Happy New Year from Sai

Timing turned out just perfect – leaving Khartoum on schedule, we started yesterday our final field season on Sai Island. The first task was to re-open Tomb 26 – removing the filling of its more than 5 m deep shaft was a bit dusty, but worked out very well thanks to our enthusiastic gang of workmen supervised by Hassan Dawd.

And even more perfect: New Year started with re-opening the main chamber of Tomb 26 earlier today. All is in perfect condition, almost no collapse of the ceiling occurred.

We will concentrate on the northwestern corner of the chamber which was not yet completely excavated – and we are all very excited about the new chamber found at a lower level along the north wall in the very last days of the 2016 season. Clearing this chamber of still unknown dimensions will keep us busy this season. I’ve cleared some of its entrance area today, but it is almost completely filled with flood deposits – making a proper assessment what to expect from this new chamber very difficult. However, the six pottery sherds which came today from the entrance area are all New Kingdom in date – interestingly, one seems to be of 19th Dynasty date.

First glance into the new chamber: still unexcavated and full of promises…

Will we maybe be able to re-locate Hornakht’s original burial after all? Just follow our blog for the current field season and our findings in Tomb 26! Although 2017 has just started, the new year is definitely full of exciting prospects :-)!

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.

People on Sai – Thoughts on the New Kingdom Prosopography of the Elite Necropolis SAC5

Prosopography is about people. This statement emphasises the importance of prosopography as a specific means of shedding light onto the social fabric and historical development of ancient and modern population groups. In our case, this society is the people of Sai during the New Kingdom. Prosopography in its broadest sense can be defined as “the investigation of the common background characteristics of a group of actors in history by means of a collective study of their lives” (Stone 1971). However, we can only tackle certain aspects of people’s lives using ‘prosopography’ due to the nature of the data from Pharaonic Egypt. Despite this shortcomings, what really matters are the questions we ask in order to understand lives and the social fabric based on prosopographical data. As for New Kingdom Sai, texts and monuments with names and titles of individuals from the island itself or with links to the Pharaonic town constitute the basis for a prosopographical ‘sociography’, i.e. an assessment and discussion of the social fabric of the town and its population.

Fig. 01

Fig. 01

Cemeteries of Pharaonic towns in both Egypt and Nubia represent certain parts of the local society. Within the New Kingdom funerary landscape of Sai, that consists of three burial grounds (SAC1, SAC4 and SAC5; Fig. 01), it is only cemetery SAC5 that yielded texts and objects with prosopographical data (Minault-Gout/Thill 2012, esp. 403-418). Both the architecture of the tombs with chapels and pyramids and single or multi-chambered subterranean structures and the remains of the funerary object assemblages allow us to call SAC5 the elite necropolis of New Kingdom Sai. The question of whether the individuals interred here were ‘Egyptian’ or ‘Nubian’ is not of special concern for our endeavour. The fact, that they were buried here, is proof that they belonged to the local community regardless of their origin or ethnicity.

At present, 26 elite tombs are excavated at SAC5. An assessment of their archaeological as well as prosopographical ‘yield’ (Fig. 02) shows that the use life of this cemetery spans most of the New Kingdom from mid-18th Dynasty to later Ramesside and even beyond to Napatan times. The title and name-bearing small-finds among the funerary assemblages are the typical objects also found in other elite New Kingdom cemeteries in Nubia, especially shabtis, heart scarabs and heart scarab pectorals. Architectural elements from the tomb chapels and pyramids preserve information on the interred persons, too. In tomb T 2, five male members of the New Kingdom Sai society are attested. Three of them – Merimose, Hui and Ky-iri – are local priests, although there is no indication of the cult they were attached to. The letter-scribe Horemheb is part of the administrative sphere of the town responsible for its correspondence. The objects from tomb T 8 bear witness to two further local priests. In tomb T 3, an intriguing faience plaque with the name of Ramessesnakht, viceroy of Nubia under Ramesses IX, came to light. The burial with this sealing plaque is not considered to belong to the viceroy himself. It might rather belong to a local member of the late Ramesside administration of Nubia who was given this plaque as a token of loyalty during his lifetime. However, Ramessesnakht’s tomb is not known.

