On the move – to and from Sai

An upcoming workshop organized within the framework of the program “LMU – UCB Research in Humanities” brings together researchers from LMU Munich and the UC Berkeley to discuss phenomena of “Archaeologies of human mobility and migration”.  I am very happy to be able to participate and much looking forward to this event with a rich variety of archaeological case studies.

AcrossBorders, its aims and results are of course highly relevant for understanding people and things “on the move”, migration between Egypt and Nubia, but also aspects of appropriation and the entanglement of cultures. The location of Sai Island in a territory of strategic value with changing boundaries and alternating ruling powers in the Second Millennium BC (Egypt and Nubia) allows the addressing of questions of ancient lives across borders and cultures.

In general, we know that mobility of administrative staff and officials was common in New Kingdom Egypt – examples from Sai include the viceroy of Kush Nehi and other officials.  Nehi’s monuments in Egypt and Nubia (incl. door jambs, lintels, statues, stelae etc.) illustrate that high officials had temporary living quarters in different parts of Egypt as well as in Nubia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My paper will present results of the AcrossBorders project based on the study of the material culture, here especially of ceramics including data from iNAA. In addition to the analysis of finds and architecture from the settlement, the mortuary evidence helps investigating the coexistence of Egyptians and Nubians on the island. The latest results from Tomb 26 will be discussed, highlightening also the potential of ongoing strontium isotope analysis for exploring the origin of the occupants of New Kingdom Sai.

Feature 15 – another update

Giving a lecture about Sai in Hamburg last week, I had not only the pleasure to meet dear colleagues and friends there (and to have a great Abydos-Berlin-reunion!), but also to spend some time thinking about feature 15.

Feature 15 is definitely the highlight of AcrossBorders’ excavations in SAV1 East and has kept us busy ever since 2013. The large subterranean room (5.6 x 2.2 x 1.2m) was dug into the natural gravel deposit and lined with red bricks. Its filling deposit was very rich in archaeological material: large amounts of charcoal, hundreds of dom-palm fruits, abundant animal bones, c. 100 almost intact ceramic vessels and more than 200 clay sealings. The sealings comprise a large number of royal names (Amenhotep I, Hatshepsut and Thutmose III), a seal of the viceroy Nehi and various floral decorations in a style typical for the Second Intermediate Period.

Feature 15_Seite_1Thanks to the stratigraphic sequence, several phases of use can be reconstructed for feature 15. A dating of these building phases was already proposed in 2015, based on the clay sealings and the ceramics (Budka 2015) – the stages show an interesting correspondence with the building phases of Temple A and its surroundings. Most importantly, a section of wall 44, the western boundary wall of the courtyard of Building A, is set into feature 15, thus definitely later in date and sitting on top of the lowermost deposit of feature 15.

It was therefore clear that feature 15 was already in place before one of the main walls of the courtyard of Building A, wall 44, was built. Only this season in 2016, we removed wall 44 and excavated the deposit below it, exposing the westernmost part of feature 15.

The deposit corresponded to the lower filling of feature 15 east of wall 44. Several fragments of pottery and a clay sealing are especially significant. The small fragment of a mud sealing (SAV1E 203) shows a stamp which contains the name of Mn-xpr-ra (Thutmose III), written vertically and without a cartouche, with a nbw-sign beneath. Two uaeri extend downwards from the disc and face the exterior sides of the stamp. The top of the stamp is not preserved.

Feature 15_Seite_2

The results from the 2016 season therefore nicely support the reconstruction of the building phases from 2015 ‒ Building A was extended in the later phase of the reign of Thutmose III (maybe even under Amenhotep II) and wall 44 was set into feature 15 at this stage.

The study of the complete set of finds discovered in feature 15, currently underway, will contribute to the functional analysis of SAV1 East in general and Building A in particular.

Reference:

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

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!

Crossing borders: from Egypt to Nubia

Remains of the ancient town in the southern part of Elephantine Island.

Remains of the ancient town in the southern part of Elephantine Island.

The importance of Elephantine as site with strategic value due to its location just north of the First Nile Cataract is well known. More than forty years of excavations by the joint German-Swiss mission have considerably increased our understanding of this beautiful island in Egypt’s South.

