Arrival in Sudan: getting the 2023 field season prepared

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 ;-)).

DiverseNile Seminar Series 2023

It’s been a busy start to the year here in Munich with our upcoming field season in Sudan. However, the organisation for this year’s DiverseNile Seminar Series by Chloe Ward is well under way and we hope to have a full programme for you soon. For now, we are delighted to announce that the first talk will be given by our very own Kate Rose (PostDoc of the DiverseNile project) on Tuesday 25th of April (13-14 CET).

The theme of this year’s DiverseNile Seminar Series will focus on interdisciplinary approaches to archaeological research in the Nile Valley. This ties in well with the aims of the DiverseNile project and will allow us to reflect on the wide range of methods and theories that can be used in archaeological research. Other speakers for the series will include Fatma Keshk (IFAO/PCMA), Carl Walsh (Barnes Foundation), and Frederik Rademakers (British Museum).

We are very much looking forward to see you all at these online seminars – stay tuned for the detailed programme!

Attending the Living in the House conference in Cairo – first thoughts after a great conference

Julia and I have just returned to (a very cold!) Germany, after a fantastic time in Cairo for the Living in the House: Researching the Domestic Life in Ancient Egypt and Sudan conference. The conference, organised by Fatma Keshk, was fascinating and stimulating, and it was also a great opportunity to catch up with many colleagues and friends.

The conference organised by the Institut français d’archéologie orientale (IFAO) and the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology in Cairo (PCMA), was held over four days between the two institutes and included a wide range of papers and international scholars. Despite, the significant amount of work and research that tackles settlement and domestic archaeology in Egypt and Sudan, it is rare to have an entire conference dedicated to the topic, and it was fantastic to have this conference held in Cairo. The papers covered a broad range of themes, topics, periods, and interdisciplinary approaches and has given us a lot to think about, particularly for Work Package 1 of the DiverseNile project.

The papers were very well organised into different themes, which allowed for discussion of particular topics and ideas in the time after each session. They included domestic material culture, settlement space and accessibility, the use of domestic spaces, cooking spaces and material culture, recent research on settlement excavations, architecture and building techniques, ethnoarchaeology, religion, and house property. Papers also drew on sensorial experiences and phenomenology to consider what it would have been like to actually live in these houses and settlements, focusing on the lived experience.

Therefore, papers ranged from considering broad concepts such as what makes a home and sensorial experiences of domestic architecture, to more specific practices such as cooking or particular rooms and their identification. Such as Delphine Driaux’s discussion of the bathroom in ancient Egypt, which drew on both historical and archaeological evidence. The use of different methods, sources, and interdisciplinary approaches was something which came up in all of the papers. This included Julia’s paper, which drew on examples from both the AcrossBorders and DiverseNile project to consider cooking practices in New Kingdom Egypt and Nubia, using a range of methods from ceramic analysis, organic residue analysis, to experimental archaeology. You can read more about this in some of the previous blog posts (https://www.sudansurvey.gwi.uni-muenchen.de/index.php/2022/11/24/conference-hopping-from-germany-to-egypt/, https://www.sudansurvey.gwi.uni-muenchen.de/index.php/2022/07/05/advances-in-experimental-archaeology-firing-pottery-use-of-dung-and-much-more/).

All of the papers have given us a lot to think about and consider in our own project, particularly in terms of the separation of domestic and work spaces which was brought up in a number of talks. Including in Mark Lehner’s excellent keynote on the second day, which raised an interesting discussion on the separation, or lack thereof, of public and private life. This drew on interdisciplinary approaches to the study of space and the layout of buildings from architectural and social studies.

The use or influence of interdisciplinary approaches to the study of domestic archaeology was a major theme throughout the conference, which is always fantastic to see in archaeological research. And again, gives us a lot to consider and think about! Such as the numerous ethnographic examples raised, both to provide comparisons and parallels to archaeological evidence, as well as to help us challenge assumptions and think about archaeological remains in different ways. This included Fatma Keshk’s paper on Egyptian houses, drawing on ethnography and ethnoarchaeology to give a better understanding of a number of aspects, including design, categories of houses, factors effecting use (both practical and social), as well as privacy patterns in domestic settings. Also drawing on contemporary examples, was Mennat-Allah El Dorry’s talk, which focused specifically on the kitchen and how it is identified in the archaeological record, based in many cases on modern western concepts of what constitutes a kitchen, rather than the more ephemeral and mobile nature of food preparation.

Challenges to existing assumptions about domestic archaeological interpretation were also raised in a number of other papers. Specifically, for Nubia and Sudan, this included Aaron de Souza’s paper which raised the difficulty of defining ‘Nubian’ or ‘Egyptian’ sites based on architectural and material culture remains. As well, as the long-standing historical biases of Egyptology’s colonial legacies. All of which are of course highly relevant for the DiverseNile project. It was also fantastic to have Ulrike Nowotnick give a talk on the Meroitic town of Hamadab in Sudan, to consider what life would have been like in a densely occupied Meroitic town in the Middle Nile, as well as the spatial organisation of the houses and the walled town. Archaeology in Sudan has, like in Egypt, often focused on mortuary, religious, or monumental archaeological sites.

The question of the spatial organisation of settlements and domestic spaces was another recurring theme over the four days, often in terms of state or centrally organised spaces versus individual agency and choices. Particularly, in the case of remote sites with limited access to natural resources. This is again, something which we need to think about carefully in the DiverseNile project, with the temporary nature or seasonal use of many of the sites likely linked to industrial activities, such as gold processing.

It is of course impossible to talk here about all of the discussions, topics, and papers which took place during the conference, but all the talks were recorded and are available online through the IFAO’s YouTube page. We are both very grateful to the IFAO, the PCMA, and in particular to Fatma Keshk, for an excellent and very inspiring conference.

