People on Sai – Ramesside Deputies of Kush on Sai Island

Prosopography is about people. With this phrase, I already began my last blog post assessing the social fabric of New Kingdom Sai as it becomes visible through the prosopographical data of its elite necropolis, SAC5. During the last field seasons, a new tomb, T 26, was discovered and excavated there (Budka 2015). At the bottom of its shaft, lintel and door jamb fragments as well as an inscribed sandstone pyramidion were found. The inscription on the latter artefact added another very important person to the prosopographical list of this cemetery: the deputy of Kush Hornakht. He was already known from four inscribed architectural elements coming from the Pharaonic town itself and two others found in Abri and Amara East (Fouquet 1975, Budka 2001, 210-212). Additionally, a door lintel fragment was quite recently discovered in a modern village on Sai showing him together with his wife (Budka 2015). This attestation adds another female entry to the Sai prosopographical list which is quite gender biased in favour of male members of the local society. This is, however, typical for Pharaonic Egypt and Sudan.

Hornakht and his wife (photo: J. Budka).

Hornakht and his wife (photo: J. Budka).

When we consider his archaeological monuments, it becomes clear that the deputy of Kush Hornakht had an office building or residence in the city centre of Sai and a monumental tomb with a pyramid at SAC5. This puts Sai back on the map for a certain administrative presence during Ramesside times, when a little further north at Amara West a new walled town was founded by Sethi I and substantially redeveloped under Ramses II that functioned as the seat of power for the administration of Kush (Spencer/Stevens/Binder 2015). Based on the limited geographical distribution of the monuments of Hornakht in the Amara-Abri-Sai region, Julia Budka has recently argued that Hornakht might be a local born on Sai, who was educated in Egypt and later send back to his hometown to fulfil his administrative duties as agent of the Pharaonic state (Budka 2015). He was, therefore, definitely a direct member of the local social fabric and of considerable social and functional standing. Accordingly, he also chose to be buried in the elite necropolis of his home town in a typical private New Kingdom pyramid tomb.

Hornakht is, however, not the only Ramesside deputy of Kush known from Sai. In 1843, Richard Lepsius came across two door jambs with the cartouche of Thutmosis III. Both had the subsequently added image of an official with his titles and name on their inside. They read “overseer of all priests of all gods” and “deputy of Kush Usermaatrenakht” (Lepsius 1913, 226). In 1954, a possible fragment of one of these door jambs could be recovered (Vercoutter 1956, 76). Based on his basilophorous name, Usermaatrenakht might also be considered an official of non-Egyptian descent (Nubian?) in the service of the Pharaonic state in Upper Nubia (cf. Schulman 1990). The presence of two Ramesside deputies of Kush on Sai is, therefore, of interest for understanding the social and political importance of the town in the 19th Dynasty in the region. At Amara West, however, several other individuals with the title of “deputy (of Kush)” are – next to viceroys and other local officials – known from the town and the cemetery (Spencer 1997; Spencer/Binder 2015). All these individuals equally attest to the particular prominence of Amara West in Ramesside times in the region and in Upper Nubia in general.

Bibliography:

Budka 2001: J. Budka, Der König an der Haustür. Die Rolle des ägyptischen Herrschers an dekorierten Türgewänden von Beamten im Neuen Reich, Veröffentlichungen der Institute für Afrikanistik und Ägyptologie der Universität Wien 94, Beiträge zur Ägyptologie 19, Wien.

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

Fouquet 1975: A. Fouquet, Deux Hauts-Fonctionnaire du Nouvel Empire en Haute-Nubie, in: CRIPEL 3, 127-140.

Lepsius 1913: K. R. Lepsius, Denkmäler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien. Text Bd. 5, hrsg. von Edouard Naville, bearbeitet von Walter Wreszinski, Leipzig.

Schulman 1990: A. R. Schulman, The Royal Butler Ramessesami’on. An Addendum, in: CdE, 65, 12-20.

Spencer 1997: P. Spencer, Amara West I. The architectural report, EES 63, London.

Spencer/Binder 2015: N. Spencer, M. Binder, Amara West 2015 (week 6): a familiar character appears. URL: https://blog.amarawest.britishmuseum.org/2015/02/21/amara-west-2015-week-6-a-familiar-character-appears/ (last accessed: July 4th, 2016).

Spencer/Stevens/Binder 2015: N. Spencer, A. Stevens & M. Binder, Amara West. Living in New Kingdom Nubia, London.

