People on Sai – Thoughts on the New Kingdom Prosopography of the Elite Necropolis SAC5

Prosopography is about people. This statement emphasises the importance of prosopography as a specific means of shedding light onto the social fabric and historical development of ancient and modern population groups. In our case, this society is the people of Sai during the New Kingdom. Prosopography in its broadest sense can be defined as “the investigation of the common background characteristics of a group of actors in history by means of a collective study of their lives” (Stone 1971). However, we can only tackle certain aspects of people’s lives using ‘prosopography’ due to the nature of the data from Pharaonic Egypt. Despite this shortcomings, what really matters are the questions we ask in order to understand lives and the social fabric based on prosopographical data. As for New Kingdom Sai, texts and monuments with names and titles of individuals from the island itself or with links to the Pharaonic town constitute the basis for a prosopographical ‘sociography’, i.e. an assessment and discussion of the social fabric of the town and its population.

Fig. 01

Fig. 01

Cemeteries of Pharaonic towns in both Egypt and Nubia represent certain parts of the local society. Within the New Kingdom funerary landscape of Sai, that consists of three burial grounds (SAC1, SAC4 and SAC5; Fig. 01), it is only cemetery SAC5 that yielded texts and objects with prosopographical data (Minault-Gout/Thill 2012, esp. 403-418). Both the architecture of the tombs with chapels and pyramids and single or multi-chambered subterranean structures and the remains of the funerary object assemblages allow us to call SAC5 the elite necropolis of New Kingdom Sai. The question of whether the individuals interred here were ‘Egyptian’ or ‘Nubian’ is not of special concern for our endeavour. The fact, that they were buried here, is proof that they belonged to the local community regardless of their origin or ethnicity.

At present, 26 elite tombs are excavated at SAC5. An assessment of their archaeological as well as prosopographical ‘yield’ (Fig. 02) shows that the use life of this cemetery spans most of the New Kingdom from mid-18th Dynasty to later Ramesside and even beyond to Napatan times. The title and name-bearing small-finds among the funerary assemblages are the typical objects also found in other elite New Kingdom cemeteries in Nubia, especially shabtis, heart scarabs and heart scarab pectorals. Architectural elements from the tomb chapels and pyramids preserve information on the interred persons, too. In tomb T 2, five male members of the New Kingdom Sai society are attested. Three of them – Merimose, Hui and Ky-iri – are local priests, although there is no indication of the cult they were attached to. The letter-scribe Horemheb is part of the administrative sphere of the town responsible for its correspondence. The objects from tomb T 8 bear witness to two further local priests. In tomb T 3, an intriguing faience plaque with the name of Ramessesnakht, viceroy of Nubia under Ramesses IX, came to light. The burial with this sealing plaque is not considered to belong to the viceroy himself. It might rather belong to a local member of the late Ramesside administration of Nubia who was given this plaque as a token of loyalty during his lifetime. However, Ramessesnakht’s tomb is not known.

Fig. 02

Fig. 02

Tomb 5 is of special importance for the upper end of the social fabric of the Pharaonic town. Based on the names and titles from a heart scarab, a shabti and a faience vase, it belonged to a family of local mayors. While the other tombs from SAC5 provided ‘only’ scribes and priests, we encounter here the highest municipal representatives of Pharaonic state agency in New Kingdom Sai, the city governors Ipy and Neby. Both date to the mid-18th Dynasty and might be father and son, since the mayoral office is regularly transmitted like this in the New Kingdom. The exact familial relation of the songstress Henut-aat (or Henut-taui) to both Ipy and Neby is unclear. Her title, however, puts her in a rather high female elite stratum as well. One of the tomb owners, Neby, even seems to be identical with the mayor and director Neby attested further north at the Tanjur rapids in the Batn el-Hajar with three rock inscriptions (Hintze/Reineke 1989, 170-177; Fig. 03 after Hintze/Reineke 1989, 235). His territorial radius even went well beyond the confines of the town.