Group photo of Living in the House speakers outside the IFAO (Fatma Keshk, copyright: Doaa Adel)

Sudan Studies Research Conference, Munich edition

We are delighted to announce the sixth edition of the international Sudan Studies Research Conference in collaboration with Durham University’s DUSESG Founders on Saturday, June 25. The conference will be held as a hybrid event – the reservation of online tickets is still possible! Please check the website for more information: https://www.sudan-conference.com/

The schedule of talks is now available, and the programme covers a large variety of topics, from various parts of Sudan and different periods, presenting a large range of perspectives and methodological approached.

I am especially delighted to welcome two distinguished German colleagues as keynote speakers – Angelika Lohwasser and Friedrike Jesse. Both will address highly interesting regions outside the Nile Valley – Angelika Lohwasser will present new approaches to archaeology in remote areas and Friederike Jesse will talk about explorations in the South-Eastern Sahara.

The DiverseNile team is grateful for the opportunity to host this event with postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers as its prime audience and we are all very much looking forward to it, expecting plenty of fruitful discussion!

Getting ready to fly to Sudan

The Christmas weekend is just about to end, and I am currently packing my last suitcase – despite of omicron & the pandemic, but of course with much caution and aware of the most recent political developments in Sudan, we are getting ready to fly to Khartoum tomorrow.

It will be a very brief season with a tiny team – just Rennan, Cajetan and I will travel. One focus of our planned work is on the study & documentation of object’s stored in the Sudan National Museum, coming from Vila’s survey in the 1970s in the present MUAFS concession. Rennan will focus in particular on ceramics and small finds from some of the New Kingdom tombs. Especially Ramesside material is highly interesting and raises many questions concerning the continuity of sites in the pre-Napatan era.

Up in the north, at our excavation house in Ginis East, I will focus on some logistics, preparing the upcoming excavation season planned for spring 2022. I also plan some survey work with our inspector and Cajetan will concentrate on setting survey points and taking measurements.

Of course, we will keep you updated – maybe not during the season, depending on the quality of the internet and connection.

Hoping that most of our plans will work out, but also very much prepared for surprises and the need to improvise, I am just really very happy to be soon back in Sudan, after almost 2 years!

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.

New reinforcement for our DiverseNile team

One of the most pleasant tasks as a PI of research projects is to introduce and welcome new team members. It is especially nice when this concerns junior staff – and it is great joy if the next generation of students replaces persons who have just completed their studies and are no longer working as student employees. This is exactly what I can proudly announce today: our former student assistant Jessica has graduated with great success and will soon join us as new PhD candidate with her own individual tasks in the framework of DiverseNile. Her place as student assistant is now taken by Sawyer Neumann, a very promising student of archaeology who is particularly interested in archaeological design and 3D applications.

Our new team member Sawyer

To some of you who follow our blog on a regular basis this name may sound already familiar – Sawyer is one of the students who wrote guest blog posts about our block seminar “Introduction to field archaeology” back in March. It was on this occasion of the online seminar that we first met Sawyer and some weeks later we were really impressed by his application.

I am very happy that he is now joining us and looking much forward to a fruitful collaboration both here in Munich and hopefully also soon in the field in Sudan.

Introducing the new DiverseNile Seminar Series 2021

One of the small advantages in the Covid-19 pandemic is that there was a boost of online formats of lectures, seminars and workshops around the world. I consider this especially important since prior to the pandemic, it was a real challenge and a financial issue to ensure the participation of colleagues from Egypt and Sudan, that is, from the countries who’s archaeological remains our discipline investigates. With online formats, the place of stay is almost unimportant, if a stable internet connection is available. Numerous events are already trying to find time slots that are compatible for several time zones around the world. This new form of internationality has enormous potential and the high number of participants in Egyptological events worldwide over the last few months shows that for many people this is an incredible added value – which will hopefully also continue after the pandemic.

Therefore, I am proud to introduce the new DiverseNile Online Seminar Series which will run via Zoom, starting in April. Participation is free but registration via email is mandatory. For composing the programme and the organisation of the seminars, I am very grateful to Rennan Lemos. He did an excellent job, inviting a number of highly distinguished colleagues working in Sudan whose contributions fit perfectly under the general topic of “Cultural Diversity in Northeast Africa”.

Programme of the forthcoming DiverseNile Seminar Series 2021, starting in April!

I am very much looking forward to this new format discussing key issues of the DiverseNile project with an international audience and from various perspectives – fresh ideas are thus as good as guaranteed.

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!

Getting ready for the field season

Yesterday, our office was nothing for orderly persons – or let’s says armchair archaeologists unfamiliar with last minute preparations of archaeological fieldwork and how messy these can be… Cajetan, Marion, Giulia and me packed all the equipment we need for the upcoming field season in Sudan. Thanks to the great support of the Department of Ancient and Culture Studies of LMU we are particularly well equipped this year – but therefore it was also a challenge to get everything ready, sorted and packed. It took a while, but of course we succeeded and our luggage is almost ready to board the plane next week! And the office is tidy again.

Veronica prepared all the form sheets and find labels we need for the new project and Jessica helped with last minute additions based on the Vila volumes about the Attab to Ferka region.

Finally, the team got its well-deserved Xmas presents – the brand-new MUAFS T-shirts – and we had a last meeting, including Valentina and Franziska via skype, discussing logistics and priorities for the field.

The MUAFS team is ready for its first field season!

Many thanks to all, we are really almost ready to go, a few more days for final preparations and then we will be arriving in Khartoum, meeting our Sudanese colleagues and friends. Looking very much forward to the first field season of the MUAFS project!