Closing the first MUAFS season

Wow – it has been an amazing first season in my new concession up north between Attab and Ferka! Today, we left our house at Attab East and arrived safely in Khartoum – in just a few hours, we will board the plane back to Munich via Istanbul.

A proper summary of our results will follow as soon as I got some sleep. But for now, my amazing team deserved loads of thanks – for making a great season full of important new data possible and for all the individual commitment in many respects!

Many thanks goes as always to our dear friend and NCAM inspector Huda who was a great support, helping with surveying in the desert and on the east bank, with ceramics and with the geophysical survey. Our two Mohammeds – the cook and the driver – enabled us to focus on our scientific work, taking care of all logistics in challenging times and providing us with plenty of delicious food.

Looking already now very much forward to the second season of the MUAFS project and coming back to the beautiful landscape full of archaeology covering several millennia of history just downstream of the Dal cataract.

Tracing the Kerma Period in Ginis and elsewhere

Just one last visit to Abri and to WLAN, before it goes back to Khartoum! Has been a great first short season of the MUAFS project with plenty of intriguing data and impressions!

We documented many impressive sites in the last two weeks – altogether, I managed to re-identify and check 119 sites, which Vila recorded in the 1970s. For some of these sites, the dating is of much interest. A slightly revised dating as compared to the published data adds fresh information about several periods of presence in this part of the Nile valley, for example during the Napatan period.

Of prime interest this week was the Kerma period and here in particular settlement sites and cemeteries. Various large tumuli cemeteries, especially of the Kerma Moyen and Kerma Classique periods, are located at the East Bank; we found several older and smaller ones on the West Bank.

Ginis East was once again of particular importance and two more sites were investigated by magnetometry this season. GiE 003, labelled by Vila as 2-T-39, is a huge tumulus cemetery comprising probably more than 150 tombs, stretching from East to West and now partly destroyed by modern pathways and streets. A similar site is 2-P-7, located further upstream at Kosha East. There, the tumuli are quite dismantled, but various ceramics including Egyptian imports can still be found and suggest a Kerma Moyen date as prime phase of use for this cemetery.

Kerma cemetery 2-P-7

Marion’s work with the Ferrex Foerster magnetometer revealed amazing results at GiE 004, a Kerma settlement documented by Vila as site 2-T-5. The main structure of the site and its multiple circular huts, possible enclosures for animals and fences are clearly visible on the magnetogramm. The site is surrounded by later structures from Post-Meroitic and Christian times – like at other places in our concession, a long-lasting multi-period use of this part of Ginis East is obvious.

Finally, intriguing Kerma sites can be found at Attab West – in the immediate surroundings of 18th Dynasty sites, comprising both mudbrick and stone architecture. These sites, which are located along an ancient branch of the Nile, are especially relevant to investigate cultural encounters during the Bronze Age in our concession area since Egyptian pottery was found frequently associated with Kerma Classique ceramics.

One of the Kerma sites with much Egyptian pottery on the surface.

So many exciting new finds, so much work to do in the near future between Attab and Ferka!

Some glimpses from the West – Attab, Ginis and Kosha

The second week of the MUAFS project is well underway – time flies by, only the temperatures have dropped markedly.

With limited internet access, here are just some very brief comments on our ongoing survey of the westbank. It was just stunning in the last days to experience a boat ride into a completely different landscape every morning. Attab, Ginis and Kosha look as much different as the Nile is changing its direction and course. Most beautiful so far was clearly Ginis – with impressive sand dunes and archaeological sites set between these picturesque desert landscapes and tamarisks.

As much impressed as we are by the surroundings, as rewarding are the survey results and the archaeological remains. Giulia in particular was really happy that we located a number of meso- and neliothic sites with nice pottery; my personal favourite these days was site Vila 3-P-17 in Kosha West. This is a settlement mound with early 18th Dynasty pottery, of tremendous importance for understanding the early presence of Egypt in this area during the New Kingdom (and contemporaneous to the early levels at Sai the AcrossBorders project was investigating in the last years).

Especially remarkable are also three sites in the central part of Ginis West, which Vila dated to the New Kingdom but which are clearly Napatan based on the pottery from the surface. As settlement remains with peculiar architectural features, these sites hold rich potential for investigating Napatan occupation in the Batn el-Hagar region.

The next days will be very busy finalising the archaeological survey on the westbank, the geophysical survey on the eastbank and aerial photography of Kosha East. An update will follow shortly, once we are again connected to the www.

Some impressions from the first week of fieldwork

Fieldwork without internet connection – something very unusual these days, but during this season none of our mobile devices is working, so please forgive that this blog has been as silent as I was on twitter the last week.

Today, we have the great chance to catch up with emails and connect to the world again thanks to a kind Sudanese friend and his wonderful WLAN-connection! And of course I would like to give you a very brief account of our past week.

