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.

Nubian wares of House 55

This working week at Elephantine just flew by… I am back concentrating on another of my favorite topics within the intriguing House 55: the Nubian wares, comprising both fine wares and household wares, including drinking, serving and storage vessels as well as abundant cooking pots.

Most fascinating about the considerable assemblage of Nubian wares is besides the broad spectrum of forms and types that we find them in all levels of use of House 55 – thus, they are not restricted to the earliest phases from the 17th Dynasty and very early 18th Dynasty, but continue well into Thutmoside times. This also holds true for Kerma Black topped fine ware which is in particular of special importance – and of particular interest for us as we find good parallels in the New Kingdom town of Sai and AcrossBorders’ most recent works there.

My database currently holds 222 Nubian vessels from House 55 – 29 are Black topped fine wares, the well-known beakers, but also dishes, and small cups. Three more boxes full of Nubian sherds are still waiting to be documented, so these numbers will definitely increase in the next days. Detailed statistics and assessments of course have to wait until the very end, but the prospects are already really exciting!

We proudly present: Khnummose’s shabti in full detail

Khnummose’s shabti is, together with the stone heartscarab, definitely the highlight from Chamber 6 in Tomb 26. The shabti belongs to a homogenous group of five stone shabtis from Egyptian officials, found at Aniba, Toshka and Sai, and identified by Ann Minault-Gout as originating from one workshop, dating from the mid-18th Dynasty (Minault-Gout 2012). A common origin might explain why on SAC5 350 the name of Khnummose was inscribed in different hand writing, obviously at a later stage than the remaining text with Book of the Dead Chapter VI. In addition, the raw material used for this group of shabtis is not local to Sudan. The prime sources for serpentinite are located in Egypt (Wadi Semna and Wadi Atalla) – suggesting that the corresponding workshop was probably also located somewhere in Egypt. This is all very significant for the organisation behind Egyptian elite burials in New Kingdom Nubia.

Khnummose’s shabti was now documented in full detail – besides proper photographs, Cajetan created a very useful 3D model based on images and Patrizia did a beautiful drawing which is especially relevant for the inscription.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We still have 2 more days to finish off our study season here in Khartoum – and it has been a great success so far!

Reference:

Minault-Gout, A. 2012. ‘La figurine funéraire Saï inv. S. 964 (SNM 23424) et un groupe de quatre chaouabtis de la XVIIIe dynastie de même type’, Cahiers de Recherches de l’Institut de Papyrologie et d’Égyptologie de Lille 29, 189-200.

 

 

Miniature canopic jars from Tomb 26

Among the interesting finds associated with the southernmost burial in Chamber 5 of Tomb 26 on Sai Island are four miniature jars. The burial was placed in a wooden coffin, had a funerary mask and many flakes of gold foil were discovered in the area of the upper body. In addition to the steatite scarab found at the left hand, an uninscribed heart scarab was found directly between the ribs, thus it was placed on the breast of the deceased.

More items of typical Egyptian New Kingdom burial equipment are the four small ceramic jars which were found close to the skull.

The four small, globular jars as they were found in situ.

These jars are clearly miniature canopic jars – their lids were found a few centimeters apart from the jars, buried between the debris from the collapsed ceiling. All lids show human heads and are also made in clay. Interestingly, the jars were made in Egyptian Marl clay and imitate with their coated surface stone vessels. Miniature canopic jars were also documented in several tombs of SAC5 excavated by the French mission – but none of them is the same type of vessel and the lids are also markedly different (see A. Minault-Gout/F. Thill, Saï II. Le cimetière des tombes hypogées du Nouvel Empire (SAC5), Fouilles de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale du Caire 69, Cairo 2012, Pls. 90 and 131).

Miniature canopic jars united with their lids today in Khartoum.

Today, we finished the photographic documentation of this interesting and so far unique set of 18th Dynasty miniature canopic jars from Sai, drawings will be produced in the next days – another step done towards the final publication of Tomb 26!

