New recruitment of AcrossBorders

I am delighted to announce a new recruitment and to welcome a fresh team member of AcrossBorders: Lucia Sedlakova, BA student of LMU Munich, has worked in the field on Sai the last two seasons. She is now joining the team working on pottery and small finds, focusing in particular on the digitalisation of the original drawings and preparation of plates for the final publication.

Lucia has great drawing skills and her beautiful illustrations of various types of small finds from Sai are of high quality.

A very warm welcome and thanks for strengthening AcrossBorders in its final year!





P.S.: I am proud and happy to stress that Lucia’s position in the team was enabled by the successful application of a former team member – Vanessa Becker received a PhD position in my hometown Vienna and is therefore leaving Munich – all the very best and good luck, well deserved!

An early start…

Meeting in Munich today. I’m on the train with my colleague Sayantani Neogi on the way to Stanstead Airport and its 4.45 am. It’s still dark but warm.  I have had 3 hours sleep. It was a little bit stressful because on my way out I couldn’t find a lock for my bicycle which I need to lock my bike at the station in Cambridge or someone will pinch it. Anyway, I found it eventually and very quickly rushed to the station where I only just made the train in time. Sayantani was waiting for me but hiding just to get me back for being late! We travel usually with Ryanair, which takes us to Memmingen although they advertise it as Munich West. It’s actually two hours from Munich. From there we get the bus into Munich city center. We are having a little meeting ourselves anticipating the sort of thing that might come up and reviewing all the things we have been doing since the last time we were in Munich.

We carry out our soil thin section analyses in the McBurney Laboratory for Geoarchaeology, Cambridge University. At the moment we are excited because we have nearly got our hands on the thin sections from the 2016 field season at Sai which are being manufactured by Tonko, our lab technician. We had a go ourselves at hand finishing some of the thin sections, because the perfect thickness is required for good analyses. We love micromorphology! Because we deal with soils which are very soft (unless and until it is a lump of hard clay),  it takes a lot of care and quite some time from taking the samples and transporting them making sure that they remain in one piece. The important thing is to keep the samples in one block to retain the integrity of the sediments. What we are interested in is not just to identify the properties of the sample like the micro-artefacts but also to understand how all the different components relate to each other. We are lucky to be a part of AcrossBorders which is giving us the opportunity to investigate a New Kingdom town. We spend a lot of time at the microscope discussing our observations. Often we are in some disagreement over the interpretation which can be fun for the other people in the lab; however the noise levels aren’t helpful for their concentration.

I’m now in a rather expensive cafe in Stanstead Airport. The amount of people catching airplanes seems to be growing every month, so it’s hard to find a seat while the Gate information is released. There it is, Gate 29. Must dash. We’ve arrived in Memmingen and now to get the bus to Munich which takes about one and half hours. Hope I don’t fall asleep…… will update later!

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!


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!

Special mid-season thanks

Currently in our 4th week of fieldwork, we unfortunately had to say already good-bye to two of our team members who travelled back to Khartoum today: Kenneth Griffin, a Lecturer in Egyptology at Swansea University, was here as an external expert. As last year, Ken was, together with Meg Gundlach, registering all of our objects – quite a task with the numerous finds from SAV1 East and SAV1 West (apologies that there were yet no new seals Ken loves so much – hopefully we’ll find some in the next weeks :-)).
Being very grateful to Ken who did a great job as always, I would also like to express my thanks to Swansea University and all the colleagues who enabled him to join AcrossBorders again – much appreciated!

The second person who left us today after a productive stay was a newcomer to the project: Roa Abdelazim joined us as a trainee from NCAM – coming for the first time in her life to Sai Island!

Our two happy NCAM pottery ladies: our inspector Huda helping Roa with all the pottery fragments.

Our two happy NCAM pottery ladies: our inspector Huda helping Roa with all the pottery fragments.