Fig. 02

Fig. 02

Tomb 5 is of special importance for the upper end of the social fabric of the Pharaonic town. Based on the names and titles from a heart scarab, a shabti and a faience vase, it belonged to a family of local mayors. While the other tombs from SAC5 provided ‘only’ scribes and priests, we encounter here the highest municipal representatives of Pharaonic state agency in New Kingdom Sai, the city governors Ipy and Neby. Both date to the mid-18th Dynasty and might be father and son, since the mayoral office is regularly transmitted like this in the New Kingdom. The exact familial relation of the songstress Henut-aat (or Henut-taui) to both Ipy and Neby is unclear. Her title, however, puts her in a rather high female elite stratum as well. One of the tomb owners, Neby, even seems to be identical with the mayor and director Neby attested further north at the Tanjur rapids in the Batn el-Hajar with three rock inscriptions (Hintze/Reineke 1989, 170-177; Fig. 03 after Hintze/Reineke 1989, 235). His territorial radius even went well beyond the confines of the town.

Fig. 03

Fig. 03

Mayors or city governors are typical for all New Kingdom towns and cities in Egypt and Nubia. A recent assessment of the distribution of New Kingdom mayoral tombs has shown, that they are in most cases buried in the elite necropoleis of the city which they administered (Auenmüller 2011; Fig. 04). This typological trait can also be seen with Ipy and Neby and their interment in tomb 5 at SAC5. However, there is another mid-18th Dynasty mayor of Sai attested. This Ahmose installed two statues of himself at Thebes (Bologna KS 1823) and Karnak (CG  42047) respectively. Both statues indicate his special relations to Thebes or even a Theban origin. He therefore might be the first mayor of the newly established colonial town, sent to Sai under Thutmose III. Although Ahmose’s tomb is not known, it is generally assumed that his funeral took place at Thebes, his home town and place of belonging. By contrast, Ipy and Neby seem to represent the second generation of local administrators who lived on Sai for some time, identified themselves with the town, were parts of its social fabric and finally chose to be buried here.

Fig. 04

Fig. 04

Further titles and names are attested through funerary stelae and shabtis. However, due to the rather fragmented state they are less informative. They nevertheless show that SAC5 in its original state must have been a very well equipped funerary landscape for the local elite. This was further stressed by AcrossBorders’ discovery of a new tomb, tomb T 26 (Budka 2015). This new monument yielded the pyramidion of a very important person: the deputy of Kush Hornakht, who flourished in the 19th Dynasty. He and his elite colleagues that are also – or especially – known from the area of the town will be subject of some future blog posts.

A summarising look back at the Sai SAC5 prosopography allows for some comments: Although the data is quite fragmented, it displays both religious and administrative personnel of the town. Both domains, temple and administration, are typically represented by officials in New Kingdom town cemeteries in Egypt and Nubia (cf. esp. Soleb: Schiff-Giorgini 1971). Of high importance for and within the town’s social fabric are the two 18th Dynasty mayors Ipy and Neby. They belonged to the Egyptian elite that came or was sent south to Nubia to act as municipal agents of the Pharaonic state on Sai. Exceptional, however, is the attestation of the deputy of Kush Hornakht, who we know was active in the 19th Dynasty. His person provokes further thoughts on the role of Sai as administrative centre and urban fabric in Upper Nubia during Ramesside times.

Bibliography:

Auenmüller 2011: J. Auenmüller, Individuum – Gruppe – Gesellschaft – Raum. Raumsoziologische Perspektivierungen einiger (provinzieller) HA.tj-a Bürgermeister des Neuen Reiches, in: G. Neunert, K. Gabler & A. Verbovsek (eds.), Sozialisationen: Individuum – Gruppe – Gesellschaft, GOF IV/51, Wiesbaden 2011, 17-32.

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

Hintze/Reineke 1989: F. Hintze & W. F. Reineke, Felsinschriften aus dem sudanesischen Nubien, Publikation der Nubien-Expedition 1961-1963, Band 1, Berlin 1989.

Minault-Gout/Thill 2012: A. Minault-Gout & F. Thill. Sai II. Le cimetière des tombes hypogées du Nouvel Empire SAC5, FIFAO 69, Cairo 2012.

Schiff-Giorgini 1971: M. Schiff-Giorgini, Soleb II. Les necropoles, Florence 1971.

Stone 1971: L. Stone, Prosopography, in: Daedalus 100, No. 1, 1971, 46-79.

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!

Looking back: 2015 papers and reports

The 2016 season of AcrossBorders on Sai Island has almost begun – we’ll be flying to Khartoum later today.

As kind of a teaser what one can expect from the upcoming work, I’d like to look back at some of the research conducted by AcrossBorders in 2015. Three relevant papers just appeared in the last days/weeks.

The Pharaonic town on Sai Island and its role in the urban landscape of New Kingdom Kush, Sudan & Nubia 19, 2015, 40–53, by Julia Budka

In this paper, I tried to summarize AcrossBorders field seasons on Sai from 2013 to 2015 in the sectors SAV1 East and SAV1 West – stressing the important new results on Ramesside activities, both in the town area and the cemetery SAC5.

