultural diversity and investigating interregional and local social relationships between Egyptian and Nubian entities, comprising exceptionally not only Nubian Kerman material but also ceramic wares and types potentially attributable to the Pan-Grave cultural sphere (from Trench 5 at GiE 003).

I was glad to once again have a pleasant déjà vu of myself photographing, documenting, and packing these tiny samples that are now waiting to be analysed, while I am now busy in entering each of them in our Samples FileMaker DB.

Looking forward to revealing more about the inwardness of these tangible precious testimonies of Nubia’s Bronze Age material culture, I wish a bit of rest, peace, and hope for our beloved Sudan and mostly for all people and citizens who are now in danger because of this unjust violence.

All set for the official start of the excavation season 2023

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.

Just great to be back in oir digging house in Ginis!

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.

Taking our first micromorphological samples at AtW 001.

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!

Reference

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.

…on the traces of Nubian goldsmithing: Gold bezels and goldsmiths

Still on the traces of Nubian goldsmiths, I would like to share some thoughts about a fascinating type and a goldsmith technique common in modern jewellery but already used and widespread in Kerma time: the gold bezel.

Fig. 1: String of carnelian and amethyst beads with a blue-glazed steatite scarab pendant set in gold bezel (K1053) (photo: Markowitz, Doxey, 2014).

Significant for the study of local gold working in Nubia is a scarab necklace with gold bezel from tomb K1053 at Kerma (Fig. 1), dating to the Classic Kerma Period (c. 1700-1550 BCE). This string is composed of carnelian and amethyst beads of different shapes and typologies and a beautiful blue-glazed steatite scarab pendant set in an accurate gold bezel. According to Markowitz, the gold bezel was added and created by Nubian goldsmiths to emphasize the high rank and role of its owner (Markowitz, Doxey, 2014). The elite individual (Body D) of the Classic Kerman subsidiary grave K1053 was a Kerman woman buried with typical personal adornments, such as a silver headdress, a leather skirt with silver beaded drawstring, a necklace of blue-glazed crystal ball beads, a double set of gold armlets and bracelets on her upper and lower arms and this fascinating gold bezel scarab necklace held in her hand (Minor, 2018) (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2: Line drawing of placement of K1053 body D, associated burial goods and the gold bezel scarab string (Su. 1094) (photo: Minor, 2018).

Other interesting gold bezel scarabs are attested from Kerma: a blue-glazed steatite scarab back covered with gold plate (K X B, western part, Body XK); a scarab with gold back-cover and two carnelian sphinxes amulets (K 439, Body B); an uninscribed amethyst scarab uninscribed with a gold mounting (K IV B, Body J) (Reisner, 1923, pp. 198-228-305).

Really fascinating traces of a specific typology of gold bezel come from the heart scarab (SAC5 349) of the goldsmith Khnummose, found with his body in the Tomb 26 (Chamber 6) at Sai Island (New Kingdom, mid-18th Dynasty) (Budka, 2021). This inscribed serpentinite heart scarab, discovered by our PI Julia Budka and her AcrossBorders’ Team (read here more on this extraordinary discovery!), was found in situ with gold foil remains. During the process of cleaning, fragile strips of gold were found close to the head of the scarab and only one piece was clearly attached around the base, suggesting the presence of a bezel, most likely made with a very fine gold leaf. Indeed, the largest gold fragment has a large hole pierced through it, probably connected to the holes of the scarab (Budka, 2021) (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3: Heart Scarab of Khnummose (SAC5 349) in situ with gold foil remains (photo: courtesy J. Budka).

…and if you missed Kate’s post on the 3D reproduction of this heart scarab, hurry up and read it! https://www.sudansurvey.gwi.uni-muenchen.de/index.php/2022/12/06/diverseniles-explorations-in-3d-printing-ancient-nubian-objects/

The heart scarabs were occasionally enclosed in gold mountings in Egyptian jewellery during the New Kingdom, manufactured through the use of two main techniques: the lost wax or the welding of two separate pieces of a gold sheet (Andrews, 1994; Schäfer, Möller, Schubart, 1910). Both are still used in modern jewellery; the second technique allows the creation of a particular type of bezel exclusively used for heart scarabs. It’s a gold bezel that not only holds the base of the scarab but is characterized by a T-cage that supports the funerary amulet along the part of the scarab body called elytra (the closed wings), following their shape (Fig. 4). These gold bezel heart scarabs were hung from a gold chain or tourques through a suspension loop welded on the upper part of the bezel or the perforated scarab and bezel. Excellent examples are dated to the 18th Dynasty: the serpentinite and gold heart scarab of Neferkhawet (MMA 729), early 18th Dynasty, Thebes, Asasif (Fig. 5); the green schist and gold heart scarab of Maruta (Tomb of the Three Foreign Wives of Thutmose III), 18th Dynasty, Thebes, Wadi Gabbanat el-Qurud (Fig. 6); the green jasper and gold heart scarab of Djehuty, 18th Dynasty, Saqqara (Andrews, 1994; Budka, 2021).