Being interested and specialised in conservation, Roa spent 2 of her 3 weeks on Sai working on the pottery from tomb 26. With amazing results! The sherds from the lowest shaft filling and the uppermost layers of the chamber nicely match and she was able to reconstruct 8 almost complete vessels, among it a very nice Marl clay amphora. I am confident that we will find more matching pieces during the next weeks.

One of the vessels Roa was able to reconstruct out of small fragments!

One of the vessels Roa was able to reconstruct out of small fragments!

I am very thankful to Roa and I hope she enjoyed her stay – despite the nimiti and our very limited skills in Arabic conversation – as much as we were happy to have her here!

Hope to welcome both, Ken and Roa, soon again – next season insha’allah!

Reinforcement for the study of the New Kingdom prosopography of Sai

With a few days delay – having just returned from Egypt – it’s my great pleasure to introduce a new team member of AcrossBorders: Johannes Auenmüller joined the project with October 1. I am especially delighted, knowing him since many years from Berlin and because Johannes brings much experience in settlement archaeology, having been a member of the mission at Elephantine Island and currently working also at Amara West.

Johannes will soon introduce his work on this blog, but here are some brief information about his vita: he studied Egyptology, Classical Archaeology and Proto- and Prehistoric Archaeology at Free University Berlin. Johannes obtained his master’s degree with a study about the sociology of Egyptian elite tomb imagery in the Old Kingdom. He was then awarded a scholarship of the Berlin Cluster of Excellence TOPOI for his doctoral dissertation that aims at describing and understanding the territoriality and space-related identity of the Egyptian elite of the New Kingdom. Afterwards he conducted archaeological and archaeometric research funded by the Fritz-Thyssen-Stiftung on a unique object ensemble of casting moulds for producing god’s figures of bronze at the Egyptian Museum of Bonn University. Since April 2015 he is Research Associate at the Institute of Egyptology and Coptology of Münster University where he is responsible for the coordination of the research centre ‘Old Sudan‘. In the context of his position within AcrossBorders he will be working on the New Kingdom prosopography of Sai and environs.

Johannes also held several lectureships at the universities of Berlin, Leipzig and Bonn. Alongside his long-run archaeological work in Austria, he was moreover member of the excavation teams at Elephantine Island and Dahshur in Egypt. At present, his archaeological work focuses on the pharaonic town Amara West in Sudan where he is member of the excavation project of the British Museum London.

We are all delighted to welcome Johannes as new team member of AcrossBorders in Munich and are much looking forward to a fruitful collaboration.

New administrative support for AcrossBorders

I am very happy to introduce a new team member of AcrossBorders: Stephanie Plank started today her new job as team assistant. Her responsibilities include providing administrative support to the PI, planning and scheduling team meetings and helping with communication and correspondence. First of all, Stephanie will be busy with the accounts and financial management, helping me to prepare financial reports to the ERCEA.

20150901_124132_resized-1We are all were thankful – financial and administrative tasks need much time and require special knowledge we as scientists cannot offer at a very high level! But first of all, we are happy to have found among more than 35 applicants a new team member who is not only interested in numbers, but also in the scientific aspects of the project and its international team! Looking much forward to a fruitful collaboration!

We proudly present: Bavarian recruitment

With July 2015, AcrossBorders warmly welcomes new team members: Vanessa Becker and Daniela Penzer joined the project as student assistants.

Vanessa received her BA in Egyptology and Coptic Studies at our LMU institute in 2014. Thereafter, she switched to Near Eastern Archaeology. Still holding a strong interest for Egyptian archaeology and here especially for Pre- and Early Dynastic Egypt, she now joined AcrossBorders bringing in some valuable experience in fieldwork and in digitalizing drawings.

Daniela also got her BA degree in Egyptology and Coptic Studies in 2014. Since 2014, she is doing her MA in the same field. Daniela is very enthusiastic about Egyptian pottery and was keen to get involved in AcrossBorders.

