We are almost there – I am still waiting for last papers, but we are almost ready for departure tonight. The 2023 season really has come to an end.
The last days were really busy and a proper summary of the 2023 season will follow shortly. For now, I would just like to repeat my thanks to all the team – and here especially to our local workmen from Ernietta, Attab and Ginis who were: Nail Mohamed, Fuad Ali, Afifi Mohamed, Mohamed Soubho, Aboud Abdu, Samer Ali, Ali Mohamed Ali, Mohamed Gelal, Ahmed Moukhtar, Ahmed Elzebeir, Abdelfatah Mohamed, Ibrahim Abdo, Ahmed Ibrahim and Awad Arafat. They did an amazing job, partly in very difficult circumstances, like during the very windy days in Attab West in February. Some of them have worked with Neal Spencer and his team at Amara West before and their expertise in working at both settlement sites and in tombs was very valuable for the project! Mohamed Soubho also turned out to be a great expert of animal bones and helped sorting this material at the site.
Here are some working pictures from site AtW 001 which was anything else than easy to excavate with its sandy layers, mud brick debris and various levels:
One of the nearby dry-stone walls of site Vila 2-T-62 was also cleaned and documented.
And here some impressions from work in the cemetery GiE 003 – these pictures should work without words I hope!
Well done, guys, it was a great pleasure, many thanks and I am looking much forward working again with this great team next year!
Our first week with workmen excavating at Attab West in site AtW 001 was very productive, despite of some windy days when we had to stop early.
The mound of AtW 001 which was covered by schist stones and pottery sherds on the surface yielded substantial mud brick debris layers. These layers contained much pottery – a total of more than 6300 sherds was processed already – including many complete vessels. The most common shapes are Egyptian-style zir vessels, bowls and dishes, beer jars and Nubian-style cooking pots with basketry impressions. One almost complete Nubian cooking pot was still found in place, partly below a very large mud brick.
A large Nile clay bowl was found in a sandy filling south of the mound with mud bricks (Fig. 3). All in all, the pottery corpus very closely resembles the ceramics from the New Kingdom town of Sai Island, especially of the Levels 4 and 3 in SAV1 North, suggesting a date from the early 18th Dynasty to the mid-18th Dynasty. Interestingly, some of the vessels seems to belong to the Second Intermediate Period tradition – whether these are old pieces or imply a use of AtW 001 already during Classic Kerma times needs to be checked.
Similar to our findings from last year, we had plenty of charcoal, ashy spots and some burnt doum nuts as well as date seeds. Doubtlessly, people were eating and cooking here during the 18th Dynasty. This is further supported by many animal bones – seemingly mostly cattle but also some caprids. The details remain to be checked by our zooarchaeologist.
Finally, there is much evidence for quartz working at the site and many stone tools (especially pounders, whetstones, grindstones, and hand mills) – Sofia is documenting these and we will double-check if my previous interpretation of the site as being connected to gold working can be supported (or modified) by our new findings.
All in all, I am very happy with both the progress of work in week 1 and the great team of this season – together with our wonderful local workmen, Huda, Chloe, Matei, Sofia and I will continue on Saturday and an update will follow shortly.
While winter is back in Munich, Chloe, Sofia and I have safely arrived in Khartoum this night. It’s wonderful to be back in Sudan and we cannot wait to be heading to the north on Monday insha’allah. Paperwork and shopping still need to be done, but then all is set.
In the field in the Attab to Ferka region we will be busy with several tasks:
Excavations at Ginish East and Attab West, especially the continuation of work at the Kerma cemetery GiE 003 and at the intriguing settlement site AtW 001
Survey in various areas, especially on the west bank and into the desert
Drone Aerial Photography in all of the concession area, but especially on the west bank.
Furthermore, we plan some ethnoarchaeological research about pottery making and goldworking/goldsmithing and metal working.
The 2023 team comprises all our ERC DiverseNile staff – Chloe, José, Kate, Giulia and Sofia. I am delighted that our team will be strengthened by two students of Al-Neelain University (Tasabeh Obaid Hassan and Mohamed Abdeldaim Khairi Ibrahim) and one PhD Candidate from the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles (Matei Tichindelean). Our NCAM inspector will be our old friend and colleague Huda Magzoub who has been supporting us in the last years.
We have a very promising 2-month season ahead of us and we will keep you updated (if the connection in the north allows it ;-)).
We had an early and unpleasant start into the weekend – because of a strong sandstorm we needed to stop work at Thursday already before breakfast. Since we were just cleaning the human remains in the first tomb we found at GiE 002 and discovered a second pit burial, this was indeed unfortunate.
