I am excited to announce the next DiverseNile Seminar for Tuesday, 5 December. Amanda Ford Spora will talk about her research with replicas of Napatan shabti figurines.
Amanda is currently a PhD candidate at the University College London. She is a community archaeologist with fieldwork experience in Sudan, especially at Mograt Island.
Her exciting research is “about co-creative meaning making using digitally produced replicas, and the process that non-professionals and professionals engage with together, to manifest authentic narratives of the ancient past.” The shabti figurines she is using for this include Napatan shabtis, of which the originals are currently in the UK. Amanda has undertaken research with teenagers in Sudan, Australia and United Kingdom, last but not least also to raise more awareness of the rich and endangered Sudanese heritage.
Her research fits perfectly into the agenda of the ERC DiverseNile project – as Kate Rose outlined in a previous blog post, we are also using the rich potential of 3D printing ancient artifacts. We are in particular interested in the implications these replicas hold for education and outreach, the accessibility of archaeological heritage, and explorations in experimental archaeology.
However, we must not forget the current challenges of school education in Sudan after more than 7 months of war. With an estimated 19 million children out of school, the country is facing a major education crisis. In a recent blog post, solutions to revive the education sector were proposed – I heartfully wish that the wonderful and amazingly resilient people of Sudan will achieve the revival of their educational sector by means of collaborative efforts. For this, they should receive as much international support as possible – and maybe also archaeology in Sudan and especially community archaeology can help a little bit to overcome this crisis.
I am delighted that our next DiverseNile Seminar is approaching. Frederik Rademakers will be speaking about brand-new research on copper production in the New Kingdom.
Frederik is currently employed at the British Museum, Department of Scientific Research as a metals specialist. His core research focus lies on ancient copper metallurgy in the Nile Valley and central Africa. Frederik’s approach is a combination of analytical studies of archaeological remains (from museum collections as well as ongoing excavations, e.g. Kerma and Amara West in Sudan) and experimental archaeology. Through the latter, we have been frequently in contact in the last years, and I can very highly recommend his seminal publications, e.g. Rademakers et al. 2022.
I am especially happy that the upcoming presentation by Frederik on November 21, 2023 will nicely connect to our previous DiverseNile Seminar 2022, focusing on landscape and resource management. In general, the procurement of materials and management of resources are topics which have gained popularity in archaeology in recent years, also in Egyptian and Sudanese archaeology. Modern multidisciplinary approaches enable us to investigate objects’ complete chaîne opératoire. An excellent example for these new advances is the study of copper in Egypt and Nubia (see Odler 2023) and in particular copper production at Kerma, a topic Frederic is an expert in (Rademakers et al. 2022). From the New Kingdom town of Amara West, a recent study in which Frederik was one of the main persons involved has provided important insights into the complexity of production chains, the question of material availability and supply in colonial Nubia and the direct comparison with Egypt (Rademakers et al. 2023).
In the upcoming DiverseNile Seminar, Fredrik will discuss unpublished material and data for the New Kingdom – nothing you want to miss if you are interested in archaeometry, copper production and interdisciplinary approaches to the topic.
Older, M. 2023. Copper in ancient Egypt: before, during and after the pyramid age (c. 4000-1600 BC), Culture and History of the Ancient Near East 132, Leiden; Boston.
Rademakers, F. W., Verly, G., Degryse, P., Vanhaecke, F., Marchi, S. and C. Bonnet. 2022. Copper at ancient Kerma: a diachronic investigation of alloys and raw materials, Advances in Archaeomaterials 3 (1), 1−18.
Rademakers, F., Auenmüller, J., Spencer, N., Fulcher, K., Lehmann, M., Vanhaecke, F. and Degryse, P. 2023. Metals and pigments at Amara West: Cross-craft perspectives on practices and provisioning in New Kingdom Nubia, Journal of Archaeological Science 153, 105766. 10.1016/j.jas.2023.105766.
Specifically, we aimed to first perform Raman spectroscopy towards carbon-bearing pottery and yields insights on the application of this technique for estimating maximum firing temperatures of Late Bronze Age vessels from Upper Nubia, comparing two site-specific data sets of samples, from the 18th Dynasty (1550–1290 BCE) at Sai Island and Dukki Gel (Kerma).