Vercoutter 1956: J. Vercoutter, New Egyptian texts from the Sudan, in: Kush 4, 66-82.

Small steps forward into the terrain of settlement archaeology in Egypt & Nubia

With a splendid evening lecture by Dominique Valbelle, the AcrossBorders workshop “Settlements patterns in Egypt and Nubia” came to an end. I am very grateful to all participants for making it a successful and also very pleasant event! Special thanks go to all AcrossBorders’ team members and the LMU students helping with the organization. The location of the workshop was just perfect – many thanks again to the Egyptian State Museum Munich – and here not only to the first and second directors Silvia Schoske and Arnulf Schlüter, but also to Dietrich Wildung. His special offer of a guided tour through the galleries was much appreciated by all participants – it complemented the programme of the workshop in a perfect way and illustrated the complex and changing relations between Egypt and Nubia/Sudan throughout the millennia.

Most talks were concentrating on settlement architecture and the planning of settlements. Ingrid Adenstedt presented her 3D reconstruction of the Pharaonic town on Sai – from my perspective a very big step forward for a better understanding of the evolution of the site! Florence Doyen shared her by now much advanced assessment of SAV1 North, proposing interesting ideas about the layout and foundation of the town on Sai.

Cornelius von Pilgrim impressed everyone with speaking about the intriguing house 55 on Elephantine island – I really can’t wait for our upcoming field season to go back there and continue sorting out the complex phases of use of this unusual structure!

Amara West and its huge potential were beautifully presented by Neal Spencer – the state of preservation of the mud brick houses is simply amazing. Manfred Bietak closed Day 1 with new observations on the structure and function of the monumental palace of the Middle Kingdom in Bubastis.

Day 2 was opened with a very interesting session dedicated to settlement patterns in Prehistoric times and to the Pre-Kerma and Kerma periods. Elena Garcea presented her work at Khartoum Variant, Abkan and Pre-Kerma sites at Amara West and on Sai – and was able to pose some thought-provoking questions highly relevant also for the historic periods.

Giulia D’Ercole and Johannes Sterba presented their ongoing chemical analyses of Nubian and Egyptian style sherds from Sai. Johannes got huge complements afterwards: “A contribution by a scientist which was completely understandable!” Of course I totally agree.

Recent discoveries in the ceremonial city of Kerma were the topic of Charles Bonnet’s talk – he showed beautiful 3D reconstructions of these very peculiar buildings of an African kind of architecture. Kate Spence used Sesebi as a case study to pose several key questions for our understanding of so-called temple towns. Her assessment that it is crucial to understand the foundation processes of these sites seems especially noteworthy.

Stuart Tyson Smith led us to Tombos, one of the major bounderies between the Nubian and Egyptian realm during the New Kingdom. He focused on a very large, enigmatic building of 18th Dynasty date found in recent excavations. So much more remains to be excavated at this important site at the Third Cataract!

The last afternoon session was dedicated to 18th Dynasty Egypt – the important site of South Abydos, the Ahmose town, was presented by Stephen Harvey. He addressed not only the oracle cult of Ahmose, but also interesting ideas about ancestor’s cult.

The paper by Anna Stevens was the perfect transition to the final discussion: Anna addressed community and sub-communities at Amarna and raised important issues. “How much did the occupants feel they are part of their/a community” would nicely apply to open but crucial questions we have regarding the occupants of Egyptian sites in Kush – all of us working there have found increasing evidence for a complex social stratification and the entanglement of Egyptian and Nubian cultures.

Dominique Valbelle considered a wide range of textual records for the assessment of settlement patterns in Egypt and Nubia – most importantly, she showed us new material from the excavations in Dokki Gel.

Without doubt, the ongoing excavations of the international missions working in Northern Sudan have widened our understanding of the complexity of settlement patterns in Nubia. There is some hope that we will continue in these lines and might also be able to learn more about Egyptian urbanism by taking into accounts the sites located in Kush.

Faunal remains from Sai Island, New Kingdom town: Pigs at SAV1 North

In the last months, a total number of 492 faunal remains were identified and analyzed from the New Kingdom town of Sai Island. The identification and analysis of species was carried out on Sai Island during the field season 2014 and it was continued in Vienna (Austria) at the Museum of Natural History (1st Zoological Department, Archaeozoology) and at the Department of Palaeontology (University of Vienna). My sincere thanks go therefore to the Sudanese Authorities (NCAM and especially our inspector Huda Magzoub) and also to Dr. Erich Pucher and Dr. Karl Kunst for their constant support here in Vienna!

