The MUAFS logo explained

The ERC DiverseNile project is embedded in the MUAFS project. In a recent post I explained the meaning of the new DiverseNile logo. The MUAFS logo was already created in 2018, but what exactly does it show?

We tried to illustrate the main aims of the project in the logo which is based on a rock art drawing in our concession (see Vila 1976, fig. 22).

Rock art motif at 3-L-24 after Vila 1976, fig. 22.

Within the MUAFS project, the area between Attab and Ferka will be investigated with a biography of a landscape approach and a long durée approach, considering all attested periods; the area is a natural and cultural border zone and therefore relevant for border studies.

We are very much interested in humans and cultural groups inhabiting and shaping the area. Objects and the material culture throughout the time is another of our research aims. Animals and other non-humans like plants will also be considered with priority. And finally, bringing these aspects together, we also focus on general activities and production within this area.

Although I was not aware of it when I chose the specific piece of rock art as the future MUAFS logo, the logo is also graphic evidence for the emergency affecting the project: Modern gold mining, construction works and building activities are endangering the cultural heritage of the area.

The rock art site 3-L-24 in Mograkka East comprising the picture of a herdsman we used for the MUAFS logo is presently buried below sand and debris from recent channel construction.

Present situation of the site 3-L-24: rock art including the MUAFS logo is buried below the debris of modern construction work and no longer accessible.

The area between Attab and Ferka has changed tremendously since the time of Vila – and this will also be illustrated and studied by both the MUAFS and the DiverseNile project in the next years.

Reference

Vila 1976 = Vila, A. 1976. La prospection archéologique de la Vallée du Nil, au Sud de la Cataracte de Dal (Nubie Soudanaise). Vol. 4. Paris.

The 2020 season in pictures

We should just have landed in Munich these minutes… but since a sandstorm in Khartoum prevented the airplanes to land yesterday, our flight was cancelled and Jessica and me are now stuck in a hotel close to the airport…

Well, we are still waiting for information when we will have the next try and thus I thought I use the time to go through some of the pictures we took this season.

The 4.5 weeks of work at Ginis East and sourroundings were intense and varied, in terms of tasks, weather, nimiti and other things. Here are some impressions with a huge load of thanks to my great 2020 team! Looking much forward to the next season!

First day in the field, setting up the trenches (photo: C. Geiger)
Veronica setting on of the posts for our trench (photo: C. Geiger).

Giulia at work (photo: C. Geiger).
Surface cleaning at GiE 001, Jessica and Huda (photo: J. Budka).
Jessica documenting the church of Mograkka (photo: C. Geiger).
Cajetan at work – image based documentation of the church of Mograkka (photo: J. Distefano).
Giulia, Veronica and Huda at GiE 006 (photo: J. Budka).
The 2020 Team at Ginis East.
The Nile and riverbank at Ginis (photo: J. Budka).
Me busy with surface documentation at GiE 001 (photo: J. Distefano).
Photographing Trench 2 at GIE 001 (photo: J. Distefano).
Jessica taking survey points with the total station (photo: J. Budka).
The landscape at Mograkka East (photo: J. Budka).
Jessica looking for diagnostic pottery sherds at one of the Christian cemeteries in Mograkka (photo: J. Budka).
Jessica taking measurements at the curch of Ferka East (photo: J. Budka).
Me photographing Post-Meroitic tumuli at Ferka (photo: J. Distefano).
Huda, Jessica and me after we finished the survey in Mograkka.

Summary of week 4, 2020 season

We are already approaching the end of our second season of the MUAFS project.

As planned, we finished our test excavations at GiE 001 and GiE 004 earlier this week and were then busy with surveying areas of the concession on the East bank.

The marog digging activities at GiE 001 were fully documented and surface cleaning at GiE 004 yielded some interesting information regarding the possible function of the site where Kerma Classique material dominates the assemblage.

Thanks to the introduction by Cajetan before he left to Munich, we are also up-to-date regarding our 3D surface models and digital documentation– Jessica managed the processing with PhotoScan and QGis very well.

Three days of survey at Ginis, Kosha and Mograkka were exciting, but also partly very frustrating – we relocated a total of 27 sites documented by Vila in the 1970s, but unfortunately a number of these have been completely destroyed, especially because of the road construction work of the asphalt street going to Wadi Halfa. This holds in particular true for cemeteries laid out on sandy plains and alluvial platforms.

Example of changes in the landscape at Kosha East, due to the road construction and modern gold mining.

Further destruction is caused by modern gold mining and some areas of the region have been completely modified since the 1970s, making a crosscheck with Vila’s documentation sometimes were difficult. Sites located further into the hillsides were in most cases more lucky and still represent excellent example for the occupation of the region. We documented camp sites from various periods, especially Neolithic times and Kerma periods, but very often also multi-period sites.