In testing Raman spectroscopy, our principal aims were to search for differences in producing technique and firing temperatures between the Nubian- and Egyptian-style samples; between the samples from Sai Island and those from Dukki Gel; and eventually among the different ceramic wares and types.
Now, as it is often the case, one idea leads to another and while some of the archaeological questions posed in the initial objectives of the work have not yet been fully answered, new exciting questions have arisen during the research and led us to further expand our Raman project into a new spin-off project focused on the investigation of the effects of oxidative weathering in relation to site-specific depositional environment and time.
Generally speaking, oxidative weathering is known to cause significant alteration modifications of the ceramic body after deposition resulting in distorting Raman spectra and potentially leading to an overestimation of the firing temperatures (Deldicque et al., 2023). Although all archaeological ceramics experienced oxidative weathering, our case study showed that the weathering effect was possibly more intense on the Dukki Gel than on the Sai Island samples hence to affect maximum firing conditions.
In the coming months, together with Fabian Dellefant, we will particularly focus on this aspect of our research and perform Raman Spectroscopy on new samples, including ceramic sherds that have undergone extremely intensive oxidative weathering and experimental replica which were never exposed to any depositional and post-depositional processes.
Stay tuned to know more about the development of our work!
Deldicque, D., Rouzaud, J., Vandevelde, S., Medina-Alcaide, M.A., Ferrier, C., Perrenoud, C., Pozzi, J., Cabanis, M., 2023. Effects of oxidative weathering on Raman spectra of charcoal and bone chars: consequences in archaeology and paleothermometry. Comptes Rendus. Geoscience 355, 1–22. https://doi.org/ 10.5802/crgeos.186.
Today, winter term has started in Munich and another DiverseNile Seminar is approaching.
Although we are still very concerned about the current situation in Sudan, with the terrible conflict ongoing since more than 6 months, threatening and endangering civilians and also cultural heritage, we are delighted to host our next event dedicated to Sudanese archaeology.
Tomorrow’s speaker will be Geoff Emberling, Associate Research Scientist of the Kelsey Museum at the University of Michigan.
Geoff is well known for his comparative perspectives on ancient cities, states, empires, and ethnicity. Originally a Near Eastern Archaeologist by training, he has conducted fieldwork in Sudan since 2007 and has become an internationally renowned expert on the Kerma period and the Naptan empire.
His talk for the DiverseNile Seminar will give insights into his current project at one of the most impressive landmarks of Sudan: Jebel Barkal. This holy mountain has an amazing history throughout the ages and the site incorporates temples, pyramids and palaces. The Jebel Barkal Archaeological Project (JBAP), co-directed by Geoff and El-Hassan Ahmed Mohamed, started its work in 2016. This new project aims to unearth Jebel Barkal as an ancient city—the “lost city” of Napata, the urban backbone of all the known palaces and temples.
I am very much looking forward to hear more about the latest research at a fascinating site in Sudan. Although Jebel Barkal and questions about Kushite capital cities are beyond our DiverseNile Bronze Age perspectives, this case study has much potential to address crucial questions about urban sites, their infrastructure, organization and hinterland.
This past season in Sudan, our drone program took flight (pun-intended) in more ways than one. We dedicated most of our efforts to flying programmed missions over large areas of the landscape mainly in Attab West, to collect data for the generation of Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) and orthophotos. In addition, we found time to make targeted flights of standing architecture for 3D modeling and visualization purposes. Digital recording of archaeological sites using the methods and principles of photogrammetry has immense implications for cultural heritage preservation.
I was able to spend an entire day in Attab East documenting an extremely interesting, and remarkably well-preserved Islamic house, located just south of the Nile. The structure was identified and recorded by André Vila as site 2-S-57, a fortified Islamic house. It was built on a small raised rocky plateau, east of a small drainage channel.
The house is especially interesting in that many of its walls are still very well preserved, along with evidence of a second story, multiple small staircases, and a larger staircase in the northwestern corner of the house, leading to a tower-like structure. Several walls have also collapsed in recent years, and the collapsed building material remains in situ in the southeastern corner of the structure.