The bone deposits derive from SAV1 North within the New Kingdom town of Sai, from three levels numbered from 5 to 3, datable to the 18th Dynasty (see Budka and Doyen 2013). Human intervention related to butchery techniques has been detected on the faunal remains from all levels investigated.

Diagram 1: Distribution of mammals and birds from Sai Island, SAV1 North according to the Number of Identified Specimens (NISP) for levels 3-5. The prevalent species are mainly sheep/goats and cattle, but with some differences from level 5 to 3.

Diagram 1: Distribution of mammals and birds from Sai Island, SAV1 North according to the Number of Identified Specimens (NISP) for levels 3-5. The prevalent species are mainly sheep/goats and cattle, but with some differences from level 5 to 3.

The faunal composition demonstrates the prevalence of domesticated mammal species at SAV1 North (Diagram 1). However, the very limited number of bones available from good archaeological contexts (levels 5-3) has to be stressed ‒ the material did not allow statistical processing and all results are of a tentative character based on a restricted corpus of faunal remains. Yet, I do believe that there is rich potential in the study of the animal bones from the New Kingdom town area of Sai, especially with the new stratified material from recent excavations as in SAV1 West, still waiting for analysis. Today, I would like to present some first data concerning one of the interesting species among the attested mammals: the pig (Sus scrofa f. domestica).

Pigs are recorded at a relatively higher percentage, after sheep/goat, at level 5, but a reduction follows at level 4. The profile changes at level 3, where the number of the bones is again increasing.

Pigs correspond to 8 bones from level 5, 10 from level 4 and 55 from level 3.  As it is illustrated in Diagram 1, they are found at a relatively high percentage at level 5. Evidence from level 4 demonstrates that cattle and caprine prevail, whereas pigs are found in a smaller number. Pigs remain just the third prevalent species at level 3, although the total number of bones is higher.

For level 5 and the small number of bones, the skeletal part distribution is not well understood. A small amount of vertebrae, humerus and dentes are noted for this level. Dentes, tarsals and pelvis have mainly survived from level 4. More remains have been recovered from level 3. Mandibles prevail (14.5%) followed by humerus (10.9%), costae (9%), radius (7.2%) and pelvis (7.2%).  Smaller bones (carpals, tarsals, and phalanges) lack completely.

The analysis of the age profile shows that the vast majority of the material coming from level 3 belongs to individuals between 1 and 2.5 years. Some of them are younger than 1 year and only in one case up to 3.5 years. The dental examination confirms the young age for the majority of the animals (16 months). Level 4 presents mainly individuals younger than 2-3 years and in one case older than 3.5 years. From level 5 only one individual is recorded, which seem to be younger than 1 year.

The butchery marks recorded on pigs are mainly related to disarticulation and portioning.

Mandibula of a pig from Level 4.

Mandibula of a pig from Level 4.

Proximal part of a humerus from Level 4.

Proximal part of a humerus from Level 4.

To conclude, pigs recovered at SAV1 North were slaughtered at the optimum age for meat consumption. The very rare cases of older pigs could be related with the needs of reproduction. It is noteworthy that as far as we know pigs in Nubia are mainly connected with Egyptian presence. For instance, the pyramid tomb G301 at Cemetery D of Amara West (19th Dynasty) brought to light a neonate piglet from the western chamber (Binder et al. 2011, 53). On the other hand, pigs have not been found at Kerma in the town or cemeteries (see the studies by L. Chaix, e.g. 1988 and the extensive list of publications available at http://kerma.ch/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=40&Itemid=79#animal).

In New Kingdom Egypt, pig is among the most numerous species killed for meat and a preference for young animals is traceable in settlements (see e.g. at Amarna, Kemp 2012, 219-220).

It can be very tentatively suggested that the presence of pigs in the earliest level 5 at SAV1 North corresponds to the analysis of the ceramics from the same contexts: The material is New Kingdom in date and Egyptian in character, supporting the assessment that a Pharaonic settlement was founded on the island very early in the 18th Dynasty (cf. Budka 2011; Budka and Doyen 2013).