Fig. 03

Fig. 03

Mayors or city governors are typical for all New Kingdom towns and cities in Egypt and Nubia. A recent assessment of the distribution of New Kingdom mayoral tombs has shown, that they are in most cases buried in the elite necropoleis of the city which they administered (Auenmüller 2011; Fig. 04). This typological trait can also be seen with Ipy and Neby and their interment in tomb 5 at SAC5. However, there is another mid-18th Dynasty mayor of Sai attested. This Ahmose installed two statues of himself at Thebes (Bologna KS 1823) and Karnak (CG  42047) respectively. Both statues indicate his special relations to Thebes or even a Theban origin. He therefore might be the first mayor of the newly established colonial town, sent to Sai under Thutmose III. Although Ahmose’s tomb is not known, it is generally assumed that his funeral took place at Thebes, his home town and place of belonging. By contrast, Ipy and Neby seem to represent the second generation of local administrators who lived on Sai for some time, identified themselves with the town, were parts of its social fabric and finally chose to be buried here.

Fig. 04

Fig. 04

Further titles and names are attested through funerary stelae and shabtis. However, due to the rather fragmented state they are less informative. They nevertheless show that SAC5 in its original state must have been a very well equipped funerary landscape for the local elite. This was further stressed by AcrossBorders’ discovery of a new tomb, tomb T 26 (Budka 2015). This new monument yielded the pyramidion of a very important person: the deputy of Kush Hornakht, who flourished in the 19th Dynasty. He and his elite colleagues that are also – or especially – known from the area of the town will be subject of some future blog posts.

A summarising look back at the Sai SAC5 prosopography allows for some comments: Although the data is quite fragmented, it displays both religious and administrative personnel of the town. Both domains, temple and administration, are typically represented by officials in New Kingdom town cemeteries in Egypt and Nubia (cf. esp. Soleb: Schiff-Giorgini 1971). Of high importance for and within the town’s social fabric are the two 18th Dynasty mayors Ipy and Neby. They belonged to the Egyptian elite that came or was sent south to Nubia to act as municipal agents of the Pharaonic state on Sai. Exceptional, however, is the attestation of the deputy of Kush Hornakht, who we know was active in the 19th Dynasty. His person provokes further thoughts on the role of Sai as administrative centre and urban fabric in Upper Nubia during Ramesside times.

Bibliography:

Auenmüller 2011: J. Auenmüller, Individuum – Gruppe – Gesellschaft – Raum. Raumsoziologische Perspektivierungen einiger (provinzieller) HA.tj-a Bürgermeister des Neuen Reiches, in: G. Neunert, K. Gabler & A. Verbovsek (eds.), Sozialisationen: Individuum – Gruppe – Gesellschaft, GOF IV/51, Wiesbaden 2011, 17-32.

Budka 2015: J. Budka, Ein Pyramidenfriedhof auf der Insel Sai, in: Sokar 31, 2015, 54-65.

Hintze/Reineke 1989: F. Hintze & W. F. Reineke, Felsinschriften aus dem sudanesischen Nubien, Publikation der Nubien-Expedition 1961-1963, Band 1, Berlin 1989.

Minault-Gout/Thill 2012: A. Minault-Gout & F. Thill. Sai II. Le cimetière des tombes hypogées du Nouvel Empire SAC5, FIFAO 69, Cairo 2012.

Schiff-Giorgini 1971: M. Schiff-Giorgini, Soleb II. Les necropoles, Florence 1971.

Stone 1971: L. Stone, Prosopography, in: Daedalus 100, No. 1, 1971, 46-79.

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AcrossBorders Study Day in Munich

With all of the exciting results from current fieldwork in Egypt (Elephantine) and Sai (Sudan), it is time to present AcrossBorders’ most recent research in public. I am delighted that the first “AcrossBorders Study Day” is scheduled for the upcoming Friday, June 17, 1-6 pm. Thanks to the kind support by our colleagues of the Staatliches Museum Ägyptischer Kunst, the public lectures will take place in the lecture hall of the museum. Entrance is free and everybody is cordially invited!

A wide range of topics will be presented by team members working on various tasks within the project – fresh results from the fieldwork season 2016 on Sai Island including the GIS based documentation and 4D models, New Kingdom prosopography, aspects of the material culture and general thoughts on New Kingdom temple towns as well as new ideas about the New Kingdom landscape on Sai and data based on the micromorphological sampling programme will be discussed.

Looking much forward to this lecture day and to a reunion with fieldwork team members & friends of AcrossBorders!

Programme AcrossBorders Study-day1

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Feature 15 – another update

Giving a lecture about Sai in Hamburg last week, I had not only the pleasure to meet dear colleagues and friends there (and to have a great Abydos-Berlin-reunion!), but also to spend some time thinking about feature 15.