Khartoum study season: Working on 3D models of selected finds

After busy days working on pottery and small finds from the town, we are now focusing in our current study season at NCAM in Khartoum on the objects from Tomb 26. In addition to drawings and photographs for future publications, we will document some objects with Structure From Motion to capture also their 3D structure. The three most important pieces in this respect are the beautiful signet ring from Chamber 5, a real masterpiece of jewelry, as well as the stone heart scarab and the shabti who both belonged to Khnummose.

Cajetan Geiger was already responsible for all the SFM documentation during the 2017 field season at Sai, continuing our site specific technique Martin Fera established back in 2014. Cajetan now set up a very nice “in-door” installation for objects in 3D and thanks to our new full-frame camera the results from Image Based modelling should be of highest quality! I am very keen to see these new 3D models of the highlights of AcrossBorders’ work on Sai – and will of course share them, just keep track of our blog posts during the next 8 days ;-)!

We like it hot – in Khartoum

Since Saturday, a small AcrossBorders team is busy working in Khartoum in the National Museum of Sudan. This two-week study season is dedicated to the documentation of finds from our 2017 fieldwork season on Sai Island. Due to the amazing discoveries both in the town and the cemetery, we simply ran out of time back in March and had to postpone the study of some objects. I am especially grateful to our colleagues from NCAM for their constant support and for a very productive setup and generous working hours! And we are really delighted that Huda Magzoub, our dear colleague, inspector and friend, joined as for this ultimate AcrossBorders season in Sudan. Temperatures here in Khartoum are quite a change compared to Vienna and Munich ;-).

Besides work on objects from Tomb 26, we are currently busy with material from the two large cellars we excavated in SAV1 East (Features 83 and 85). Both cellars represent very good contexts from the mid-18th Dynasty and therefore their pottery and small finds have particular importance for our study of the material culture in New Kingdom Sai.

I was especially looking forward to start working on the sherds from Feature 83. Below the collapsed bricks from the vault of this cellar, some smashed pottery vessels were found on the floor.

Broken pots at the bottom of Feature 83 – note the smashed jar in the middle of the picture.

These ceramics clearly belong to the latest phase of use of the structure and can be dated to the mid-18th Dynasty – but back in Sai, they were all broken vessels, not allowing proper photographs or drawings. In the last days here in Khartoum, I managed to reconstruct them – my personal favourite is this nice imported jug with painted decoration. A real beauty came out of those smashed sherds!

Reconstructed imported jug from Feature 83.

On the move again – from Munich to Berkeley

Thanks to the general agreement of cooperation between the University of California, Berkeley and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU), I was able to visit the San Francisco Bay Area for the first time!

In June, we enjoyed an inspiring workshop dedicated to “Archaeologies of human mobility and migration” here at the LMU – this past week, we gathered in Berkeley to discuss the theme “On the move” further. My own presentation focused on Tomb 26 – presenting some of the preliminary data from our ongoing analysis of the systematic variation in the isotopic composition of strontium in the environment of Sai and its significance for exploring the origin of people and their migration along the Nile. I also stressed the significance of Khnummose’s shabti: its raw material serpentinite is not local to Sudan, the prime sources are located in Egypt (Wadi Semna and Wadi Atalla); furthermore, name and title of Khnummose were added in a different handwriting, suggesting an “off the shelf” purchase – so we can assume that this shabti, one of AcrossBorders highlights of five years of digging on Sai, was actually an “object on the move”, being produced at a workshop probably located in Egypt (or close to the border).

I am very grateful to all LMU and Berkeley colleagues for these wonderful days both in Munich and Berkeley – especially to the organisers Carline von Nicolai and Benjamin Porter. Loads of thanks go also to Ruth Tringham for a marvellous tour through “her” San Francisco – this was definitely the highlight of my first trip to California!