For now, only some preliminary tendencies for the faunal material from the New Kingdom town of Sai have been outlined. The low amount of the material studied so far has to be taken in consideration, implying that the results might significantly change during the next campaigns. However, the case study of the pig remains from SAV1 North illustrates that the study of the faunal remains from Sai will significantly contribute to the interpretation of the character of the site during the 18th Dynasty.

References:

Binder et al. 2011 = M. Binder, N. Spencer & M. Millet, Cemetery D at Amara West: the Ramesside period and its aftermath, British Museum Studies in Ancient Egypt and Sudan 16, 2011, 47–99.

Budka 2011 = J. Budka, The early New Kingdom at Sai Island: Preliminary results based on the pottery analysis (4th Season 2010), Sudan & Nubia 15, 23–33.

Budka and Doyen 2013 = J. Budka & F. Doyen, Living in New Kingdom towns in Upper Nubia – New evidence from recent excavations on Sai Island, Ägypten & Levante 22/23, 2012/2013, 167–208.

Chaix 1988 = L. Chaix, Cinquième note sur la faune de Kerma (Soudan). Campagnes 1987 et 1988. In C. Bonnet et al., Les fouilles archéologiques de Kerma (Soudan), Genava, n.s. 36, 1988, 27–29. http://kerma.ch/index.php?option=com_wrapper&Itemid=247

Kemp 2012 = B. Kemp, The City of Akhenaten and Nefertiti. Amarna and its people, Cairo 2012.

 

 

Post-excavation working steps in Vienna

Back in Vienna, all of us are engaged with several tasks, most of them of course connected with the field season 2014.

I am still busy with finalising reports and accounts, hoping to finish the administrative aftermath of the season as soon as possible!

Giulia is particularly occupied as we brought a large number of ceramics samples to Vienna, thanks to the kind permission of NCAM. Two sets of new samples are already prepared for iNAA – Johannes Sterba and his colleague at the Atominstitut have been most efficiently as usual! Tomorrow we have an appointment at the Geozentrum in order to arrange the next thin sections – we are in particular focusing this time on Nubian fine wares (Black topped cups and beakers) and Egyptian wheel-made cooking pots. The latter are most likely real Egyptian products in a very sandy Nile E variant – of course this macroscopic assessment has to be checked by petrographic and chemical analysis.

Ceramic samples from Sai selected for thin sections.

Ceramic samples from Sai selected for thin sections.

Jördis is currently updating our literature database – a number of very important articles have been published recently. Especially stimulating and a must-read for all interested in Nubian archaeology is the special new issue of the Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections! A particular inspiring paper by Neal Spencer on “Creating and Re-Shaping Egypt in Kush: Responses at Amara West” corresponds nicely to AcrossBorders’ focus and aims.

The literature database is growing - counting already more than 750 entries!

The literature database is growing – counting already more than 800 entries!

Nadia is working on the samples of animal bones we took from Sai to Vienna – it’s a nice collection from SAV1 North, from Levels 5-3, thus datable to Dynasty 18.

SAV1 North is also the prime task for Florence – she is currently integrating her new data about the architecture gathered at the site in February with the previous documentation from earlier years.

Elke has started again with digitalising new pottery drawings and Daniela is helping me with the database of the small finds – focusing on the new objects from SAV1 West and reworking some of the photographs.

Preparing photos in reduced scale for the object database.

Preparing photos in reduced scale for the object database.

It’s hard to believe that we left Sai Island already more than a month ago – but all the data collected there will keep us busy during the next months!

Seti I at Sai Island?

During our 2014 field season on Sai Island, working in the New Kingdom town, we also devoted some time to re-organize the finds from the early French exploration of the town under Jean Vercoutter, now stored in the magazine of the French digging house. There are beautiful and important highlights among them complementing our recent findings at SAV1 East and SAV1 West.

It was a very nice coincidence that while I was just working on one particular puzzling piece we received a visit by the Amara West team directed by Neal Spencer (British Museum). I was keen on showing them this object as it seemed to have links to Amara West and the founder of this temple town, Seti I – and it came even better: they had just found something very similar during the current fieldwork!

Chiara Salvador wrote a very interesting post about the Amara object with several pictures.

The piece of mud with impressions of cartouche shaped stamps from SAF5.

The piece of mud with impressions of cartouche shaped stamps from SAF5.