Feature 15 is definitely the highlight of AcrossBorders’ excavations in SAV1 East and has kept us busy ever since 2013. The large subterranean room (5.6 x 2.2 x 1.2m) was dug into the natural gravel deposit and lined with red bricks. Its filling deposit was very rich in archaeological material: large amounts of charcoal, hundreds of dom-palm fruits, abundant animal bones, c. 100 almost intact ceramic vessels and more than 200 clay sealings. The sealings comprise a large number of royal names (Amenhotep I, Hatshepsut and Thutmose III), a seal of the viceroy Nehi and various floral decorations in a style typical for the Second Intermediate Period.

Feature 15_Seite_1Thanks to the stratigraphic sequence, several phases of use can be reconstructed for feature 15. A dating of these building phases was already proposed in 2015, based on the clay sealings and the ceramics (Budka 2015) – the stages show an interesting correspondence with the building phases of Temple A and its surroundings. Most importantly, a section of wall 44, the western boundary wall of the courtyard of Building A, is set into feature 15, thus definitely later in date and sitting on top of the lowermost deposit of feature 15.

It was therefore clear that feature 15 was already in place before one of the main walls of the courtyard of Building A, wall 44, was built. Only this season in 2016, we removed wall 44 and excavated the deposit below it, exposing the westernmost part of feature 15.

The deposit corresponded to the lower filling of feature 15 east of wall 44. Several fragments of pottery and a clay sealing are especially significant. The small fragment of a mud sealing (SAV1E 203) shows a stamp which contains the name of Mn-xpr-ra (Thutmose III), written vertically and without a cartouche, with a nbw-sign beneath. Two uaeri extend downwards from the disc and face the exterior sides of the stamp. The top of the stamp is not preserved.

Feature 15_Seite_2

The results from the 2016 season therefore nicely support the reconstruction of the building phases from 2015 ‒ Building A was extended in the later phase of the reign of Thutmose III (maybe even under Amenhotep II) and wall 44 was set into feature 15 at this stage.

The study of the complete set of finds discovered in feature 15, currently underway, will contribute to the functional analysis of SAV1 East in general and Building A in particular.

Reference:

Budka 2015 = J. Budka, The Pharaonic town on Sai Island and its role in the urban landscape of New Kingdom Kush, Sudan & Nubia 19, 40–53.

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London & the SARS colloquium

On Monday (09 May 16) the annual colloquium of the Sudan Archaeological Research Society (SARS) was held in the British Museum. Though AcrossBorders was not presenting this year, Martin Fera and I attended to hear about the fascinating work our colleagues are doing all over Sudan. The connections and comparisons between multiple sites along the Nile is a guiding principal of the AcrossBorders’ approach, and the chance to better understand our neighboring sites is invaluable to our own work.

So, though an exciting day was expected, we immediately got more than we bargained for as the opening of the museum grounds was delayed by an unexpected “guest speaker”—the British Prime Minister David Cameron was holding a press conference in the Great Hall! After a brief delay, the colloquium began and a full day of talks whirled by. Though their discoveries are not mine to share, the excavation, restoration, and lab work currently being carried out in Sudan is truly impressive.

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Nehi and Hornakht at Sai Island

Getting ready for the 8. Tagung zur ägyptischen Königsideologie in Budapest (12-14 May, 2016)!

Budka_Budapest 2016

I will speak on this occasion about “Constructing royal authority in New Kingdom towns in Nubia: some thoughts based on inscribed monuments from private residences”. The practice of decorating private residences with scenes of adoring the ruling king, represented by his cartouches, and with corresponding texts giving praise to the king is well attested in the New Kingdom. From the reign of Thutmose III onwards, there are examples from officials of various ranks and with diverse duties at sites located in both Egypt and Nubia. These scenes and texts—like other sources—clearly illustrate that for an Egyptian official, loyalty to the king was the key to general well-being and promotion. My paper will highlight a number of aspects of royal authority and its construction in the New Kingdom temple towns of Nubia, which were built on behalf of the living ruler within a “foreign” landscape.

One important aspect is that power of the king was embodied in Lower and Upper Nubia by the viceroy of Kush and his deputies. This can be nicely illustrated by finds from Sai Island, as I tried to show at the last Königsideologietagung in Prague. At Budapest, I will present new discoveries by AcrossBorders attesting to two well-known high officials:  viceroy Nehi under the reign of Thutmose III and deputy of Kush Hornakht under Ramesses II.