Bichrome Painted Nile Clay Vessels from Sai Island (Sudan), Bulletin de liaison de la céramique égyptienne 25, 2015, 327–337 by Julia Budka

This is a preliminary report on one of my favorite group of pottery vessels : Bichrome painted nile clay jars, commonly attested in Egypt but also in Lower and Upper Nubia. I discussed their form repertoire and the most common decorative motifs; first thoughts about their possible meaning and provenience were presented.

Ein Pyramidenfriedhof auf der Insel Sai, Sokar 31, 2015, 54–65, by Julia Budka

I am very happy that the magazine Sokar with a focus on Egyptian pyramids, allowed some space in the current volume dedicated to SAC5 on Sai and our discovery of tomb 26 and the pyramidion of Hornakht.

Last but not least, the fieldwork report from 2015 is now available and free to download!

Down and up again – impressions from the shaft of tomb 26 on Sai

Having just submitted a paper about our new discovery of tomb 26 in cemetery SAC5, Sai Island, for Sokar (focusing on the pyramidion of the deputy of Kush Hornakht), I got to review the entire documentation of the excavation of the shaft in March 2015.

As a reminder: the rectangular shaft (2.6 x 1.8 m) of tomb 26 is a bit more than 5.2 m deep – it has several interesting features and revealed some significant finds. I would like to share some of them in the following photographic time line:

March 3: The outline of the shaft is discovered, hurray!

March 3: The outline of the shaft is discovered, hurray!

March 4: First foot holes appear on the lateral sides! Current depth: 1.7 m!

March 4: First foot holes appear on the lateral sides! Current depth: 1.7 m!

March 5: Down at 2 m! Work gets more difficult!

March 5: Down at 2 m! Work gets more difficult!

March 5: A schist slab appears along the southern side.

March 5: A schist slab appears along the southern side.

March 5: Martin Fera documents the situation with the fully exposed schist slab with SFM – down at 2.5 m.

March 5: Martin Fera documents the situation with the fully exposed schist slab with SFM – down at 2.5 m.

March 5: Getting ready to get the slab out…

March 5: Getting ready to get the slab out…

March 5: Done – mabrouk to all involved!

March 5: Done – mabrouk to all!

March 5, afternoon: Uuuups… really a challenge to measure this deep shaft…

March 5, afternoon: Uuuups… really a challenge to measure this deep shaft…

March 7: Work continues, worked stone blocks appear!

March 7: Work continues, worked stone blocks appear!

March 7: Space is limited down at the shaft, but the foot holes are perfect for climbing up and down.

March 7: Space is limited down at the shaft, but the foot holes are perfect for climbing up and down.

March 7: Standing safely in the foot holes, I could shoot photos in both directions.

March 7: Standing safely in the foot holes, I could shoot photos in both directions.

March 8: The entrance of the burial chamber appears on the northern side!

March 8: The entrance of the burial chamber appears on the northern side!

March 8: Together with other worked stone, sitting on complete pottery vessels, the pyramidion of Hornakht is discovered and cleaned!

March 8: Together with other worked stone, sitting on complete pottery vessels, the pyramidion of Hornakht is discovered and cleaned!

March 9: The situation below the pyramidion – lots of nice pots!

March 9: The situation below the pyramidion – lots of nice pots!

March 10: Shaft base reached, entrance of burial chamber cleared!

March 10: Shaft base reached, entrance of burial chamber cleared!

March 10: Martin using the ancient foot holes during the final SFM documentation.

March 10: Martin using the ancient foot holes during the final SFM documentation.

March 11: Shaft backfilled again – secure to wait for the 2016 season!

March 11: Shaft backfilled again – secure to wait for the 2016 season!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SARS colloquium 2015, British Museum London

Time flies by: the annual one-day international colloquium of the Sudan Archaeological Research Society (SARS) at the British Museum London is approaching! Like in the last years, some team members of AcrossBorders will of course participate.

As usual the programme is very promising; several talks will focus this year on the New Kingdom in Nubia. I am happy and grateful to the organisers for the opportunity to present AcrossBorders’ latest fieldwork. The title of my talk is “New excavations in the Pharaonic town on Sai Island and its role in the urban landscape of New Kingdom Kush”.

Among others, feature 15 and it’s amazing number of complete pots and clay sealings will be addressed. And of course the discovery of tomb 26 has to be pointed out. I am especially looking forward to share the news about the inscribed, worked stones from the shaft. One piece belonging to the deputy of Kush Hornakht under Ramesses II is particularly exciting!

