Now published: our excavation report 2023

Perfect timing – just before the holidays, the new issue of Der antike Sudan – Mitteilungen der Sudanarchäologischen Gesellschaft zu Berlin e.V. arrived in our office, hot off the press. It comprises a broad range of topics, including our 2023 excavation report.

Chloë, Kate and I summarised under the title “Cultural diversity in the Bronze Age in the Attab to Ferka region: new results based on excavations in 2023” the most important working steps and results of our field season in Attab and Ginis earlier this year. This work would not have been possible without our Sudanese workmen and the support of all authorities. We are in particular very grateful to Huda Magzoub Elbashir, our NCAM inspector and long-time collaborator and friend.

An update of our work in Kerma cemetery GiE 003 can be found in the article, highlighting the relevance of the Pan-Grave burials we discovered in Trench 5. The presence of cultural diversity (Pan-Grave Nubians, Kerma Nubians) and evidence for cultural exchange (with the Hyksos – see for example the royal scarab, with the Egyptians – especially through imported ceramics) is of key importance for the ERC DiverseNile Project.

An overview drone image of site AtW 002. Photo: K. Rose, © DiverseNile project.

Furthermore, a short section describes our work at site 2-S-54 which we recorded as AtW 002. The rectangular Structure 1 on this site can be dated through the ceramics to the early 18th Dynasty and I included in the new article the results from the C14 analysis of a charcoal sample from a fireplace in the lower stratum, presumably the primary usage horizon. The sample yielded with the highest probability the period of 1688-1517 BCE, supporting our hypothesis that AtW 002 and neighbouring sites were probably used from Classic Kerma times to the early New Kingdom. The site is located along a paleochannel which was documented in our 2023 season by Kate (who also describes her work in this article). This paleochannel was recently addressed by our colleagues Mat Dalton, Neal Spencer and others (Dalton et al. 2023) under the topic of the intriguing river walls (of which there are plenty in our concession).

The report includes an update on our 2023 excavation at AtW 001 which allows a better understanding of this site, also in terms of dating. The material found in the debris layers we excavated in 2023 is all mid-18th Dynasty in date, therefore an abandonment of the site under the late years of Thutmose III or one of the subsequent Egyptian kings is likely. The latest pottery found at the site seems to date to the reigns of Amenhotep II/Thutmose IV (e.g. imported bichrome decorated ware).

Finally, Kate describes in the article the two primary objectives carried out for the landscape work package during the 2023 field season: 1) the drone survey over the entire district of Attab West and other areas in the concession, including low flights over selected sites for the creation of detailed orthophotos and digital elevation models of the terrain, and 2) ground survey and mapping of dry-stone features in the landscape, using a Trimble Catalyst GPS receiver, and a TDC 6000 data collector. One of Kate’s nice drone photos also made it to the cover of the new issue of MittSAG!

Seeing results of our fieldwork in Sudan published is very ambivalent at the moment – it reminds us all too well of our friends and colleagues on site and the terrible situation in Sudan, which unfortunately continues to escalate. The hope remains that 2024 will bring rapid improvement for the country and its residents. Just as there will hopefully be peace in other parts of the world.


Dalton et al. 2023 = Dalton, M., Spencer, N., Macklin, M. G., Woodward, J. C., & P. Ryan. “Three thousand years of river channel engineering in the Nile Valley.” Geoarchaeology, 2023,

Investigating Nubian funerary practices of marginal communities: the case study of GiE 003

I am delighted that Volume 45 of the journal Egitto e Vicino Oriente has been published, including my own contribution about Kerma cemetery GiE 003 in Attab/Ginis East (Budka 2022).

The aim of this paper was to present the preliminary excavation results of this large Kerma cemetery on the outskirts of Sai. Based on our excavation results from 2022, we know that it was continuously used from Middle Kerma to Classic Kerma times and has close parallels to cemeteries in Batn el-Haggar (especially at Ukma). Our excavations allow a better understanding of rural Kerman funerary practices and the types of imported objects that are present or missing within these communities (such as scarabs, pottery vessels), demonstrating local prosperity and the superregional interconnectedness of these groups.

The Kerma cemetery, which Vila documented as 2-T-39, was labelled GiE 003 by the MUAFS project. It comprises an estimated 150 tombs in an area of c. 200 x 100m. The actual extent of the cemetery requires further investigation; in the northern part, the site partially overlaps with the Medieval habitation 2-T-43.

Estimated outline of cemetery GiE 003 (Map: C. Geiger, courtesy of the DiverseNile project).