For a long period Elephantine functioned as base for Pharaonic expeditions to Nubia and as important trading point at Egypt’s southern border (cf., e.g., von Pilgrim 2010). With the so-called reconquest of Nubia, the Egyptian expansion towards the South during the 18th Dynasty, there was an increased demand for the transport of goods, materials and people to and from Upper and Lower Nubia. Elephantine flourished and gained significance during the early New Kingdom and especially in Thutmoside times.

Egyptian officials who participated in expedition and/or military campaigns towards the South had to pass through the First Cataract region. Obviously they spent some time there, at Aswan and Elephantine, before their departure to Nubia as hundreds of rock inscriptions attest (cf. Gasse/Rondot 2007; Seidlmayer 2003).

Further first hand testimony for the presence of these officials comes directly from the settlement of Elephantine – inscribed door jambs attest well-known individuals like viceroy Nehi. Of special interest is the context of these epigraphic sources: living conditions of people like Nehi traceable by the architecture and material culture. For the latter, ceramics are of high significance allowing reconstructing aspects of the daily life like food production and consumption and much more.

Within the framework of AcrossBorders, it is therefore of key importance that the 18th Dynasty pottery from Elephantine provides very close parallels to the corpus excavated at Sai (cf. Budka 2011). Within the next years, a detailed comparison of the two sites is planned and the ceramics form main elements of this study. This week, we just started our 2014 season of documenting and processing pottery at Elephantine thanks to our cooperation with the Swiss Institute Cairo and kindly supported by the German Archaeological Institute.

The focus is on material from the very early to the mid-18th Dynasty: Bauschicht/level 10 at Elephantine corresponds to levels 5-4 and the early phase of level 3 at Sai Island. Thanks to the stratigraphy at Elephantine, where several phases within one building from a certain building level are much better preserved than at Sai, a fine dating of the material from the earliest occupation at both sites seems possible in the near future.

Having just started to work with the material, the close comparisons are striking me once again: the main types of vessels are consistent at both sites and include carinated bowls and dishes, plates, footed bowls, stands, beakers and beer jars, cooking pots, storage jars, water jars as well as decorated jars and Nubian vessels.

Differences can be noted in small details – for example regarding the quantities of certain wares and fabrics or technical features of the finished vessels.  All in all, we have now a considerable amount of data and material and these are supporting my first assessment published in 2011: The comparison between the material from Sai and Elephantine and especially the imported Nile clay and Marl clay vessels at Sai suggest for at least part of the corpus a provenience from the First Cataract area illustrating the importance of Elephantine as trading point and for equipping expeditions and settlements located in the South (Budka 2011, 29) .

References

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

Gasse/Rondot 2007 = Annie Gasse and Vincent Rondot, Les inscriptions de Séhel, Cairo 2007.

von Pilgrim 2010 = Cornelius von Pilgrim, Elephantine – (Festungs-)Stadt am Ersten Katarakt, in Cities and Urbanism in Ancient Egypt, eds. Manfred Bietak, Ernst Cerny and Irene Forstner-Müller, Vienna 2010, 257–265.

Seidlmayer 2003 = Stephan J. Seidlmayer, New Rock Inscriptions on Elephantine Island, in Egyptology at the Dawn of the Twenty-first Century, Proceedings of the Eighth International Congress of Egyptologists Cairo 2000, ed. Zahi Hawass, Vol. 1, Cairo 2003, 441–442.

 

Nehi at Elephantine

Nehi, Viceroy of Kush under Thutmose III, is a well-known figure of the Egyptian administration in Dynasty 18 (see e.g.  Leblanc 2009). He was responsible for building several temples in Lower and Upper Nubia, also the Amun temple at Sai, located just south of our excavation area SAV1 East.

My special interest for Nehi goes back to 1998 and my first participation in the joint German-Swiss mission at Elephantine. Like other officials of the Egyptian administration of Nubia, Nehi left several records and monuments in the area of the First Cataract: in particular stelae and rock inscriptions, records which I always thought have a peculiar “personal” touch – they invoke the illusion of getting close to those persons of the past, to some of their activities and thoughts, to almost grasp them as individuals.