The house itself is designed with a large central courtyard surrounded by relatively small interior rooms. These rooms are all roughly rectangular in shape, seem to be similar sizes, and are mostly oriented east to west. Some rooms contain interior sub-divisions, as well as windows and doorways preserved along the northern exterior wall. The rooms form a cellular pattern around the central courtyard, a common architectural pattern in Islamic houses (Abu-Lughod 1987; Petruccioli 2008; Zolfagharkhani and Ostwald 2021). It would certainly be interesting to consider the use of domestic space in this house, as activity areas and movement patterns are surely present.
Current challenges exist to the house’s preservation, including erosion, flooding, and modern use of the house’s rooms as animal pens. It is interesting that there is continuity in the use of this structure for subsistence activities. However, it is extremely important to have the opportunity to digitally document well-preserved, at-risk sites such as this one. I collected approximately 700 images using our Phantom 4 drone of the site and processed a 3D model in Drone2Map.
Given the high-quality model, the site can be virtually “visited” on open-access sites like Sketchfab. This gives diverse publics the opportunity to engage with and experience the site. Furthermore, systematic analyses such as space syntax can be conducted to further understand the use of the site with the data from the model. Digital representations of archaeological sites are especially valuable during periods of political turmoil when cultural heritage may come under threat. Given the on-going conflict and humanitarian crisis in Sudan, and the enduring impact of the Covid 19 pandemic on research disciplines in general, archaeologists must continue to develop innovative solutions to critical problems of cultural heritage management and preservation.
Check out the model of the Islamic house for yourself on MUAFS’s Sketchfab profile:
Here you can play with the model, manipulate the view, zoom in on rooms and features, and experiment with the size of the model. Sketchfab is a completely free educational platform for all users. Be on the lookout for more models from the project in the future!
Abu-Lughod, J.L. (1987). “The Islamic City–Historic Myth, Islamic essence, and Contemporary Relevance”, International Journal of Middle East Studies, 19(2), pp. 155-176.
Petruccioli, A. (2008). “House and Fabric in the Islamic Mediterranean City” in S.K. Jayyusi, R. Holod, A. Petruccioli, and A. Raymond (eds.), The City in the Islamic World: Volume 1. Leiden: Brill: pp. 851-876.
Zolfagharkhani, M. and Ostwald, M.J. (2021). “The Spatial Structure of Yazd Courtyard Houses: A Space Syntax Analysis of the Topological Characteristics of the Courtyard”, Buildings, 11(262), pp. 1-22.
I am very pleased that an article I prepared together with Chloe Ward and Carl Elkins as part of a forthcoming special volume of the journal African Archaeological Review dedicated to “African Archaeology in Support of School Learning” (see Stahl et al. 2023) is now published. This manuscript was shaped over more than one year and was extreme fun to write.
Back in 2022, Ann Stahl asked me whether I would be willing to join this project preparing an unusual publication as a tool for schoolteachers and students rather than a scientific article. I was immediately excited, especially since I had already some experience teaching at schools in Austria and Germany. But this was different – more hands-on, more research-related and a very collaborative process with wonderful colleagues and a fully motivated working group. It was also a real challenge and new experience.
Since some years, I already had the idea to write a children’s book from the perspective of a dog experiencing life in an Egyptian town in Nubia in the Second Millennium BCE. Within the AcrossBorders project, we found in 2015 this cute dog figurine in the New Kingdom town of Sai Island.
Well – this was the starting point and inspired me to propose the blending of a fictional narrative with factual archaeological evidence for our contribution to Ann’s volume. Together, we developed and offered an interpretation of what a typical day may have been like living at Sai. We created a small girl letting us have a look into her life and daily routine. Of course, this girl is a proud dog owner – but check out our story for more!
In our contribution, we also offer explanations for how archaeologists work and interpret some of the evidence we discuss, focusing on a range of methods. These include recent advances in virtual 3D reconstruction which offer a unique perspective on our interpretation of the past. Carl created magical photorealistic and interactive 3D models – these are not only a great outcome themselves, but also allowed us to come up with new interpretations and asking new and different questions. The corresponding figures we included in the article were taken directly from within the interactive virtual reconstruction created in real time.
Although we focus on the past, many of the aspects we discuss in the article are highly relevant today and can be linked to several of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (in particular 9, 11, and 12). We encourage readers to think about some of the things we discuss in relation to their own lives and experiences and have provided a number of call-out questions in speech bubbles throughout the article to get some of these discussions started.