However, the first week of our 2022 was intense and in many respects successful. Part of this success might not seem very positive at the first glance, but is nevertheless of much relevance for the project. We stopped work at the settlement site GiE 001 already after 4 days. We did not succeeded in finding archaeological features at this site, but we confirmed my earlier impression about this site based on the results from the two test trenches we opened in 2020 (Trench 1 and 2`, Budka 2020, 66-67). With one large area (Fig. 1) and one small test trench (Fig. 2) we now know for sure that a thin sandy surface layer with finds from various periods – Kerma, 18th Dynasty, Ramesside, Napatan and Medieval – is directly on top of natural alluvial layers. No archaeological stratigraphy or sediments are preserved. Our magnetometry from 2018/2019 does not show any archaeological features but simply differences in the soil (e.g. sandy areas).
With this confirmed, we moved on Wednesday to cemetery GIE 002 just a bit further south. Here, the main aim was finding some tombs to check the dating as proposed by Vila in the 1970s. He dated the small cemetery with largely dismantled stone superstructures to the New Kingdom, but already the one pit burial he excavated and its pottery vessels suggest that this is too early. A Pre-Napatan or Napatan dating would clearly fit much better.
This is now getting more and more likely after just 1.5 days of work – we discovered two tombs of the pit burial type as described by Vila (site 2-T-13) and all of the associated ceramics seem to postdate the New Kingdom.
First, we opened a large area where we thought depressions of three tombs are visible on the surface (and on the magnetometry, Fig. 3). The result was a bit surprising, only one tomb in the eastern part was found (Fig. 4).
In the sandy filling of this burial pit, we have a minimum of one adult burial in displaced position (Fig. 5). Because of the sandstorm, we did not yet finish excavations and still need to clean the pit. Since Vila found the remains of seven individuals in a similar burial pit (Vila 1977, 48, fig. 16), I expect more human remains closer to the bottom.
Two other areas in GiE 002 yielded no burials at all, but Trench 4 finally comprised another pit burial filled with windblown sand (Fig. 6). We also started work in another area (Trench 5) but had to stop there because of the storm. Thus, with a minimum of two pit burials to be excavated we will be able to reassess this site – please keep your fingers crossed that the tombs also include some diagnostic pottery!
In our first week, the division of work within the team worked out perfectly. Max and Fabian from Novetus were documenting all trenches at GiE 001 and GiE 002, Iulia was responsible for writing find labels and the consecutive find list. Our inspector Huda helped with supervising the workmen and our driver Imad was helpful in many respects. All of them, our wonderful gang of Sudanese workmen included, did a great job and I am very much looking forward to the results of the upcoming week.
Budka 2020 =J. Budka, Kerma presence at Ginis East: the 2020 season of the Munich University Attab to Ferka Survey Project, Sudan & Nubia 24, 2020, 57-71.
Vila 1977 = A. Vila, La prospection archéologique de la Vallée du Nil, au Sud de la Cataracte de Dal (Nubie Soudanaise). Fascicule 5: Le district de Ginis, Est et Ouest. Paris 1977.
This MUAFS/DiverseNile season is divided in two fronts: there will be simultaneous work on site and in Khartoum. I’m working in the storeroom at the Sudan National Museum together with Shadia Abdu and the assistance of various colleagues from NCAM with the aim to document objects previously excavated by Vila in the region from Attab to Ferka. This is a crucial step for us to better understand the sites located in the project’s concession area and to design future excavation and research strategies, especially concerning the cemeteries I’m investigating for DiverseNile’s work package 2.
The storeroom of the Sudan National Museum is an endless source of invaluable information about all things Sudan and Nubia. It’s a great privilege and amazing experience to be able to go through drawers and shelves containing not only all sorts of objects, but also glimpses of the history of archaeology in Sudan, including the drawer cabinets themselves, which were designed by Arkell to contain ancient objects (fig. 1). Arkell later brought the same design to the Petrie Museum in London.
The objects kept at the SNM hold an enormous research potential not only for us to re-contextualise archaeological sites, but also to carry out new analyses and answer questions that archaeology back then didn’t really think about asking. For example, reassessing the pottery from various tombs is important for us to understand the (re)use history of archaeological contexts inside and around cemeteries (fig. 2).
It’s a great opportunity to be able to work in the Sudan National Museum storeroom. As a material culture person, I feel privileged and humbled to be able to handle with my own hands the results of years and years of archaeology in Sudan, carefully kept by our wonderful colleagues at NCAM. Working inside the SNM is certainly a great way of closing this dreadful year. May the next year be better for all of us! Cheers from Khartoum!