Pottery, chronology and society in New Kingdom Sai, Sudan

Some brief thoughts about what ancient ceramics tell us about life in New Kingdom Nubia, using Sai Island as a case study, have just been published.

To access the full version of the article, please visit: www.scitecheuropa.eu/new-kingdom-pots-people/84560/

Article originally published on: www.scitecheuropa.eu/new-kingdom-pots-people/84560/
Reproduced by kind permission of Pan European Networks Ltd, www.scitecheuropa.eu/

© Pan European Networks 2018

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Valentine’s Day Special: An exceptional heart scarab from Sai

Last year on Valentine’s Day, excavations in Tomb 26 on Sai were still ongoing. As Meg Gundlach put it back then “there are few things more romantic than a dung beetle”. Well – exactly! One year later, it’s again time to write about this very special heart scarab, SAC5 349, found next to the skeleton of chief goldsmith Khnummose. Let’s start with a spoiler: no, I still cannot read the name on the heart scarab, there is no complete love story to tell about Khnummose and his wife. But: my assumption that it is possibly the wife’s name on the scarab who was buried next to Khnummose at a slightly later moment still stands, although it remains hypothetical.

The heart scarab of Khnummose’s tomb group is an exceptional example also for other reasons. The general appearance of gold flakes and use of gold for the funerary equipment and jewellery in Tomb 26 is striking and seems to be connected with Khnummose’s profession. Very remarkable, among others, is this beautiful signet ring made of silver and gold found in Chamber 5.

But coming back to the heart scarab: during the process of cleaning it in situ in Chamber 6, very fragile strips of gold came to light.

One piece was clearly attached around the base, other fragments where found close to the head of the scarab.

Possibly there were originally also gold bands across the elytra and at the division of the wing cases; this arrangement finds a close parallel in a Late New Kingdom example now kept at Liverpool – 1977.112.257 is a very nice heart scarab made of green jasper, it still has strips of gold attached.

Heart scarab Liverpool 1977.112.257, http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/wml/collections/antiquities/ancient-egypt/item-317198.aspx

In general, such gold bands on heart scarabs of the New Kingdom are rare – for our example from Sai, I believe that they could attest to Khnummose’s job as chief goldsmith and to the general connection of the island to the gold exploitation in Nubia.

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An update on Nun bowls from Sai Island

Back in 2015, Sabine Tschorn recorded all Nun bowl fragments from the New Kingdom town on Sai. This unique group of faience vessels is associated with regeneration and fertility and offers some insights into the daily life of 18th Dynasty Sai.

Happy with small, but diagnostic pieces of Nun-bowls from SAV1 West.

I am delighted that her analysis of the Nun bowls is now published (Tschorn 2017). In her paper, Sabine examines the excavated fragments and their distribution in the different sectors of the settlement as well as their diverse decorative motifs and functions. She is able to show that these faience vessels have to be seen in context with the architectural remains – for Sai, it is highly interesting that most fragments come from SAV1 North and SAV1 West, where a substantial amount of storage facilities and cellars was found, located close to the New Kingdom town wall. An association of the Nun bowls with ritual vessels like footed bowls for burning at both sectors might suggest a connection with offerings and libation. All in all, the function of Nun bowls in domestic settlements of the New Kingdom appears to be quite complex – once again stressing that daily life in ancient times also included various activities connected to the ritual and religious sphere (cf. Stevens 2006).

Thanks to the support of my FWF START project, the paper by Sabine has been published with full open access and will hopefully stimulate further research about an intriguing object group of the New Kingdom.

References

Stevens, A. 2006. Private Religion at Amarna. BAR International Series 1587. Oxford.

Tschorn, S. 2017. Nun-Schalen aus der Stadt des Neuen Reiches auf der Insel Sai, Ägypten und Levante 27, 431–446

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Agréeskatti Helmut Satzinger!

Every archaeologist working in northern Sudan has experienced this: puzzled looks by Nubian workmen addressed with some obviously un­comprehensive instructions and, vice-versa, confusion because the workmen are speaking something very difficult to understand… well – in the Land of the Mahas people, Nobiin is of course frequently found at archaeological excavations! This may therefore cause quite some problems, especially for excavators used to learn the colloquial language ‘on site’ in various regions, e.g. in Upper Egypt.

With my background of excavating in Egypt since 1997 and starting work on Sai Island in 2011, I quickly noted down as my personal wish to assimi­late new vocabulary necessary for the work in northern Sudan. Back in my first season on Sai, I even had problems with such basics as addressing my beloved and numerous pottery sherds for the workmen because fukhār was not un­derstandable for all.

I am very proud to present today an open-access, free version of a Short Archaeological Wordlist in English, Sudani Arabic and Nobiin which was compiled by a distinguished Egyptological colleague and expert of Nilo-Saharan languages, Helmut Satzinger. This wordlist is one of the by-products of the archaeological fieldwork of the AcrossBorders project on Sai Island. Within the framework of my project, Helmut joined the fieldwork in January to February 2017.