As soon as the complete special issue of AAR 40, 3 will be published, there will be the link to some supplementary material which will allow to explore the reconstruction of Sai city in an interactive mode. We are very much looking forward to any responses – from our fellow academics as well as of course schoolteachers, students and other people interested in archaeology and the relevance of the field for us nowadays (and in the future). In the meantime, we will be busy exploring more scientific questions that arose from the photorealistic virtual reconstructions – and there is quite a number of exciting ones.
It’s been a few weeks since our fantastic weekend full of experimental archaeology at Asparn (Austria), at the MAMUZ museum. I have tried to summarise the first part of our experiments, producing Nile clay vessels including the firing process with animal dung, in a previous blog post.
Once again, loads of thanks go to all our dear friends and colleagues who supported us – Vera Albustin, Ludwig Albustin, Michaela Zavadil and Su Gütter – as well as to the Viennese hosts of the event, especially to Mathias Mehofer.
This year, we tested a new arrangement – placing two fire dogs in our pit to hold a Nubian-style cooking pot. Other than normally reconstructed (following a seminal paper by D.A. Aston), we placed the fire dogs upside down – with the “ears” to the top, using these as support for the pot.
Well – the preparation of red lentils was absolutely problem-free – we used some wood as fuel as well as cattle dung. The fire dogs held the pot next to the fire, allowing us to reduce or increase the temperatures upon need.
Our replicas of fire dogs include examples with “snouts” as well as with “handles”, just like the Sai originals. For our cooking experiment this year, we used two examples with handles and placed the handle away from the fireplace. And: at the end of the cooking process, we could use the handles to take the fire dogs straight out of the fireplace and use them as a support for the pot while we were eating. Could this maybe be the explanation for these parts of our curious fire dogs?
We will continue to experiment with our fire dog replicas – not least because one of our new settlement sites in the MUAFS concession in Sudan, AtW 001, yielded several fire dogs from 18th Dynasty contexts, providing an excellent fresh parallel for the situation at Sai Island.
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!
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.
As a “landscape” archaeologist, I often have to ask myself, “What do I actually mean when I talk about landscapes?” This is far from a simple exercise, as landscapes seem to defy singular definition. Landscapes are also inherently multidimensional and interact with multi-layered social phenomena and processes such as economy, subsistence, religion, ritual, and political organization. I define landscape as the integration of natural surroundings with cultural phenomena which constitute and are constituted by social relationships. Landscapes are continuously reinvigorated and transformed by the experiences and identities of humans operating within them, and the interactions between humans, animals, ecosystems, climate, and topography. As I delve further into analysis of the landscapes of the Munich University Attab to Ferka Survey region, I try to revisit these central questions; what are landscapes and how can we best approach them from an archaeological and theoretical toolkit?
Landscape archaeology tackles the nuances of culture, environment, memory, meaning, and place-making. Landscape perspectives have evolved to recognize the permeability and relativity of landscapes, in that societies imbue their own sense of place and time on spaces (Anschuetz et al. 2001). This is a realization that extends beyond archaeology, as works from the realms of architecture, design, environmental studies, geography, history, psychology, and others reiterate the same principles. As the architect Amos Rapoport writes, “People seem to shape and interact with built environments/material culture primarily through meaning and this seems to hold over time, cross-culturally, and in all kinds of environments, contexts, and situations” (1990: 42). Anschuetz et al. (2001) argue for the adoption of a unified landscape perspective, which accounts for the theoretical and methodological development of the field and builds an epistemology of landscapes. The authors claim, “a landscape approach complements traditional archaeological space and time systematics through its processual and scientific means of analysis while at the same time integrating human history and agency into their constructions” (187). This perspective unites the main concerns and objectives of the two most dominant theoretical schools within the discipline of archaeology, Processualism (New Archaeology) and Post-processualism.
