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.

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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!

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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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Summary of the 2016 field season on Sai

AcrossBorders’ 2016 mission on Sai Island has just ended after 10 fruitful weeks of excavations and lab work. Excavations were carried out in three areas in the Pharaonic town (SAV1 East, SAV1 West and SAV1 Northeast) and in the New Kingdom cemetery SAC 5.

At SAV1 West, the eastern extension to Square 1S in SAV1 West, labelled as Square 1SE, yielded several small mud brick buildings. Feature 123, extending into Sq. 1S, was completely exposed and was of great interest. Its layout is different from the other structure along the “wall street” and an infant burial came up in its westernmost compartment – probably from a later phase of use, most probable the Christian period. Like proposed in 2015, the earliest phase of occupation at SAV1 West seems to be contemporaneous to the building of the town wall and dates to the mid-18th Dynasty. There is clear evidence for several phases of use within the 18th Dynasty.

At SAV1 East, extensions were added towards the western and southern part of the site (new Squares 4B, 4C and 4B1). Within Square 4, the western part of feature 15, our beloved large subterranean room lined with red bricks, was fully excavated.

Completing excavation in feature 15.

Completing excavation in feature 15.

Pottery and seal impressions found below the wall 44 of Building A set into this cellar proof the dating of the corresponding building phase to the later reign of Thutmose III. Extensions in the new Squares 4B, 4C and 4B1 yielded in situ remains of large mud brick magazines with schist pavements. Several building phases within the 18th Dynasty could be traced, especially of the early and mid-18th Dynasty. All in all, further proof was gathered that sector SAV1 East has much in common and shows many parallels to the southern area of the town, SAV1, excavated by M. Azim in the 1970ties.

To test the assumption that the eastern part of the New Kingdom enclosure wall was running along the sandstone cliff, a 15 x 3 m trench was excavated to the east of the site SAV1 North (called Trench 1 of SAV1 Northeast). Remains of brickwork associated with mid-18th Dynasty pottery can be interpreted as the town enclosure wall and enable us to calculate the Pharaonic town’s exact east-west width.

The test trench in SAV1Northeast.

The test trench in SAV1Northeast with scarce remains of New Kingdom mud bricks.

In addition to the excavation, kite photography of the Pharaonic town and the cemetery was conducted.

One of the days where the wind was strong enough for Martin and his kite!

One of the days where the wind was strong enough for Martin and his kite!

A geoarchaeological survey in the vicinity of the New Kingdom town site and to the south of Gebel Abri was successfully undertaken (January 30 to February 19). This survey took the form of hand auger profiles, as well as opportunistic prospection of exposed and available sections and quarry outcrops. Furthermore, the micromorphological sampling programme was continued, focusing on the 18th Dynasty occupation in SAV1 East, but also testing some deposits in SAV1 West.

Both pottery and objects were processed in 2016, documented by photos and drawings and described in the Filemaker database with currently more than 4600 entries. The focus was on the new material from SAV1 East and SAV1 West ‒ over 400 finds have been registered and photographed. One of the numerous highlights is a scarab (SAV1E 1595) from the floor of a newly exposed room towards the west of Building A.

Large amounts of the newly excavated pottery were processed in sherd yards at the sites (430 baskets from SAV1West, 615 baskets from SAV1 East). A substantial amount of pottery sherds were documented by drawing – the focus was here – due to publication responsibilities – on SAV1 North.

Michaela busy drawing pottery sherds.

Michaela busy drawing pottery sherds.

Work also continued in 2016 in the large New Kingdom cemetery SAC 5 (February 13 to March 11) in Area 2, focusing on tomb 26 discovered in 2015. This tomb was found looted at the beginning of the season – the backfilling of the shafts were taken out during May 2015, the burial chamber was entered and some deposit along the south wall towards the east of the chamber was removed, but the damage was not severe. Excavation work focused on the cleaning of the deposit in the burial chamber (feature 2) – a minimum of 10 individuals were documented from different levels reflecting the long time-span of use of the tomb from the mid/late 18th Dynasty to the Napatan era, comprising Ramesside and Pre-Napatan burials. The burial chamber was completely excavated and emptied.

Final cleaning work & taking measurements in the burial chamber of tomb 26.

Final cleaning work & taking measurements in the burial chamber of tomb 26.

In a large part of area 2 towards the south and east of tomb 26, a complete surface cleaning was conducted, providing proof that this sector of the cemetery is void of tombs, possibly stressing an elaborate position and the high importance of tomb 26.

Work in the surroundings of tomb 26.

Work in the surroundings of tomb 26.

All in all, the new information provided by the latest, very sucessful field season of AcrossBorders will allow us to 1) contextualise further the setting of the Pharaonic town within the landscape during New Kingdom times; 2) elaborate the city map of the Pharaonic town; 3) improve the stratigraphic sequence in all sectors; 4) connect the findings in the town with fresh evidence from the cemetery SAC5.

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Back home – after a successful 2016 season in Sudan

And time flies again… more than a week ago that we left Sai Island, almost a week since my departure from Khartoum!

Due to some technical problems and very bad internet connection, we were not able to keep you up to date during the last weeks – apologies and we’ll try to provide the latest updates as soon as possible!

For now, I would just like to thank all of the international team members – it was a great season with very good results, promising data and lots of stuff to think about! Looking much forward to our next season in 2017!

A big "thank you" to all team members of the 2016 season!

A big “thank you” to all team members of the 2016 season!

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More discoveries in tomb 26: end of week 9

Week 9 of the 2016 season has just ended – work is progressing well in the cemetery (both in tomb 26 and in the area around the shaft) and in the magazine.

The burial chamber of tomb 26 has produced a lot of really nice objects by now – our fourth scarab of 2016 came up this week! It is still inside the chamber, left in situ as found next to the upper leg of one particularly well preserved individual in the southwestern corner. It is made of faience and bears a royal cartouche (finally :-))! Although already readable, we’ll share this news with you on the blog once the scarab is taken out and registered!

Marlies cleaning the area of of the skeleton where the scarab was found.

Marlies cleaning the area of the skeleton where the scarab was found.

One of the other highlights of this week was a very nice, intact stone pilgrim flask. It was discovered close to the upper body area of one of the individuals in the northwestern corner.

IMG_0124aMarlies Wohlschlager and Andrea Stadlmayr were busy cleaning, documenting and removing several skeletons this week – among them a minimum of two infants – lots of interesting material which will tell us more about the complex history of use of tomb 26.

The area around the shaft of tomb 26 was cleaned by the gang of workmen headed by Hassan Dawd and supervised by Vanessa Becker, Cajetan Geiger and Huda Magzoub. A number of interesting finds were made – first of all a beautiful heart scarab and the lower part of a clay shabti – all hinting to the presence of a near-by shaft; however, until now, the cleaned area is void of tombs.

IMG_0172aWork in the magazine is progressing as well – ceramics are washed and reconstructed, then documented by detailed drawings and the registration of objects continues as is photography. Reorganizing boxes, shelves and storage-space is another important task keeping us busy.

The significant mud brick remains within the test trench in SAV1 Northeast were drawn earlier this week by Michaela Janker and Bartlin Schöpflin. During very happy nimiti-days we all have to endure…

IMG_0246aFingers crossed that today’s wind will last for a some days and help to make the upcoming, final week of AcrossBorders season on Sai as productive and nimiti-free as possible!

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