The Sai object nicely compares to the one from Amara West – unfortunately both are fragmented and parts are missing, leaving some room for doubts and discussion. It is a piece of mud with an almost triangular section, two flat surfaces at the back and a front side showing impressions of large cartouche shaped stamps. According to the French digging diary it was found together with a second fragment on December 16 1973 in the Northwestern corner of a structure labelled SAF5 in the southern part of the Pharaonic town. Unfortunately further information about the find context is not available.

Overview of the general find spot of the mud fragment: SAF5 in the New Kingdom town.

Overview of the general find spot of the mud fragment: SAF5 in the New Kingdom town.

The building complex SAF5 is still not well understood – it obviously had several building phases and its present state is very fragmented, especially on the western side, having been largely flattened during Ottoman times. Vercoutter proposed a function as door sealing for the stamped piece and this seems indeed the most likely interpretation, corresponding to what our colleagues from Amara West assume for their pieces. It is definitely not a stamped mud brick, but a flattened piece of mud with several stamp impressions on one side, one above the other (only the lower edge of the cartouche is preserved of the upper stamp) and a peculiar, almost rectangular impression on one of the back sides.

Like at Amara, the impression on SAV002 has only survived in the upper part: The sun disk (Ra) is clearly readable as well as a seated goddess Maat, with a feather on her head, holding an ankh-sign in front of her. The lower part of the cartouche stamp is missing – excactly as for the Amara West piece, it could have been Maat-[ka]-ra (Hatshepsut), [Neb]-maat-Ra (Amenhotep III) or [Men]-maat-Ra (Seti I). Hatshepsut is not yet attested on Sai Island, leaving Amenhotep III and Seti I as the more likely candidates. Amenhotep III was very active on Sai, work continued in his name at the temple for Amun-Re (Temple A), attested by inscribed blocks and other evidence. Seti I is known to have founded Amara West as administrative center of Kush, possibly shifting activities from Sai towards the new neighbouring site. Two stelae refer to military activites of the king in Nubia – one from Amara West and the other was set up in Sai where it was discovered during the early French excavations (Vercoutter 1972; el-Saady 2011)! The Abri-Delgo reach with its rich mineral resources, especially gold, was for sure of interest to Seti. The Nauri decree mentiones an as yet unidentified fortress of the king of whom building activity is also attested at Sesebi (cf. el-Saady 2011: 436). As the Sai stela indicates, it is unlikely that the island was completly abandoned during the early 19th Dynasty. At present we do have little evidence for occupation– a small number of ceramics from the town and some objects from the cemeteries date to the early 19th Dynasty, most probably to the reigns of Seti I and Ramesses II.

The relation between Sai and Amara West in the early Ramesside period are essential open questions of our current research – connecting finds from old and new excavations at both sites has much potential and promises new insights in the upcoming years!

All in all, especially considering the exciting new finds at Amara West, I do think that reconstructing the mud impression on the piece from SAF5 as Men-Maat-Ra, thus Seti I, is the most probable solution. Further interpretation and contextualizing the royal stamp from SAF5 must await future work, both in the field and the magazine, and continuous cooperation with the team currently re-excavating the Ramesside center of Kush .

References:

el-Saady 2011 = Hassan el-Saady, Egypt in Nubia during the Reign of Seti I, in: Mark Collier/Steven Snape (eds.), Ramesside Studies in Honour of K.A. Kitchen, Bolton 2011, 433-437

Vercoutter 1972 = J. Vercoutter, Une camapagne militaire de Séti en Haute Nubie. Stèle de Saï S. 579, in: RdE 24, 1972, 201-208, pl. 17.

 

The gold of Kush

Nubia is famous for its rich supply of gold and it is well known that Nubian gold was among the main Egyptian economic interests during a long time span (cf. Vercoutter 1959). During the London colloquium last week, the role of gold for the Egyptian presence in Nubia was discussed again.

There is increasing evidence that the location of the Egyptian New Kingdom sites in the Abri-Delgo-reach as rich gold ore region was important for their function (see Klemm & Klemm 2013, also Darnell 2013, 828). For example, recent work at Sesebi has stressed the importance of gold exploitation for the function of the site (Spence/Rose 2009; Spence et al. 2011). Evidence from Tombos (Stuart T. Smith) and Amara West (Neal Spencer) show a similar picture. Also Sai Island had direct access to gold ores and probably played a role in gold mining of the New Kingdom.

