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In the upcoming DiverseNile Seminar, Fredrik will discuss unpublished material and data for the New Kingdom – nothing you want to miss if you are interested in archaeometry, copper production and interdisciplinary approaches to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.
The so-called „vorlesungsfreie“ (lecture-free) summer time is now over – the winter term at LMU will start on Monday. Next week is also the next DiverseNile Seminar – this time it will be given by our own Giulia D’Ercole, who has just returned from her maternity leave.
Giulia will speak about some core tasks of our work package 3, material culture and cultural diversity in the Attab to Ferka region. Under the title „Material meanings, technology and cultural choices: Pottery production in Bronze Age Nubia“ she will outline a number of theoretical and methodological aspects of her study of ceramics produced in the Middle Nile, including Nubian-style, Egyptian-style and also so-called hybrid vessels. Case studies from Sai Island but also from the new MUAFS concession will be presented.
I am very happy that Giulia is back in office and very much looking foward to her lecture on Oct. 18 – anyone interested in Bronze Age technology and/or pottery shouldn’t miss it!
If there is something that the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us is resilience, work flexibility and mostly the capacity to design alternative solutions to meet the various physical restrictions and newly shaped work conditions and needs. Further, we learned the importance of networks and acquiring skills even in remote formats, and that online (and/or hybrid) classes and conferences can give virtuous outputs as those in presence. Within the framework of our project, a successful example of this is certainly represented by our online Diverse Nile Seminar Series 2021 Cultural Diversity in Northeast Africa.
For me operating within the Work package 3 of the project and principally dealing with laboratory analysis on the material data – ceramic samples – collected in the field, the pandemic has inevitably meant that I had to shift my main focus from the study of fresh excavation data to the study of reference collections. Hence, in the last months my work schedule has been mainly centred on documentation, database archive, and comparison among the various ceramic datasets. Also, the obligatory permanence in Germany (missing the field and the warmness of the Sudanese sun) together with the need to work often via remote or, whenever possible from the lab, pushed me to convey my working goals to search for new theoretical approaches and interpretative inputs, eventually enlarging the spectrum of the analytical competencies and methodologies devoted to the study of the ceramic samples.
In these circumstances the idea was born together with our PI and other colleagues from the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences of the LMU to cooperate and expand the networking between our departments hence to test together a new analytical methodology for archaeological ceramic material, namely Raman Spectroscopy.
This technique, which took its unusual name after the Indian physicist C. V. Raman who was the first to observe Raman scattering in 1928 and won a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1930 for this discovery, is a molecular spectroscopy procedure which provides information about vibration and rotational states of molecules. It works using the interaction of a source of monochromatic light, normally an intensive monochromatic laser radiation, and the matter of the sample. The largest part (99.99%) of the laser light radiates through the sample, a very small proportion is scattered in all spatial directions (so-called Rayleigh scattering), finally an even smaller part is scattered inelastically (so-called Raman scattering). This latter contains information about the sample, its molecular structure (no the single chemical elements) and specific characteristics of the material (see among others, Spieß et al. 1999; also What is Raman Spectroscopy? | Raman Spectroscopy Principle (edinst.com); Raman spectroscopy – Wikipedia).
For the study of archaeological samples like ceramics, Raman spectroscopy has the advantage of being a non-destructive (only a minimum portion of the sample as the same slide of the thin section is needed), rapid and relatively low-priced technique. However, the high potential of this methodology may collide with the natural heterogeneity of most of the ancient, especially hand-made, ceramic manufactures (Medeghini et al. 2014; Vandenabeele & Van Pevenage 2017; see also Legodi & de Waal 2007). This is why, at the moment, our goal consists primarily to observe the methodological potentials of Raman and discern its use for our specific research questions.
For our trial study, we selected ten samples (of which six are ceramics from Sai Island and four from the Dukki Gel’s reference collection). All of them are either locally produced cooking pots or other local ware manufactured both according to the so-called Nubian and Egyptian style (Figure 1). In testing this new analytical technique, our main aims are the following: to search for differences in producing technique and firing temperatures/regimes 1) between the Nubian and Egyptian-style samples; 2) between the Nubian samples from Sai Island and those from Dukki Gel; 3) between the Egyptian-style samples from Sai Island and those from Dukki Gel; 4) among the different Nubian types (cooking pots with basketry impressions, incisions, and others). In addition, we also want to look at the behaviour of the organics and their carbonization and check for a possibility of a better characterisation of some opaque mineral phases.
In the last days, together with the colleague Fabian Dellefant, geoscientist and doctoral student at the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences of the LMU, we have realized high resolution scans of the selected ceramic thin sections and photographed them at the petrographic microscope under different light conditions (both transmitted cross polarized and plane polarized light, and also reflected light) in order to describe and document the areas which we are ultimately going to analyse by Raman.
Stay tuned to know more about our ongoing work and first results!
Selected references and links
Legodi, M. A. &, de Waal, D. 2007. Raman spectroscopic study of ancient South African domestic clay pottery, Spectrochimica Acta Part A: Molecular and Biomolecular Spectroscopy, 66, Issue 1, 135-142.
Medeghini et al. 2014. Micro-Raman spectroscopy and ancient ceramics: applications and problems. Journal of Raman Spectroscopy, 45, Issue 11-12, Special Issue: Raman in Art and Archaeology 2013, 1244-1250.
Vandenabeele, P. & Van Pevenage J. 2017. Raman Spectroscopy and the Study of Ceramic Manufacture: Possibilities, Results, and Challenges. In Hunt, Al (Ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Archaeological Ceramic Analysis.