One of the inscribed blocks from the shaft of tomb 26 is of particular importance...

One of the inscribed blocks from the shaft of tomb 26 is of particular importance…

Looking much forward to tomorrow’s trip to London, the colloquium, the chance to meet many colleagues working in Sudan and discussing recent findings in a stimulating environment!

Sai during the 19th Dynasty: a brief update and outlook

A remarkable object, SAV 002, of possible 19th Dynasty date from Sai Island was already discussed in this blog – it seems to present some kind of door sealing with a cartouche stamp of [Men]-maat-Ra (Seti I), finding close parallels at Amara West.

In a paper just published in Egitto et Vincino Oriente 37, 2014 (Budka 2015), I stated in relation to this piece: “Future fieldwork might allow a better understanding of the relations between Sai and Amara West in the early Ramesside period – SAV 002 and its parallels from Amara West can be regarded as important hints for contemporaneous administrative activities at both sites.”

Writing this back in summer 2014, I was of course not expecting to see this hope for further evidence coming true already in the very next season!

Although we are far away from understanding the complete picture, the 2015 field season provided multiple proof for the presence of early Ramesside officials and corresponding activities on Sai:

1)      At SAV1 West, a back-filling in the Northeastern corner of Square 1 could be dated to the early 19th Dynasty. It covers the remains of a small oven room where several phases of use were documented. Obviously the room was built during the mid-18th Dynasty and in use until the late 18th Dynasty – the Ramesside material implies a possible abandonment of the structure.

2)      Scattered ceramics datable to the Ramesside period were also found at SAV1 East – in disturbed contexts above Building A.

3)      Finally, SAC5 has yielded both worked stones and ceramics datable to the 19th Dynasty. Two new inscribed monuments of the jdnw n Kush Hornakht are especially relevant – this high official was active during the reign of Ramesses II, well attested by monuments found especially in Abri and Sai.

The new finds allow us to tentatively assume that the stela set up by Seti I on Sai which was discovered during the early French excavations (Vercoutter 1972; el-Saady 2011), is much more than random evidence, but actually reflects the ongoing importance of Sai as (some kind of) Egyptian administrative centre. Field research in both Sai and Amara West will continue to provide more and more pieces to reconstruct this complex puzzle.

REFERENCE

Budka 2015 = J. Budka, The New Kingdom in Nubia: New results from current excavations on Sai Island, Egitto e Vicino Oriente 37, 2014 [2015], 55-87.

el-Saady 2011 = H. el-Saady, Egypt in Nubia during the Reign of Seti I, in M. Collier, S. Snape (ed.), Ramesside Studies in Honour of K.A. Kitchen, Bolton 2011, 433-437.

Vercoutter 1972 = J. Vercoutter, Une campagne militaire de Séti en Haute Nubie. Stèle de Saï S. 579, «Revue d’Égyptologie» 24, 1972, 201-208.

Tracing Ramesside burials in SAC 5

Since a few days we have the confirmation that the burial chamber of tomb 26 opens to the north. Today, the excavation of the shaft was completed, reaching a depth of more than 5.20 m.

Cleaning remains on top of the shaft base of tomb 26.

Cleaning remains on top of the shaft base of tomb 26.

The filling material of the shaft was highly interesting – especially in the lowest level just above the shaft base, two scarabs, a number of complete vessels as well as some stones (pieces of architecture) were found. Three nicely decorated, complete Marl clay pilgrim flasks are especially noteworthy, found together with other pottery vessels (especially storage vessels) and one complete stone vessel.

Three almost complete Pilgrim flasks were found together against the east wall of the shaft.

Three almost complete Pilgrim flasks were found together against the east wall of the shaft.

Since these finds were clustering along the eastern wall of the shaft and in particular in the southeastern corner, the most likely explanation is that remains of a burial were removed from the chamber in the north and left in the shaft during one of the phases of reuse (or possibly plundering?).

Probably the most important finds so far are two sandstone fragments with the name and title of the jdnw of Kush Hornakht. This official of the Egyptian administration in Upper Nubia is already well attested from Sai Island and was active during the reign of Ramesses II. Several of the vessels from the shaft of tomb 26 are datable to the 19th Dynasty, suggesting that the inscribed pieces actually belonged to one of the burial phases. Of course everything has to wait until we checked also the burial chamber and understand the complete picture of tomb 26 and its complex use life, but for now it is possible to say that we found traces of early Ramesside burials in SAC 5. This is extremely exciting and opens much room for new thoughts about the importance of Sai during the Nineteenth Dynasty and its relation to the now flourishing site of Amara West.