SAV1E 2326 (thumbnail)Among the numerous clay sealings from feature 15, there is also one piece (SAV1E 2326), which gives the name and a specific title for Nehi.

Hornakht was already well attested from several door jambs and lintels found at Sai and Abri – but recent work in cemetery SAC5 allows reconstructing the pyramid tomb of this deputy of Kush from the 19th Dynasty on Sai.

Budka_Budapest HornakhtAll in all, I will propose some new thoughts on the perception of the power of Egyptian kingship in New Kingdom Nubia – looking much forward to feedback and discussions and of course to all of the other papers at the Königstagung in Budapest!

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The 10th ICAANE in Vienna

The 10th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East held at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna was officially opened today! A large variety of lectures, workshops and papers all dedicated to various aspects of archaeology in the Near East will keep us busy in the next days.

Highlights will be, among others, a kick-off workshop of the ERC Advanced Grant by Manfred Bietak, “The Hyksos Enigma” and keynote lectures on the current status of archaeological research in the Near East considering the present political situation and respective challenges, especially the preservation of cultural heritage.

Budka ICAANE titleMy own paper is part of the section 4 “Landscapes & Settlement Patterns”. I will talk about “The urban landscape of Upper Nubia (Northern Sudan) in the Second Millennium BCE”. Based on the fresh data from AcrossBorders’ ongoing excavations on Sai Island, this paper presents the current state of knowledge regarding the evolution of the pharaonic town on Sai and its role in the urban landscape of New Kingdom Kush. The question whether Upper Nubian sites contribute to our understanding of Egyptian urbanism in general will be addressed as well.

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65 days ago still in the field, now ready for publication: an example for post-excavation working steps

Post-excavation work is keeping us very busy at the moment in Munich, the summer term has also started with teaching and exams. Among the priorities of current tasks is the digitalization of pottery drawings in order to prepare publication-ready illustrations. These days, it was the turn of a very thought-provoking group of vessels: Egyptian cooking pots. One of these vessels is of particular interest.

A large fragment of a cooking pot from Square 4B was among my favourite finds from SAV1 East during the 2016 field season. The vessel, SAV1E P179, found still filled with ashy deposits, was sitting next to the remaining parts of a mud brick wall.

IMG_8133a1Close by, another highlight, SAV1E 1595, a small steatite scarab, was discovered. Both finds, the cooking pot and the scarab, are coming from a room to the west of Building A – traces of pavements and various deposits allow reconstructing several phases of use in the early/mid-18th Dynasty.

Coming back to the cooking pot SAV1E P179: After documenting the vessel in its original find position, we removed it and the content was sieved for further analyses. The cooking pot itself was put on the “priority list” for drawing – Daniela did a great job in Sai, and now in the office with our interactive multi-touch pen display.

P1010385a

SAV1E P179 gives really significant evidence: stratigraphically datable to the Thutmoside period, it finds close parallels at Elephantine in Upper Egypt. It is a typical example of a wheel-made, authentic Egyptian cooking pot. It was made in a very sandy Nile clay variant which was presumably produced at Elephantine/in the Aswan region – this cooking pot was therefore shipped from Egypt to Sai!

CP SAV1East

Whereas storage vessels and amphorae are commonly transported along the Nile, it is quite remarkable that also cooking pots were transported for long distances to places outside of Egypt. Imported cooking pots allowed Egyptian-style cooking in Sai during the early to mid-18th Dynasty. Obviously authentic cooking pots were considered to be important like SAV1E P179 illustrates. Our ongoing processing of the data suggests that this gradually changed in the course of the 18th Dynasty – the degree of dependence of Sai from Egypt became different and the local production of wheel-made pottery was introduced/increased.

The pottery from Sai Island New Kingdom town promises fascinating insights into the complex and developing microcosm of the site attesting to a co-existence of Egyptian and Nubian elements – we will work hard to decipher as much as possible in the next months.

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Start of year 2 at LMU Munich

With April 2016, the second year of AcrossBorders with the LMU Munich as host institution has started! Having just returned from fieldwork and our various home bases, we are all very happy about the new location of AcrossBorders’ office. After almost one year struggling with a “temporary solution”, we are now located in the centre of Munich, within a range of less than 1 km to the Institute of Egyptology and the Egyptian Museum, thus very close to relevant libraries and our colleagues. Life and work should now be much easier – insha’allah!