In March 2022, two trenches were opened in GiE 003 and are discussed in the EVO paper. Both trenches had eroded circular tumuli structures on their surfaces, which were covered with pottery sherds and human bones, clearly indicating ancient looting. Despite the age of the looting, some of the Kerma burials unearthed were well preserved and could be dated through the finds. The finds include fly pendants, a scarab with the name of a Hyksos king, a dagger, remains of funerary beds and plenty of beads as well as pottery.

A total of 27 pits were excavated in 2022. Through stratigraphic and pottery analysis it is also possible to make suggestions on the spatial and chronological development of the site. The EVO article is a preliminary assessment based on fieldwork results from 2022, including my detailed study of all the ceramics, but excluding bioarchaeological studies of human and animal bones, as well as the botanical remains.

The most important result of the 2022 excavation is the dating of the southern trench, Trench 2, to the Middle Kerma Period (c. 2000-1750 BCE) and of the northern trench, Trench 1, to the Classic Kerma Period (c. 1750-1500 BCE). This is especially significant, given that there were no notable differences in the surface structures.

Excavated features in Trench 1 in GiE 003, 2022. Colour coding: blue for interfaces; green for individual stratigraphic units (SU). Map: Max Bergner, ©DiverseNile Project.

In the EVO article, I proposed a possible relation of the Kerma community using GiE 003 to gold exploitation. First, in the MUAFS concession area, gold-rich quartz-veins have been found in Attab, Ginis, and Kosha, and some archaeological sites point to gold exploitation throughout the centuries, starting well before the Egyptian New Kingdom. Moreover, recent surveys in the Eastern Desert suggest that both control of gold mines and trade relationships with desert nomads played a major role in Kerman access to gold before Egyptian colonisation in the New Kingdom (see Cooper 2021). The affiliation of some of the pottery from GiE 003 with the Pan-Grave horizon seemed to illustrate in 2022 connections to nomadic people, possibly in relation to gold mining. This thesis could now be partly confirmed in 2023: in Trench 5 several Pan-Grave style burials were found (see my short summary of the 2023 season).

Here, I would like to follow Claudia Näser and her appeal for an “archaeology of interaction” (Näser 2012) – during the Kerma period, there were a number of Pan-Grave people present in the Nile Valley and for sure also in the Attab and Ginis area. They were community members (at least seasonally) interacting in various ways with other members – and our focus should be on understanding these interactions and reconstructing them as best we can. This is one of the core interests of the DiverseNile project and will keep us busy in the next years.

Our work in GiE 003 in the 2023 season resulted in many important new insights, supporting and strengthening ideas raised in the EVO article based on the 2022 season.

Coming back to cemetery GiE 003: one of the results of our excavation work is clearly that funerary practices reflecting social practices in the periphery of the Kerma kingdom must be considered in a more complex light than previously thought. Cultural diversity in the Middle Nile is well traceable during the Middle and Classic Kerma age in terms of architecture, location, burial types and grave goods. However, this requires further material assistance, with a focus on the social impact of cultural contact and the emerging patterns of globalisation during the Kerma kingdom’s heyday. The proximity of Kerma cemeteries (and thus also of possible settlements), especially also of dome grave assemblages well attested in the Attab to Ferka region, to potential gold working sites is clearly an interesting research question to be investigated in the future.

All in all, it seems likely that there was no single Kerman cultural input to interactions with the Hyksos, Egyptians and nomadic people like the Pan-Grave horizon. Rather, we must consider various hierarchical local responses determined by different communities’ ability to consume, shaping what can be called marginal communities in the Kerma state (see also Walsh 2022).

To concluse, the rich finds in GiE 003 enable us to compare this newly excavated Kerma cemetery to the well-known cemeteries of Ukma and Akasha further north. There are very close parallels, as well as notable differences and what appears to be local variations (for details see Budka 2022). This opens new avenues for future research on Kerma communities outside of the Third Cataract region, shifting the focus away from cultural and chronological classification and toward aspects of the social relationships among Middle Nile groups (and their neighbours).


Budka 2022 = J. Budka, Investigating Nubian funerary practices of marginal communities: new evidence from a Kerma cemetery at Ginis, Egitto e Vicino Oriente 45, 2022, 37-62.

Cooper 2021 = J. Cooper, Between the Nile and the Red Sea: Medjay desert polities in the third to first millennium BCE. Old World: Journal of Ancient Africa and Eurasia 1 (1), 2021, 1-22.

Näser 2012 = C. Näser, Nomads at the Nile: towards an archaeology of interaction, in: H. Barnard and K. Duistermaat (eds), The history of the peoples of the Eastern Desert, Los Angeles: University of California 2012, 80-89.

Walsh 2022 = C. Walsh, Marginal Communities and Cooperative Strategies in the Kerma Pastoral State. Journal of Ancient Near Eastern History, 9/2, 2022, 195-220.