It was one of the very joyful moments of my early career when a great topic as MA thesis was proposed to me in the dig house at Elephantine. And one of the stars of this thesis was no one else than Nehi!

Budka 2001 Taf 3a

Door jamb of Nehi from Elephantine (Budka 2001, pl. 3a)

As monument per  se the unpublished object I had to deal with might not seem extremely interesting: it is a surface find from the kom of the ancient town of Elephantine, a sandstone block measuring 35 x 21 x 12 cm. It has a partly faded vertical column with hieroglyphs at its front side and can be identified as lower part of a left doorjamb (Budka 2001, 69; 107, cat. 1). Within the Egyptian settlement architecture made in mud bricks, architectural features like column bases and door elements were regularly executed in stone.

The text identifies the former owner of the building to which the jamb belonged: King’s son, overseer of the southern foreign lands, Nehi!

The importance of this small piece derives from its parallels – especially at Aniba and at Sai Island. Most probably these door frames belonged to administrative buildings and magazines attesting among others the adoration for king Thutmose III. Nehi as the highest official of the Nubian administration demonstrated his loyalty to the king, combining it with the worship of Egyptian gods.

At Elephantine, the stone block by Nehi may attest a temporary residence for the viceroy: the island was an important site to organize expeditions to the South and to count and distribute goods and more.

Further monuments by Nehi discovered at Elephantine are: a splendid sistrophorous statue JE 39749 (now kept at the Nubian Museum at Aswan) and a stela found close to the temple of Satet.

Stela of Nehi from Elephantine (Dreyer 1987, pl. 17c)

Stela of Nehi from Elephantine (Dreyer 1987, pl. 17c)

On this stela only the representation of Nehi adoring Amun-Ra-Kamutef has survived – the ithyphallic god was chiseled out during the Amarna age (Dreyer 1987, 113-14, pl. 17c).

What interests me most about Nehi and other officials of his time is to try to use all archaeological data available to reconstruct patterns of their past living conditions. The similarities in the architecture and stone monuments found at sites like Elephantine, Aniba and Sai Island are striking and this official line of record would propose few differences between these places. But does this picture change if we take un-inscribed records like ceramics, objects and other materials like animal bones and organic remains into consideration? A detailed assessment of the New Kingdom town of Sai and a close comparison with Elephantine might provide some answers – tracking Nehi by his inscribed monuments is one thing, trying to contextualize these records and establish aspects of their environment goes one step further. I am confident that our research within the framework of AcrossBorders will get us closer to understand the living conditions of viceroy Nehi and his contemporaries.

 

References

Budka 2001 = Julia Budka. Der König an der Haustür, Die Rolle des ägyptischen Herrschers an dekorierten Türgewänden von Beamten im Neuen Reich, Vienna 2001.

Dreyer 1987 = Günter Dreyer, X. Ausgewählte Kleinfunde, in Werner Kaiser et al., Stadt und Tempel von Elephantine, 13./14. Grabungsbericht, MDAIK 43, 1987, 107-114.

Leblanc 2009 = Christian Leblanc 2009. Nehy, prince et premiere rapporteur du roi, in I. Regen & F. Servajan (eds.), Verba manent, Recueil d’etudes dédiées à Dimitri Meeks par ses collègues et amis, Montpellier 2009, 241-251.

Conference on Königsideologie at Prague

Getting ready to travel this afternoon to Prague for the 7. Tagung zur Königsideologie (June 26-28 2013). The Conference is hosted by Charles University in Prague and dedicated to “Royal versus Divine Authority. Acquisition, Legitimization and Renewal of Power”. A heterogeneous group of international scholars will tackle this highly interesting subject from diverse perspectives and for different time periods – from the Early Dynastic to Roman times with a number of papers on the Egyptian Old Kingdom. Both the programme and the abstracts are available online: http://egyptologie.ff.cuni.cz/?req=doc:konference&lang=en