The German geologists Rosmarie and Dieter Klemm gave a very interesting paper in London – and more information can be found in their recent publication “Gold and Gold Mining in Ancient Egypt and Nubia.” According to the Klemms, gold mining expanded during the 18th dynasty to large scale in Nubia. They could trace a significant change in processing and prospecting methods, most importantly “the introduction of the grinding mill to the mining industry in the New Kingdom” (Klemm & Klemm 2013, 9) which allowed the increased exploitation of auriferous quartz vein systems. From their point of view, there is a connection between Ancient Egypt’s gold mining industry in the Abri-Delgo-reach and the New Kingdom temples of the region (Klemm & Klemm 2013, 568-570). And indeed – at all of the sites mentioned, mills and grinding stones suitable for producing quartz powder have been found.

Kushites bringing gold to Egypt, tomb of Viceroy Huy (Thebes)

Kushites bringing gold to Egypt, tomb of Viceroy Huy (Thebes)

Back in 1959, Vercoutter reconstructed the amount of gold coming from Kush in contrast to Wawat according to Egyptian texts (Vercoutter 1959, 135): there is a clear difference, especially during the reign of Thutmose III (also the starting date of the Royal building activity in the region) when much more gold of Wawat was registered. From the time of Amenhotep III onwards, Kush seems to have gained in importance as gold mining area – scenes like the famous representations in the tomb of Viceroy Huy illustrate that gold was an important item sent to Egypt at the end of the 18th Dynasty. Textual evidence implies a decline in gold production in Ramesside time – something we might be able to confirm or modify by future archaeological fieldwork!

 

References

Darnell 2013 = John C. Darnell, A Bureaucratic Challenge? Archaeology and Administration in a Desert Environment (Second Millennium B.C.E.), in J.C. Moreno García (ed.), The Administration of Egypt, HdO 104, Leiden 2013, 785-830.

Klemm & Klemm 2013 = Rosemarie Klemm, Dietrich Klemm, Gold and Gold Mining in Ancient Egypt and Nubia. Geoarchaeology of the Ancient Gold Mining Sites in the Egyptian and Sudanese Eastern Deserts, Natural Science in Archaeology, Heidelberg, New York, Dordrecht, London: Springer, 2013

Spence/Rose 2009 = Kate Spence, Pam Rose, Fieldwork at Sesebi, 2009, Sudan & Nubia 13, 2009, 38–46.

Spence et al. 2011 = Kate Spence et al., Sesebi 2011, Sudan & Nubia 15, 2011, 34–39.

Vercoutter 1959 = Jean Vercoutter, The Gold of Kush, Kush 7, 1959, 120-153.

Hybrid pottery types at Egyptian sites in Nubia

Hybrid pottery types

An interesting phenomenon was addressed during several papers at the colloquium last week in London: The appearance of “hybrid” pottery types – locally produced vessels modelled on Egyptian types, but with a “Nubian” influence as far as the surface treatment, production technique or decoration is concerned. Well attested at Sai, Amara West and Sesebi, such types raise a number of questions. Egyptian style vessels made of local fabrics, shaped by hand or (clumsily) wheel-made with a Nubian surface treatment like ripple burnishing or incised decoration might be products of a temporary or local fashion. It remains to be investigated whether they also refer to the cultural identity of their users or whether they are the results of more complicated processes. All in all, hybrid pottery types from New Kingdom levels seem to attest a complex mixture of life styles in Upper Nubia.

At Sai, examples have been found both at SAV1 North and SAV1 East in 18th Dynasty levels, especially in contexts datable to the Thutmoside period.

Annual Egyptological Colloquium at the British Museum: Nubia in the New Kingdom

On our way to London: Giulia, Florence and me will be attending scientific events at the British Museum, organized by our British colleagues headed by Neal Spencer. In addition, Veronica Hinterhuber, much waited-for future collaborator of AcrossBorders, will also join us on this occasion from Berlin! And I am especially happy that Huda Magzoub, our inspector from NCAM, kindly accepted an invitation as well and is already waiting for us in London!

Tomorrow we will be busy with two informal workshops, bringing together scholars currently working on New Kingdom sites in Nubia as well as some other colleagues with specific expertise. Giulia will present our pottery samples and I will mainly focus on questions of the early development of Sai at the very beginning of the 18th Dynasty. Huda has prepared a presentation on some nice New Kingdom pot sherds from the Sudan National Museum’s collection, among them an amphora from Sai with an hieratic docket.