 

AcrossBorders conference – last update

The first participants have already arrived here in Munich, others will come later today – all is set for the 3-days AcrossBorders conference on settlement archaeology in Egypt and Nubia, from 1–3 September, 2017 here in Munich.

Some last-minute changes were necessary – please note the updated program of “From Microcosm to Macrocosm: Individual households and cities in Ancient Egypt and Nubia.” Manfred Bietak’s paper “Settlements of mixed societies: Tell el-Daba as a case study” had to be re-scheduled to Saturday morning and some small amendments were therefore necessary for the Friday afternoon and Saturday morning session.

Looking much forward to this event and latest research on settlement archaeology in Egypt and Sudan during the New Kingdom!

New release & much progress in Vienna

Wow – what a week already! We’ve been busy working on the photogrammetric processing of digital images from Sai and generating 3D data. Thanks to the kind support of OREA, Cajetan Geiger can not only use our two fieldwork laptops, but also a PowerPC workstation here in Vienna. It’s simply amazing how much faster the processing is with this and we’re making great progress.

Our current focus is on generating maps and 3D models from Tomb 26, especially from the various situations in Chamber 5 and Trench 4. Cajetan is also doing his best in fulfilling my last-minute wishes for illustrations to be used at the conference next week in Munich!

Being already perfectly happy with all of this progress and productive atmosphere, this Viennese success week was yesterday topped by the release of AcrossBorders first monograph! After all of the work we invested in this volume, I am very proud to have the finished product now in my hands. Many thanks go to all who were deeply involved in this book – first of all Florence Doyen, Meg Gundlach and Oliver Frank Stephan.

AcrossBorders I is dedicated to SAV1 North, the sector situated along the northern enclosure wall. It was excavated between 2008 and 2012 by the Sai Island Archaeological Mission (directed in the field by Florence Doyen) and processed within the framework of AcrossBorders. The principal focus of the book is the physical remains of SAV1 North: the architecture and material culture, with emphasis on the pottery and small finds.

Timing of both the new publication and our data processing here in Vienna is just perfect, especially in regards of the upcoming conference!

AcrossBorders in retrospect

Those were the days – back in 2013 we had our first season on Sai Island, starting work at sector SAV1 East. The outlines of Building A were discovered, exciting finds in the southern part of our squares allowed us to date the earliest remains in this area to the very early New Kingdom. Among the highlights were pots from the early 18th Dynasty, found in situ in a small storage bin.

Continuous excavations until this spring season 2017 brought to light further evidence supporting this original interpretation. It is well timed that a substantial volume on “Nubia in the New Kingdom” was just published – edited by Neal Spencer, Anna Stevens and Michaela Binder these proceedings of a conference in London 2013 bring together the latest results and a large variety of finds dating to the New Kingdom, unearthed in northern Sudan. I am proud that also AcrossBorders’ work on Sai Island is represented in this splendid and important volume – an overview about “Life in the New Kingdom town of Sai Island: some new perspectives” summarizes the potential of the first season back in 2013 in SAV1 East – and illustrates among others the significant find of the storage bin with its in situ pots.

Since 2013, I regularly wrote a blog post “summer break” in August, announcing vacation and a short break from our various tasks including blogging – well, those were the days… 2017 is a bit different – with the closing conference “From Microcosm to Macrocosm: Individual households and cities in Ancient Egypt and Nubia”, to be held from 1–3 September, 2017 in Munich, we are all very busy and time for vacation is limited. Travelling between Vienna and Munich, we are especially involved in the anthropological findings in Tomb 26 and the GIS applications of our documentation; the digital landscape models of Sai are getting prepared and all will be presented at the conference.

Perfectly timed is now the release of a video produced by the FWF high lightening our main research questions and most important discoveries on Sai. For those of you who have missed photos and reports about the nimiti flies in the last months – I am convinced that the video will make up for this: beautiful shots of SAV1 East, the one and only nimiti paradise ;-).