Both new team members are currently working on digitalising pottery drawings with our interactive tablet. Hopefully, Daniela and Vanessa will also join us in the field in the upcoming season.

I am very happy about this new indigenous Bavarian recruitment and looking much forward to a fruitful collaboration!

Project management at the new institution

With my appointment as Professor at the LMU Munich, it was clear that I would no longer be able to invest 100% of my working time in AcrossBorders – teaching and administrative tasks are prime obligations now and require much time. Fortunately, academic teaching was always one of my key interests and in the last 2 months I only had really good experience with the students here in Munich – so this new task is definitely fun :-)! Last week I could also present some aspects of our fieldwork documentation we use on Sai Island – as a case study in a practical class dealing with excavation. I will of course try to continue combining research and teaching as best as possible.

For the project management, it is, however, very unfortunate that the project’s current – hopefully only temporary – offices are far off from the main university, my main office and the Egyptological institutions in the city centre, but quite close to the famous Allianz Arena (the soccer season has ended, so no advantage here…). In order to bring all researchers together, I decided to organize a monthly Jour fixe in Munich Freimann. Yesterday we had our first meeting and discussed logistics, schedules of ongoing and planned analyses, planned publications, conferences and more. One of the key points to discuss was the upcoming workshop on settlement archaeology, organised by AcrossBorders and held in Munich at the end of June. The programme is almost ready and will be soon available on this blog.

In the future, the monthly Jour fixe will also be used for short presentations of team members about their ongoing research. And will hopefully soon not require an excursion through Munich!

Coming and going…

We just said goodbye to three of our team members, while six new ones have arrived this morning in Khartoum, preparing to travel up North in the next hours!


I would just like to thank Jördis Vieth and Stefanie Juch for a great job out in the field at SAV1 East respectively SAV1 West!

And many thanks of course to Giulia D’Ercole for her work in the last weeks – including the workshop in Kerma, photography of ceramics and first of all the sampling for INAA!

The enigmatic “fish dishes” again

As processing of the 18th Dynasty pottery from SAV1 West, 2014 season, continues, new information comes up daily! As reported, the material is closely similar to the pottery corpus from sector SAV1 North and also SAV1 East. However, there are also some – maybe significant – differences. For example, the amount of Blue painted pottery is remarkable; as in SAV1 East, we do encounter a number of conical bread moulds, these have been largely missing at SAV1 North.

Another intriguing group of vessels are the so-called “fish dishes”! A number of Marl clay examples were found in Square 1 at SAV1 West.

Fragment of Marl clay "fish dish", SAV1 West

Fragment of Marl clay “fish dish”, SAV1 West

This large fragment illustrates the geometric decorative pattern inside. In exactly the same style, but made in a local Nile clay, more than 10 fragments came up in the fillings of Building A at SAV1 East this season! Does this indicate a difference between our two current excavation areas? Or could it also be that my previous assumption, based on the comparison with Elephantine was completely wrong? I did speculate last year because there are more Nile silt “fish dishes” from Sai Island than Marl clay version that different from the situation in Egypt, the “real” Egyptian Marl B/E trays had been frequently reproduced in Nubia in local material. Are the new Marl dishes from SAV1 West just an accidental find? Or are they of chronological significance, maybe originating from a phase with the first “supply” of Egyptian functional wares? But how would this correspond to the findings of Nile “fish dishes” from SAV1 East which date to the heyday of Sai in the 18th Dynasty, the time of Thutmose III and Amenhotep II. It is especially this era when a lot of high quality material, including decorated Marl clay vessels, was brought to the temple town of Sai.

All in all, the picture deriving from the New Kingdom town of Sai Island gets more and more complex the better we understand the architectural layout, the structure of the town and especially the material culture! Every small pottery sherd potentially adds information…

Next week I will focus among other things on the large amount of incense burners, footed bowls and dishes with pigments, possible painter’s pots from the 2014 season. The pottery gives a nice glimpse into past activities at SAV1 West which we still have only touched on a superficial level.