Thursday and Friday will be completely occupied by the two-day colloquium “Nubia in the New Kingdom: Lived experience, pharaonic control and local traditions” – a very rich programme focusing on new insights from the latest fieldwork at major settlements and cemeteries in Nubia. Elephantine, Aniba, Amara West, Sai, Sesebi, Dukki Gel, Tombos and other sites will be in the spotlight – temple architecture, settlements, tombs, statues, ceramics and other finds will illustrate the complex picture of the material culture and social identities at Egyptian sites in Nubia during the New Kingdom. Abstracts of the colloquium are available via the British Museum website!

World of the living, world of the dead

One of the main goals of AcrossBorders is to improve our under­standing of the population on Sai Island during the New Kingdom and to explore the nature of the coexistence of Egyptians and Nubians. Who were the occupants of the newly founded town in the 18th Dynasty as far as their cultural identity is concerned ‒ Egyptians, Egyptianized Nubians or a mix of both?

Archaeological studies dealing with ethnicity, groups and identity have markedly increased in recent decades (cf. Brather 2004; Gramsch 2009). In Egyptian/Nubian archaeology, some studies have addressed aspects of cultural and ethnical identities (e.g. Meskell 1999; Meskell 2001; Smith 2003). The site of Tombos in Upper Nubia can be mentioned as a ready parallel for studies of biological identities of people buried there (Buzon 2006, 2008) and for a complex social diversity according to the material culture (Smith 2003). Recent studies at Amara West attempt to distinguish between Nubian and Egyptian features within the town (Spencer 2010). Ethnicity has also been addressed with regards to domestic evidence at Askut (Smith 1995).

View of SAC5 from the North.

View of SAC5 from the North.

On Sai Island, the two main cemeteries of the New Kingdom are located south of the town and were labelled as SAC5 and SACP1. Future work of AcrossBorders can now rely on a substantial monograph on SAC5 recently published: Anne Minault-Gout and Florence Thill, Saï II. Le cimetière des tombes hypogées du Nouvel Empire (SAC5), FIFAO 69, Cairo 2012. Sai IIThis second monograph on the work of the French Archaeological Mission on Sai Island presents in detail results of the exploration in the cemetery, which already began in the 1970s. SAC5 is of major importance as it was in use for a long period of time, covering the New Kingdom as well as the pre-Napatan period (the so called Third Intermediate Period in Egypt). Its rock-cut tombs with mostly pyramidal superstructures find close parallels in Nubia (e.g. at Soleb, Amara West and Aniba), but also in Egypt (e.g. in the Theban necropolis).

Saï II (Minault-Gout/Thill 2012) is highly recommended to all interested in New Kingdom Nubia! The volume offers detailed descriptions of 24 excavated tombs, referring to architecture, finds, ceramics and interrelationships between graves as well as to the inhabitants of Sai during the New Kingdom. The mortuary evidence from SAC5 strongly supports the findings from the New Kingdom town that there was a complex community of Egyptians and Nubians on Sai Island.  

References

Brather, S. 2004: Ethnische Interpretation in der frühgeschichtlichen Archäologie: Geschichte, Grund­lagen und Alternativen, Ergänzungsbände zum Reallexikon der germanischen Altertums­kunde 42, Berlin.

Buzon, M. R. 2006: Biological and Ethnic Identity in New Kingdom Nubia. A Case Study from Tombos, Current Anthropology 47.4, 683–695.

Buzon, M. R. 2008: A Bioarchaeological Perspective on Egyptian Colonialism in the New Kingdom, JEA 94, 165–182.

Gramsch, A. 2009: Die Gleichzeitigkeit des Ungleichzeitigen: Überlegungen zum Kulturwandel, in A. Zeeb-Lanz (ed.), Krisen – Kulturwandel – Kontinuitäten. Zum Ende der Bandkeramik in Mitteleuropa. Bei­träge der internationalen Tagung in Herxheim bei Landau (Pfalz) vom 14.–17. 06. 2007, Inter­nationale Archäologie. Arbeitsgemeinschaft, Symposium, Tagung, Kongress 10, Rahden/Westf., 9–25.

Meskell, L. 1999: Archaeologies of Social Life. Age, Sex, Class et cetera in Ancient Egypt, Oxford.

Meskell, L. 2001: Archaeologies of Identity, in I. Hodder (ed.), Archaeological Theory Today, Cambridge, 187–213.

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