Bristish pyramidal memorial at Kosha East.

An unexpected discovery was a small stone pyramid at Kosha East – I simply did not know that one of these pyramidal memorials set up by the British in Sudan and of which I have already seen quite a number further north, was also erected in our concession. Its label reads: „To the memory of British officers and men who died here in the Anglo-Egyptian campaigns”. This memorial is not the only reminder and evidence for the Anglo-Egyptian campaigns in our area – as already observed by Vila, several of our camp sites located in the hills show traces of recent re-use. Many of these sites were probably re-used by the Anglo-Egyptian soldiers. This is one of the more modern aspects of the landscape biography of the Attab to Ferka region which we will also incorporate into our general assessment.

We will continue with the survey next week, focusing now on the area around Ferka – fingers crossed that the storm that came up tonight will hopefully cease very soon.

Summary of the first MUAFS field season

From the Nile back to the Isar, from sun and sand back to clouds and snow, from desert walking back to desk work, emails, meetings and teaching – although our travel back from Attab via Khartoum via Istanbul to Munich took more than 30 hours, it feels like a very sudden transposition.

Landscape view of our concession area in northern Sudan.

Our first season of the MUAFS project was successfully closed and all of the principle goals were achieved thanks to the great support of NCAM and our inspector Huda Magzoub.

The principal goal of the first season was a new survey of the concession area, which was already recorded by Andrè Vila in the 1970s and published in his volumes 3-6. Altogether, 119 sites by Vila were re-identified and documented in the area between Attab East and Ferka East and Attab West and Mograkka West. For some of these sites, the dating can now be corrected, especially for Khartoum Variant and Abkan sites, Pre-Kerma sites, Kerma, New Kingdom and Napatan sites. Diagnostic stone tools and pottery fragments were collected from relevant sites. Other findspots of pottery and lithics that were previously not recorded by Vila, were documented as GPS waypoints and will be integrated in the new map of the area to be composed based on the results of our first season.

One particular focus was on the state of preservation of the sites nowadays – unfortunately, at almost all sites, we observed modern destruction and/or plundering. Especially drastic were destructions because of road building, the electricity posts and modern gold working areas (in particular at Mograkka West).

Major changes were observed compared to the state of preservation in times of Vila – one particularly illustrative example is Vila’s Kerma Period site 2-T-36B, partly overbuilt by modern houses and reduced because of the new electricity posts. Another example from the well-attested Christian period in our concession area is the church of Mograkka (2-L-2). While Vila documented it as single monument on a small hilltop, it is now embedded in newly built modern houses of the expanding village. The church new next-door neighbor is a modern mosque erected in the last years. Unfortunately, most of the Christian rock art, located by Vila in the immediate surroundings, are presently covered by modern debris from recent chanel works.

Detail of the well-preserved Church at Mograkka East with its new neighbour.

At other places, especially between Mograkka and Kosha, Neolithic and Post-Meroitic as well as Christian rock art was relocated by us. The most frequent motifs are cattle pictures and other animals like gazelles, hippos, ostriches and elephants.

Rock art site at Mograkka West.

The focus of our work in the first season was the east bank and here in particular the district of Ginis. We conducted aerial photography of large parts of the east bank, covering the area between Attab and Ginis by the drone kindly lent to us from the Department of Cultural and Ancient Studies of LMU Munich. These data will enable a digital elevation model and detailed orthophotos. A survey system with measuring points using the GPS Antenna was set up in this area as well, securing future work according to this coordination.

A geophysical survey of four sites from the Kerma period and the New Kingdom was realized by Marion Scheiblecker in Ginis East, using the Magnetometer of the type Ferex Foerster. New site labels were created for these find spots (GiE 001 for Vila 2-T-36B: Kerma and New Kingdom settlement, GiE 002 for Vila 2-T-13: New Kingdom cemetery, GiE 003 for Vila 2-T-39: Kerma cemetery and GiE 004 for Vila 2-T-5: Kerma settlement). The respective results are very promising and can serve as firm basis for a focused excavation of these important sites in the upcoming seasons.

In sum, the first season of the MUAFS project was very successful, providing new and partly unexpected results (like the strong presence of Napatan sites in the region), highlightening the rich potential of the concession area for detailed work from the Mesolithic period up to Christian times and allowing us to plan the next working steps. For now, we consider the Kerma and New Kingdom sites already investigated by magnetometry as of prime priority for further fieldwork.

We will be busy in the next week working on the collected data from our field season and setting up a strategy for the next years of work between Attab and Ferka. Of course we will keep you updated!