From the field in Egypt to the digital classroom

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

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

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

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

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

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

Once upon a time… in Nubia, Egypt and Vienna

October has passed really fast, with increasing attention given to the covid-19 crisis. The latter will of course continue in the next weeks…

The DiverseNile project has got some reinforcement in the person of Giulia D’Ercole. Building upon her expertise gained in the framework of the AcrossBorders project, she will be focusing within our Work Package 3 (material culture) on various assessments and analyses of ceramics from the MUAFS concession. A special focus will be on the question of ‘peripheral’ Kerma pottery production including a comparison with the one at the capital, at Kerma city.

Also in other respects, October was very busy – and somehow sentimental, full of memories – nice ones fortunately! Earlier this month, one of the most remarkable present-day Austrian Egyptologists celebrated a round-numbered birthday – my PhD supervisor Manfred Bietak is well-known for his research and publication activities on Egyptian archeology and especially on cultural contacts during the Middle Bronze Age in the eastern Mediterranean. Very remarkable, but little-known is also his field work in Nubia early in his career – as a member of the excavations by the Austrian National Committee of the UNESCO Campaign for the Rescue of the Nubian Antiquities in the Sayala district, he excavated between 1961-1965 various cemeteries of Nubian groups (especially so-called C-Group and Pan-Grave, but also later tombs potentially associated with Blemmyes), as well as relics of the Medieval period. This early experience left a deep impression and all of his students know stories by Manfred being told at excavations and excursions starting with “once upon in Nubia, …”. I consider myself fortunate to be among these students and am simply grateful for such an inspiring teacher!

Once upon in Nubia – here in Sayala, 1965. Bietak and Jungwirth 1966, pl. 1.

To celebrate Manfred’s birthday but also his achievements for the study of Late Period Egypt, I organized the first online Study Day of the Ankh-Hor project. This day was a real success and the lectures are by now available online via LMU cast.
Finally, a podcast has been released where I immerse myself in my memories – talking about the critical moment in my career when it was unclear whether I can stay in academia or not.

https://scilog.fwf.ac.at/podcasts/die-archaeologin-im-hundepark

If you want to know what an egg and my dog’s interest in this egg has to do with that – then you will have to listen to the podcast 😉!

Reference:

Bietak, M. and Jungwirth, J. Die österreichischen Grabungen in Ägyptisch-Nubien im Herbst 1965, in: Ann. Naturhistorisches Museum 69, 1966, 463-470.

Back to school – or: DiverseNile after the summer break

Munich is very busy again, the quiet days of the summer break in the city are gone, the parks are crowded again, school vacations are almost finished and a new school year will start next week.

The MUAFS project and DiverseNile had just a very short break in August, everything was quite packed due to the extended corona term at LMU and some appointments including a very pleasant one in Vienna: my family lecture about archaeology in Egypt and Sudan! This lecture was part of activities by the Austrian Academy of Sciences in the framework of the KinderUniOnline.

I tried to explain to kids in the age of 7-12 years why I am personally still fascinated by ancient Egypt and Sudan. I talked about the numerous finds we unearth and can use to try to reconstruct daily life activities and more. I highlighted some examples from the tomb of Ankh-Hor in Luxor and of course I talked about cooking pots, ceramics in general (and brought some sherds with me to show!) and the very promising remains in the Attab to Ferka region which still have so many open questions for us.

You can watch my lecture (in German) at youtube:

Let’s hope that some future archaeologists are inspired by the rich archaeological heritage in Egypt and Sudan!