In these weeks, he compiled the wordlist which is hopefully of use for all coming to the beautiful region of Mahas Nubia. As it will be obvious from the start, not all terms used in the archaeological field or the related camp find correlates in Nobiin. Nevertheless, I believe that this short collection of useful terms helps to deepen one’s understanding of the re­gion.

Today is a very special day – last year, we were celebrating Helmut’s birthday with a boat trip to one of the most beautiful islands in the neighbourhood of Sai in Sudan – today, I am proudly presenting the final, layouted version of the wordlist as a small birthday present.

Happy birthday dear Helmut and many thanks again for everything! May there be many more interesting and happy years full of linguistic challenges around Ancient Egyptian, Arabic, Coptic and Nobiin!

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New releases – some papers on Tomb 26 on Sai Island

Having just returned from Sudan and the student excursion, it’s very pleasant to find some new releases on one’s desk – especially because these also comprise papers highlightening the significance of Tomb 26 and especially of the burial of Khnummose on Sai Island.

The following new articles are relevant for AcrossBorders’ work in cemetery SAC5:

Budka, J., Pyramid cemetery SAC5, Sai Island, Northern Sudan: An update based on fieldwork from 2015–2017, Ägypten und Levante 27, 2017, 107‒130.
Budka, J., Das Grab eines Goldschmiedemeisters auf Sai in Obernubien, Sokar 35, 2017, 52-63.
Budka, J., The Tomb of a Master of Gold-workers on Sai Island, Ancient Egypt 18, No. 3, 2017/2018, 14-20.

Within the article published in Ägypten und Levante 27, I tried to reconstruct the complete use-life of Tomb 26, presenting for the first time preliminary results from the pottery analysis.

Please note that all of these articles still have to be regarded as “preliminary” – the final analysis, including the anthropological findings in Tomb 26 and the results from the Strontium Isotope analysis, is already well under way and will be published as another monograph in the series Contributions to the Archaeology of Egypt, Nubia and the Levant.

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2017 in review

I should somehow check how many times within this blog I have used the phrase „time flies by “… but well – it indeed does!

2017 is almost history and this year was particularly important for AcrossBorders since we finished excavations at both sites, Sai Island and Elephantine Island – exactly as planned!

  • In January 2017 we clarified that there are strata below the wall street in SAV1 West in the New Kingdom town of Sai – datable to the early 18th Dynasty!
  • In February 2017 we discovered the undisturbed burial of Khnummes and his presumed wife in Tomb 26!
  • In March 2017 two large cellars, one with still intact vault ceiling, were unearthed in SAV1 East in the New Kingdom town of Sai!
  • April was somehow a short break – back to Munich and Vienna again… teaching term started…
  • In May 2017 I could present the lasted findings on Sai at the SARS meeting in London – the Sudan & Nubia volume is now already published!
  • In June 2017 we conducted some experiments within the framework of the practical class experimental archaeology.
  • In July 2017 I tried to get some written work done… and processing of finds and pottery continued…
  • In August 2017 the first monograph of the series dedicated to AcrossBorders’s work on Sai was published in Vienna – AcrossBorders I, hurray!
  • In September 2017, a wonderful closing conference took place in Munich – thanks again to all participants!
  • In October 2017, we were busy working in Khartoum on the objects now stored in the National Museum – and later in the month, started our Elephantine season!
  • In November 2017, we finished the excavation in House 55 on Elephantine, including a complete documention of the building for image based modelling! And late in the month, an interdisciplinary workshop was held in Vienna, in cooperation with the Young Academy at the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Our guest of honour was Dr. Abdelrahman Ali Mohammed, General Director of NCAM.

    Photo by Jacqueline Godany (*Art_PhotOgraphy)

    The workshop was closed with a book presentation – AcrossBorders I and also Ingrid Adenstedt’s book on the 3D reconstruction of the New Kingdom town were introduced – very proud to publish with OREA and at the Austrian Academy!

    Photo by Jacqueline Godany (*Art_PhotOgraphy)

  • In December 2017, processing continued and formatting of the first papers of the AcrossBorders conference from September started – the volume will be out by summer 2018 insha’allah.

With four more months to go before AcrossBorders officially ends in April 2018, timing will be as dense but for sure also as productive like during the complete 2017 year – many thanks here to all our collaborators, supporters and team members.

Wishing all of our friends, colleagues and readers very happy holidays and a perfect start into 2018! I’ll be off to an excursion to Sudan with students from LMU soon – guaranteeing that my personal start into the New Year will be simply impeccable, or, as we say in Vienna: “urleiwand”.

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Recruitment for the last months of AcrossBorders

Simply too intriguing: Documenting Egyptian vessels from Sai back in 2012.