We set up headquarters in a really nice and comfortable Nubian house at Attab East, thus in the southern end of our concession. This proofed to be perfect, we can reach the most important sites in the surroundings by foot and shopping for our driver at Abri, the only major town nearby, is also very convenient.

In week 1, we succeeded in a survey of the most relevant sites on the East Bank from Attab, Ginis, Kosha, Mograkka up to Ferka. Although most of them have been located and documented by Vila, we also discovered some new sites, especially Pre-Kerma occupation sites. Ferka, Mograkka and Kosha are dominated by Christian remains and large Post-Meroitic cemeteries, including tumuli of very considerable size. Kerma cemeteries are also found until the northern part of our concession area.

Work focused on Ginis where also a new field measurement system was set up – we conducted a multi-disciplinary documentation of three selected sites in this area: magnetometry, aerial photography by drone and of course a surface survey.

Site  GiE 001 is most interesting – it is a very complex settlement, having been used from the Kerma period throughout the New Kingdom and possibly until Pre-Napatan times. Vila observed a Kerma and a New Kingdom part of the site – however, this is probably much more complicated, and interestingly we not only found 18th Dynasty but also Ramesside pottery on the surface. Was this site really occupied during most of the era of the New Kingdom? So many important questions!

But I must confessed that I was very shocked when we first reached this site which was, just according to my preparation of this field season based on Vila’s documentation, my personal favourite for excavation in the upcoming years. The western part of the site is now completely covered by modern houses that were built in the last 20 years! And its eastern part is heavily damaged by construction work for the electricity posts.

Well… After the first shock, I stuck to my original plan and we started to document the site in detail. Marion, helped by Huda and Giulia during this week, managed to conduct a great magnetometry survey at GiE 001 – the results are amazing and definitely what I was hoping for!

The site is much damaged, but plenty of information is still available under ground. We will keep you updated here – the site will keep us busy in the upcoming years.

Exciting results from Marion’s magnetometry survey!

Other sites have already been documented using the drone of our department at LMU – Cajetan, assisted by Franziska and Valentina, managed to cover large parts of Ginis, focusing on the sites which will be excavated in the near future.

Although work during this week has been in parts very frustrating – many sites were badly damaged, others even disappeared since Vila’s work!, the results are very promising and exceed my expectations already. And apart from all – the landscape is amazing and just really splendid, especially the view towards the West Bank. A privilege to work in this part of the Middle Nile Valley.

I collected already a nice sample of pottery from sites at the East Bank – dating from Neolithic times, Pre-Kerma, Kerma, New Kingdom (both 18th Dynasty and Ramesside), Pre-Napatan, Napatan, Post-Meroitic and Christian times. The rare Meroitic tombs in our concession are unfortunately all very much disturbed and yielded no finds for us as of yet.

Giulia and Huda busy with sorting pottery from the survey.

Next week work will focus on the West Bank and on magnetometry of more Kerma and New Kingdom sites on the East Bank – it will again be a very full, but definitely rewarding week!

Almost ready for going north

Christmas and Munich seem ages ago and galaxies away – we safely arrived in Khartoum and were busy preparing everything for the first MUAFS season in the last two days! Things in Sudan are currently quite difficult and it is more time-consuming to get everything done than usual – although there are some last-minute things still left to do, we can fortunatelly stick to our time schedule and leave Khartoum tomorrow as planned.

Many thanks go already to the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums (NCAM) in Sudan for all their support in challenging times. The best news are that our NCAM inspector will be again our dear old friend and colleague, Huda Magzoub, who worked with us the last years at Sai Island, focusing on New Kingdom remains and very much interested in ceramics.

Huda and me last year at the Kajbar cataract.

Looking very much forward to our travel and starting fieldwork on Saturday!

Getting ready for the field season

Yesterday, our office was nothing for orderly persons – or let’s says armchair archaeologists unfamiliar with last minute preparations of archaeological fieldwork and how messy these can be… Cajetan, Marion, Giulia and me packed all the equipment we need for the upcoming field season in Sudan. Thanks to the great support of the Department of Ancient and Culture Studies of LMU we are particularly well equipped this year – but therefore it was also a challenge to get everything ready, sorted and packed. It took a while, but of course we succeeded and our luggage is almost ready to board the plane next week! And the office is tidy again.

Veronica prepared all the form sheets and find labels we need for the new project and Jessica helped with last minute additions based on the Vila volumes about the Attab to Ferka region.

Finally, the team got its well-deserved Xmas presents – the brand-new MUAFS T-shirts – and we had a last meeting, including Valentina and Franziska via skype, discussing logistics and priorities for the field.

The MUAFS team is ready for its first field season!

Many thanks to all, we are really almost ready to go, a few more days for final preparations and then we will be arriving in Khartoum, meeting our Sudanese colleagues and friends. Looking very much forward to the first field season of the MUAFS project!