As someone who also is particularly interested in cemeteries, I often think about the intersections between landscapes and death. Neither death, nor landscapes were static components of ancient life. Cemeteries can be reconceptualized within archaeology as “mortuary landscapes.” Mortuary landscapes are not isolated phenomena; monuments of death scattered throughout the landscape. They, in concert with the natural landscape, are physically and ideologically transformative embodiments of long term social and cultural processes. Many works have explored this reconceptualization of cemeteries as inextricable from their natural and cultural surroundings (for examples pertaining to North Africa, see Stone and Stirling 2007 and Richards 1999, 2005). My working definition of mortuary landscapes is that they are built landscapes of burial, consisting of tombs, temples, and other constructions dedicated to death, strategically integrated with natural surroundings. These landscapes are complex, hubs of activity that develop and change over time due to natural and cultural processes. We must consider mortuary landscapes as active and dynamic spaces for the maintenance of identities of the dead and living.
Many past studies since the mid-20th century have situated a discussion of landscape archaeology within the context of the culture, history, geography, and environment of ancient Nubia and modern-day Sudan (Ahmed 1984; Caneva 1988; Edwards 1989; Garcea and Sebastiani 1998; Grzymski 2004; Hinkel 1994; Trigger 1965, 1982; Welsby 1998; Williams 1985). With respect to cemeteries, landscapes have also been integrated into studies from Neolithic to post-Medieval Nubia (Bashir 2021; Costanzo et al 2021; Emberling 2012; Weschenfelder 2015). There is a need for more studies that evaluate diachronic relationships between mortuary practices and landscapes using systematic, spatial methodologies. I intend to delve further into the application of systematic and spatial methodologies to Nubian contexts in a future blog post.
A framework that I think is helpful in achieving this mortuary landscape approach is “inscribing” the landscape. Inscription as a concept and a process has been discussed within the field of archaeology broadly. For example, in David and Wilson’s edited volume, Inscribed Landscapes: Marking and Making Place, landscape inscription is presented as a two-fold process: 1) the physical marking of the natural environment through monument construction such as rock art, and 2) and the social engagement of people with their environment that embodies landscapes with memories and “anchors people in place” (2002: 6). In studies of Nubia, the process of inscribing is discussed with reference to identity formation (Buzon et al 2016: 285) as well as landscape formation (Ambridge 2007). While there are many ways to describe this concept, I want to emphasize landscape inscription as a continuous process of imprinting and reproducing social meaning and relationships onto the physical environment through interactions and alterations that create a material signature. This includes the construction of architecture, and the use and manipulation of natural resources and features in creating patterns. Inscribing the landscape is akin to creating a dialogue between material culture and natural surroundings to translate the immaterial aspects of social relationships and phenomena. The landscape is the canvas on which the images of social meaning are drawn. This does not imply that social meaning can only be viewed or understood in one way. Interpretations will differ according to the perspectives, objectives, and biases of the inscribers and the viewers. Landscape inscription does not have an end point, so long as humans are interacting with their surroundings.
As archaeology for decades has attempted to reconcile structure and agency within the past, I conceive of landscapes as both agents and products of actions, processes, and changes. Furthermore, considering the process of death and veneration of the dead adds an interesting dimension to the landscape equation. In many cultures, such as the ones under investigation by the DiverseNile Project, death is obviously not viewed as an end result or product of a life. It is the continuation, an open door to another stage of being, an unfinished sentence. Landscapes, to me, exist in a similar plane, always in a process of becoming, never serving as a conclusion.
Ultimately, we hope that through a social biography approach to landscape (Budka 2020: 57; Kolen and Renes 2015) that delves into the interconnectedness of people, environment, material culture, and all organisms we can elucidate further patterns in landscape use and management over time; and identify more trajectories of continuity and change the inscribed landscapes of the Attab to Ferka region.
Ahmed, K. A. (1984) Meroitic Settlement in the Central Sudan: An analysis of Sites in the Nile Valley and the Western Butana. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports, International Series 197.
Ambridge, L. (2007) ‘Inscribing the Napatan Landscape: Architecture and Royal Identity’ in N. Yoffee (ed.), Negotiating the Past in the Past: Identity, Memory, and Landscape in Archaeological Research. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, pp. 128-154.
Anschuetz, K.F., Wilshusen, R.H. and Scheick, C.L. (2001) ‘An Archaeology of Landscapes: Perspectives and Directions,’ Journal of Archaeological Research, 9(2), pp.157-211.
Bashir, M.A.S. (2021) ‘Medieval and Post-Medieval Archaeology in the Sudan: A Study of Two Cemeteries at Mura, Northern State,’ The Algerian Journal of Humanities, 3(1), pp. 178-201.