Sometimes things turn out just right or even perfect: Back in 2012, when an idea for a research project comparing Elephantine and Sai Island first took shape, I was supported in the field by Veronica Hinterhuber – a  friend and colleague from Humboldt-University who joint me already on several seasons in the Asasif, Thebes, Egypt.

Well – now, getting ready for the final months of AcrossBorders, having finished excavations both in Sai and on Elephantine, I am delighted to announce that Veronica came to Munich and started working for the project on December 1! With her broad experience in databases, with Egyptian and Sudanese objects and with editing publications, she will not only support me in finalizing our datasets, but will also engage in the preparation of the next monographs presenting results from the AcrossBorders project, due already in 2018.

A very warm welcome – it has taken some time, but is still simply perfect!

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Showcasing settlement archaeology in Egypt and Nubia

The last 5 years have been really busy – with fieldwork at Sai and Elephantine, AcrossBorders has illustrated the rich potential of modern settlement archaeology, taking advantage of recent developments in archaeometry and other interdisciplinary fields.

Results from micromorphology, geology, isotope analysis and archaeometry of ceramics and other materials provide much food for thought and illustrate the complex entanglement of cultures in New Kingdom Nubia. Cooking pots are among the most interesting findings as I have just outlined in a German blog post for the Young Academy on derStandard.at.

The closing of the AcrossBorders project is already approaching – to celebrate its success, an interdisciplinary workshop with most of our cooperation partners and many team members will take place next week in Vienna. Hoping for a fruitful discussion of possible future developments related to settlement archaeology in Egypt and Sudan, I am very much looking forward to this event.

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Some thoughts about royal authority in New Kingdom towns in Nubia

Back in 2016, I presented a paper about aspects of constructing royal authority in Nubian temple towns during the New Kingdom at the 8. Tagung zur ägyptischen Königsideologie in Budapest. The proceedings have just been published and cover a wide and very stimulating range of topics related to royal authority.

My own contribution focuses on the well-known 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 during the New Kingdom. I’ve tried to outline that such scenes and texts are highly relevant for the New Kingdom temple towns of Nubia which were built on behalf of the living ruler within a ‘foreign’ landscape (Budka 2017). Thanks to the recent discoveries by AcrossBorders, a case study from the mid-18th Dynasty (Nehi) and one from the Ramesside period (Hornakht) are used to present the key features of royal authority at the sites and their development during the New Kingdom.

I argue that the cartouche adoring scenes are linked to royal statue cult and deifications of living kings. And here it is necessary to stress that these phenomena were during the mid-18th Dynasty (Thutmose III) primarily restricted to the Nubian region! More precisely to temple towns, which are in many cases, and definitely for Sai, built in areas almost void of earlier Egyptian settlement structures and lacking a strong local priesthood as it was the case back home in Egypt, in the urban centres in Lower and Upper Egypt. The first public display of the adoration of the living king in settlement contexts is in my opinion strongly linked to the character of the sites and the Egyptian administration set up in Nubia with the viceroy of Kush as important representative of the king, fulfilling the role of a mediator.

Interestingly, there is a big change regarding the use of cartouche adoring scenes in Egypt during the time of Akhenaten. These were now becoming standard types in the large villas of his officials in the new town at Amarna. Of course this is connected with the special ideology of kingship under Akhenaten, but certain aspects were until now overlooked: the situation of displaying royal authority and the adoration of deified aspects of the king at Amarna is in some parts quite similar to the temple towns in Nubia. Within a new home away from home and especially far away from long-established priesthoods, the concept of divine kingship was obviously easy to develop further and was then “standardised” – and this can then be traced in Ramesside times both in Egypt and Nubia.

Reference

Budka, Julia. 2017. Constructing royal authority in New Kingdom towns in Nubia: some thoughts based on inscribed monuments from private residences, in: 8. Königsideologie, Constructing Authority. Prestige, Reputation and the Perception of Power in Egyptian Kingship. Budapest, May 12–14, 2016, ed. by Tamás Bács and Horst Beinlich, Wiesbaden, 29–45.

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Winter in Egypt, week 3 at Elephantine

Having had a very pleasant visit from Friends of the Egyptian Museum in Munich today, I was just reminded that actually winter has arrived in Europe… Someone told me that it’s even supposed to snow in Munich early next week – well, I’d better not think to much about this… Anyway, I thought I share some pictures of the beauty of Aswan, especially for all of you who are not enjoying the very nice weather here in Egypt!

Week 3 just started, some more days to go before I have to head back to Munich (and will face real winter after all…). We are still focusing on Nubian wares and other pottery vessels; Oliver will be concentrating on pots from the early phases of use of House 55 this week. Lucia has already produced wonderful drawings of the numerous net weights and will continue with female figurines in the next days. Daniela is busy polishing the database and completing some entries. Making very good progress, more to come!

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