20160404_ab

I am also delighted that Meg Gundlach, our registrar since 2015, has now officially joined AcrossBorders as PostDOC team member. She will concentrate on the analysis and publication of the small finds from our excavations at Sai and Elephantine. Luckily, there’s currently perfect spring weather – thus a very warm welcome to Meg in every respect: Servus in Minga und herzlich willkommen im Team!

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Some complete pots from tomb 26

After cleaning the shaft of tomb 26 in 2015, its burial chamber kept us busy during this season – not only were there plenty of human remains for Andrea Stadlmayr and Marlies Wohlschlager, several nice objects like four scarabs and one stone pilgrim flask, but also complete ceramic vessels!

This markedly contrasts with our findings from last year, where bits and pieces were found in the shaft and only some complete vessels at the bottom of the shaft.
Earlier in the 2016 season, our Sudanese trainee from NCAM, Roa, did a great job in joining sherds from the bottom of the shaft with ones from the topmost debris coming from the chamber. Altogether, there was plenty of evidence for several phases of use, plundering and re-use of tomb 26– spanning a long period from the mid/late 18th Dynasty, the Ramesside period to Pre-Napatan and Napatan times!

Excavating the burial chamber in 2016, we were lucky enough to find several intact vessels – most interesting is an assemblage of two slender bottles along the southern wall in the southwest corner.

Cleaning the vessels in the southwestern corner.

Cleaning the vessels in the southwestern corner.

One of them seems to bear a “killing hole”. Close to them, just at the skull of the individual lying there on his back, was a complete Base Ring II jug – a very nice import from Cyprus!

The small intact BR II jug.

The small intact BR II jug.

Another really lovely vessel is a complete zir found along the north wall of the chamber. It was filled with the sediment of the chamber and also yielded foot/leg parts of an infant whose body was found close by.

The intact zir from tomb 26.

The intact zir from tomb 26.

Post-excavation processing of all the data from tomb 26 has just begun – the ceramics will be of prime importance to narrow down the specific phases of use and re-use!

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Geoarchaeology from Sai Island, 2016

What a geoarchaeological season it was! We haven’t gotten over it as yet and can foresee a year of excitement in the lab(s). No, we did not have quite a romantic relationship with the nimitis who were just starting to cuddle up with us when we left the place. Instead it was a season of fun involving sampling from within the trenches to better understand the use of space and site formation processes, of provenancing the sandstones found within the Pharaonic town and locating the New Kingdom sandstone quarry and overall placing the 18th Dynasty remains in their environmental context.

One of the main focuses of this year’s fieldwork was directed on locating the source of building stone for the New Kingdom stone buildings. In this respect, we had received helpful assistance by Prof Klemm and Rosemarie Klemm. A detailed survey was carried out both within and outside the island. No quarry site from Pharaonic times, however, was found outside the island, in the vicinity of the sandstone outcrops of Gebel Abri. On the other hand, several quarries in the sandstones were identified adjacent to the New Kingdom town itself!

With the Klemms 1When scrutinised more carefully with Professor Klemm’s long experience of Pharaonic sandstone quarries, analogous chisel marks have now been identified on the sandstone outcrops of the quarries and on the blocks of stones used in the temple. Here, we would like to thank Martin Fera for lending us his geological hammer, about which we would ALL somehow manage to forget from time to time, thus creating much commotion, laughter and fun amidst our fieldwork.

Sandstone quarry with New Kingdom chisel marks 1This year’s survey also produced further suggestion about the Pharaonic harbour or landing ground in the adjacent alluvial platform when rock-cut features for tying ship ropes were found at least at two places. In addition, rock cut steps bearing chisel marks identical to those of the temple have also been identified.

In addition, six boreholes were dug towards the western side of the Pharaonic town. This has revealed no trace of an extramural settlement where sampled. 4.5mts of hand auger 1A thorough landscape survey has also been undertaken to understand the nature of the deposits, especially towards the northern part of the island. This has enabled us to collect data to develop a surface map of the vicinity of the town. Along with the data from the hand auger profiles, exposed sections, soil micromorphology and the surface map, a better understanding of the site setting and geomorphology of the location can be integrated within the GIS for various purposes.

The grass is always green on the other side. Now that we are back at home in the dark and cold, we are longing for some sunshine and clear sky like that of Sai. Knowing that is not a possibility at the moment, we are at least happy that we have a good load of micromorphological and petrographical samples to analyse through in the coming months.

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