Fig. 4: Scarab drawing (photo: Andrews, 1994).
Fig. 5: Heart scarab of Neferkhawet (photo: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/545166).
Fig. 6: Heart scarab of Maruta (photo: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/548642).

Coming back to Tomb 26, the family tomb of goldsmith Khnummose, there was also an exceptional steatite scarab ring in gold and silver (SAC5 388) of the 18th Dynasty (Budka, 2021) (Fig. 7). It was discovered with the female Individual 324. Among her bodily adornment, there was also an interesting necklace with carnelian and bone crocodile pendants and beads in different materials, such as gold (exactly 180 beads!). The finger ring has a heavy gold setting, most likely made by wax carving and lost wax techniques. The shank of the ring is in silver, while its small domed caps are gilded. The thin gold wire threads through the scarab, the gold bezel and the gilded caps twisting on both sides of the ring and finally fixed in small holes drilled in the silver shank (for an accurate description of these and other beautiful finds from the Tomb 26 do not forget you can find the complete book here https://www.sidestone.com/books/tomb-26-on-sai-island).

Fig. 7: Gold and silver scarab ring (SAC5 388), Tomb 26, Sai Island (photo: Budka, 2021).

The gold bezel seems to be a distinctive feature of the Nubian jewellery, but additionally, these bezels from Sai come from the tomb of a local goldsmith and his family. Khnummose held two titles: “goldworker/goldsmith” and “overseer of goldworkers” (Auenmüller, 2020; Budka, 2021).

Even if with a less sophisticated mounting than the typology of the gold and silver ring from the Tomb 26, another intriguing comparison comes from Aniba and two scarab rings (n.34, n.36; see Budka, 2021, 212). The moving bezel is fixed to the ring by a thin metal wire that passes through the scarab, twisting on both sides of the ring. The ring n.34 is in silver, while the n.36 is in bronze (Steindorff, 1937, 111, pl. 57, nos. 34 and 36).

During the New Kingdom, the scarab mounted in gold remained the most common design for finger rings (Wilkinson, 1971). This technique, the mounting of the gold bezel, characterized by different methods (Maryon, 1971), appears already among the “innovations” of the Middle Kingdom goldsmithing. The first scarab rings were made from a single wire. From the 13th Dynasty the ends of the ring were equipped with grommets through which passed the wire that held the perforated stone. However, friction between the stone and the metal frequently led to shredding, therefore goldsmiths started to create “a metal protection” for the stone: the bezel (Schäfer, Möller, Schubart, 1910).

It has been suggested that the Egyptians adopted this goldsmithing typology and technique from a foreign people, perhaps from the Mycenaean culture where these rings were used (Schäfer, Möller, Schubart, 1910). However, the gold bezels found at Kerma, used as pendants/amulets rather than rings, but also the later examples from Sai, could attest to a local Nubian typology and manufacturing, the possible influence or technology transfer between Egypt and Nubia and the use of different techniques and specific tools already during Kerma times and through the New Kingdom.

References

Andrews C., 1994, Amulets of Ancient Egypt, British Museum Press, London.

Auenmüller J., 2020, Nubisches Gold und ägyptische Präsenz: Pharaonische Goldgewinnung in der Nubischen Wüste, in: M. Kasper, R. Rollinger, A. Rudigier& K. Ruffing (eds.), Wirtschaften in den Bergen. Von Bergleuten, Hirten, Bauern, Künstlern, Händlern und Unternehmern, Montafoner Gipfeltreffen 4, Wien, 37–54.

Budka J., 2021, Tomb 26 on Sai Island. A New Kingdom elite tomb and its relevance for Sai and Beyond, Sidestone Press, Leiden.

Markowitz Y., Doxey D. M., 2014, Jewels of Ancient Nubia, MFA Publications, Boston.

Maryon H., 1971, Metalwork & Enamelling, Dover Publications Inc, New York.

Minor E., 2018, Decolonizing Reisner: a case study of a Classic Kerma female burial for reinterpreting Early Nubian archaeological collections through digital archival resources, Nubian Archaeology in the XXIST century, Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Conferencefor Nubian Studies, Neuchâtel, 1st-6th September 2014, PEETERS, LEUVEN – PARIS – BRISTOL, CT, 251–262.

Reisner G.A., 1923, Excavations at Kerma, Parts I-III,Joint Egyptian Expedition of Harvard University and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Harvard African Studies 5, Cambridge.

Schäfer H., Möller G., Schubart W., 1910, Äegyptische Goldschmiedearbeiten, Verlag Von Karl Curtius, Berlin.

Steindorff G., 1937, Aniba. Zweiter Band. Service des Antiquites de l’Egypte. Mission archeologique de Nubie 1929-1934. Glückstadt: Augustin.

Wilkinson A., 1971, Ancient Egyptian Jewellery, London.

Conference hopping from Germany to Egypt

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.

Today, I will be heading towards Mainz in Germany. Tomorrow and on Saturday the international workshop „Excavating the extra-ordinary 2. Challenges & merits of working with small finds“ will take place.

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.