Budka, J. (2020) ‘Kerma Presence at Ginis East: The 2020 Season of the Munich University Attab to Ferka Survey Project,’ Sudan & Nubia, 24, pp.57-71.
Caneva, I. (1988) El Geili: The History of a Middle Nile Environment, 7000 B.C.–A.D. 1500. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports, International Series 424.
Costanzo, S., Brandolini, F., Idriss Ahmed, H., Zerboni, A. and Manzo, A. (2021) ‘Creating the Funerary Landscape of Eastern Sudan,’ PLoS ONE, 16(7), pp. e0253511–e0253511.
David, B. and M. Wilson (eds.) (2002) Inscribed Landscapes: Marking and Making Place. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.
Edwards, D. (1989) Archaeology and Settlement in Upper Nubia in the 1st Millennium A.D. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports, International Series 537.
Emberling, G. (2012) ‘Archaeological Salvage in the Fourth Cataract, Northern Sudan (1991 2008)’ in M. Fisher, P. Lacovara, S. D’Auria, and S. Ikram (eds.), Ancient Nubia: African Kingdoms on the Nile. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press: pp. 71-77.
Garcea, E. and R. Sebastiani (1998) ‘Advantages and Limitations of Surveys: The Case of the Napatan Region,’ Archéologie du Nil Moyen, 8, pp. 55-83.
Grzymski, K., (2004) ‘Landscape Archaeology of Nubia and Central Sudan.’ African Archaeological Review, 21(1), pp.7-30.
Hinkel, M. (1994) ‘The Water Reservoirs in Ancient Sudan’ in C. Bonnet (ed.), Etudes nubiennes. Conférence de Genève. Actes du VIIe Congrès International d’études nubiennes. Volume II. Genève: Mission Archéologique de l’Université de Genève au Soudan, pp. 171-175.
Kolen, J. and J. Renes (2015) ‘Landscape Biographies: Key Issues’, in J. Kolen, J. Renes and R. Hermans (eds.), Landscape Biographies: Geographical, Historical and Archaeological Perspectives on the Production and Transmission of Landscapes. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, pp. 21-47.
Rapoport, A. (1990) History and Precedent in American Design. New York: Plenum Press.
Richards, J. (1999) ‘Conceptual landscapes in the Egyptian Nile valley’ in Ashmore, W. and B. Knapp (eds.), Archaeologies of Landscape: Contemporary Perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 83-100.
Richards, J. (2005) Society and Death in Ancient Egypt: Mortuary Landscapes of the Middle Kingdom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Trigger, B. G. (1965) History and Settlement in Lower Nubia. New Haven: Yale University, Department of Anthropology (Yale University Publications in Anthropology 69).
Trigger, B. G. (1982) ‘Reisner to Adams: Paradigms of Nubian cultural history’ in J.M. Plumley (ed.), Nubian Studies. Warminster, pp. 223–226.
Welsby, D. (1998) ‘Roman Military Installations Along the Nile South of the First Cataract,’ Archeologie du Nil Moyen, 8, pp. 157–182.
Weschenfelder, J. (2015) ‘The Terminal Neolithic Cemetery in the Funerary Landscape of MOG034, Mograt Island, Sudan,’ Der Antike Sudan. Mitteilungen der Sudanarchäologischen Gesellschaft zu Berlin, 26, pp.145-152.
Williams, B. (1985) ‘A Chronology of Meroitic Occupation Below the Fourth Cataract,’ Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, 22, pp. 149–195.
The aim of this paper was to present the preliminary excavation results of this large Kerma cemetery on the outskirts of Sai. Based on our excavation results from 2022, we know that it was continuously used from Middle Kerma to Classic Kerma times and has close parallels to cemeteries in Batn el-Haggar (especially at Ukma). Our excavations allow a better understanding of rural Kerman funerary practices and the types of imported objects that are present or missing within these communities (such as scarabs, pottery vessels), demonstrating local prosperity and the superregional interconnectedness of these groups.
The Kerma cemetery, which Vila documented as 2-T-39, was labelled GiE 003 by the MUAFS project. It comprises an estimated 150 tombs in an area of c. 200 x 100m. The actual extent of the cemetery requires further investigation; in the northern part, the site partially overlaps with the Medieval habitation 2-T-43.
In March 2022, two trenches were opened in GiE 003 and are discussed in the EVO paper. Both trenches had eroded circular tumuli structures on their surfaces, which were covered with pottery sherds and human bones, clearly indicating ancient looting. Despite the age of the looting, some of the Kerma burials unearthed were well preserved and could be dated through the finds. The finds include fly pendants, a scarab with the name of a Hyksos king, a dagger, remains of funerary beds and plenty of beads as well as pottery.
A total of 27 pits were excavated in 2022. Through stratigraphic and pottery analysis it is also possible to make suggestions on the spatial and chronological development of the site. The EVO article is a preliminary assessment based on fieldwork results from 2022, including my detailed study of all the ceramics, but excluding bioarchaeological studies of human and animal bones, as well as the botanical remains.
The most important result of the 2022 excavation is the dating of the southern trench, Trench 2, to the Middle Kerma Period (c. 2000-1750 BCE) and of the northern trench, Trench 1, to the Classic Kerma Period (c. 1750-1500 BCE). This is especially significant, given that there were no notable differences in the surface structures.
In the EVO article, I proposed a possible relation of the Kerma community using GiE 003 to gold exploitation. First, in the MUAFS concession area, gold-rich quartz-veins have been found in Attab, Ginis, and Kosha, and some archaeological sites point to gold exploitation throughout the centuries, starting well before the Egyptian New Kingdom. Moreover, recent surveys in the Eastern Desert suggest that both control of gold mines and trade relationships with desert nomads played a major role in Kerman access to gold before Egyptian colonisation in the New Kingdom (see Cooper 2021). The affiliation of some of the pottery from GiE 003 with the Pan-Grave horizon seemed to illustrate in 2022 connections to nomadic people, possibly in relation to gold mining. This thesis could now be partly confirmed in 2023: in Trench 5 several Pan-Grave style burials were found (see my short summary of the 2023 season).
Here, I would like to follow Claudia Näser and her appeal for an “archaeology of interaction” (Näser 2012) – during the Kerma period, there were a number of Pan-Grave people present in the Nile Valley and for sure also in the Attab and Ginis area. They were community members (at least seasonally) interacting in various ways with other members – and our focus should be on understanding these interactions and reconstructing them as best we can. This is one of the core interests of the DiverseNile project and will keep us busy in the next years.
Coming back to cemetery GiE 003: one of the results of our excavation work is clearly that funerary practices reflecting social practices in the periphery of the Kerma kingdom must be considered in a more complex light than previously thought. Cultural diversity in the Middle Nile is well traceable during the Middle and Classic Kerma age in terms of architecture, location, burial types and grave goods. However, this requires further material assistance, with a focus on the social impact of cultural contact and the emerging patterns of globalisation during the Kerma kingdom’s heyday. The proximity of Kerma cemeteries (and thus also of possible settlements), especially also of dome grave assemblages well attested in the Attab to Ferka region, to potential gold working sites is clearly an interesting research question to be investigated in the future.
All in all, it seems likely that there was no single Kerman cultural input to interactions with the Hyksos, Egyptians and nomadic people like the Pan-Grave horizon. Rather, 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 (see also Walsh 2022).
To concluse, the rich finds in GiE 003 enable us to compare this newly excavated Kerma cemetery to the well-known cemeteries of Ukma and Akasha further north. There are very close parallels, as well as notable differences and what appears to be local variations (for details see Budka 2022). This opens new avenues for future research on Kerma communities outside of the Third Cataract region, shifting the focus away from cultural and chronological classification and toward aspects of the social relationships among Middle Nile groups (and their neighbours).
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.
Cooper 2021 = J. Cooper, 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), 2021, 1-22.
Näser 2012 = C. Näser, Nomads at the Nile: towards an archaeology of interaction, in: H. Barnard and K. Duistermaat (eds), The history of the peoples of the Eastern Desert, Los Angeles: University of California 2012, 80-89.
Walsh 2022 = C. Walsh, Marginal Communities and Cooperative Strategies in the Kerma Pastoral State. Journal of Ancient Near Eastern History, 9/2, 2022, 195-220.