Budka Prague Nubia 2013 2506 Folie 1

My own paper is entitled “The Egyptian “re-conquest of Nubia” in the New Kingdom – some thoughts on the legitimization of Pharaonic power in the South”.  Much has been written about the so-called “re-conquest of Nubia” during the early New Kingdom. Thanks to current fieldwork in both Egypt and Nubia, our state of knowledge has markedly improved in the last years, but nevertheless the details of this period of Egyptian campaigns against the South are still not firmly established. Recent work by the French Sai Island Archaeological Mission (Lille 3 University) and AcrossBorders on Sai Island has produced new evidence for the establishment of Pharaonic administration in Upper Nubia. Taking Sai Island and the evolution of its fortified town with a small sandstone temple as a case study, this paper will re-examine the evidence for Egyptian authority in Upper Nubia during the 18th Dynasty. The viceregal administration, gods and temples and royal cult are the focal points of the presentation.

I am very much looking forward to the conference and to a hopefully vivid discussion – after all, my paper is based on work in progress; future fieldwork in Sudan – at Sai Island, but also important sites like Sesebi, Tombos and Dukki Gel – will hopefully improve our current state of knowledge.

Thutmoside officials and royal building activity in Nubia

The fortified town of Sai Island saw its heyday during the reign of Thutmose III – this was confirmed and well-illustrated by our recent excavation in SAV1 East and the discovery of Building A, possibly contemporaneous to both Temple A and the buildings with an orthogonal layout in the Southern part of the town, including the governor’s residence.

The major sanctuary on Sai, the Amun temple labelled Temple A and built by viceroy Nehi under Thutmose III, had several building phases, recently presented by Jean-François Carlotti (Carlotti 2011-2012).  Carlotti has stressed similarities of Temple A at Sai with the temples of Semna and Kumma.

The temple of Kumma in its modern surrounding.

The temple of Kumma in its modern surrounding.

Interestingly, the major building phases of these temples, nowadays open for visitors in the garden of the National Museum of Antiquities in Khartoum, are also associated with Thutmose III. Like on Sai, the involvement of viceroy Nehi is attested who followed a royal decree to build the monuments.

One inscription and a representation of Nehi have survived in Semna (Caminos 1998, 38-40, panel 10). At Kumma, evidence for one of the predecessors of Nehi, viceroy Senny is preserved.

Viceroy Senny, temple of Kumma.
Viceroy Senny, temple of Kumma.

It is well known that the supervision of building activities was one of the major tasks of the viceroy of Kush as highest official of the Nubian administration (cf. Zibelius-Chen 2013, 140-146). What is still unclear and debated is whether (and if for how long) the viceroys stayed in Nubia – this will be investigated by AcrossBorders in the upcoming years with Sai Island as prime case study. From the late 18th Dynasty onwards, the office of a deputy of the viceroy is attested, soon being divided as jdnw n KAS and jdnw n WAwAt. Two deputies of the viceroy were thus responsible for Lower and Upper Nubia, maybe indicating that their superior himself was mainly residing in Egypt proper and could rely on loyal representatives in Nubia.

Many temples in Nubia have been found without any evidence of settlement remains in the surroundings – this is probably due to the state of preservation of mud brick buildings and does not indicate an isolation of religious buildings in the area. Only in the case of the so-called temple towns (Sai Island falls amongst others in this category), temples can be interpreted within their ancient context of administrative buildings and storage facilities. Possible residential quarters for viceroys of Kush are attested during the 18th Dynasty primarily at Aniba and possibly Faras. At Semna, inscriptions of viceroys with domestic origin, indicating a residence at the site, are only attested from the Ramesside period, thus post-dating the Thutmoside temple (see Budka 2001, 87). The abundant evidence for Nehi and other viceroys of the Thutmoside era (e.g. Usersatet, see Thill 2011-2012, 285) at Sai Island strongly suggests a temporary residence of these officials at the site – details of which remain to be assessed taking into account the complex archaeology of the New Kingdom town of Sai.

References

Budka 2001 = J. Budka, Der König an der Haustür. Die Rolle des ägyptischen Herrschers an dekorierten Türgewänden von Be­a­m­ten im Neuen Reich, Beiträge zur Ägyptologie 19, Vienna 2001.

 Caminos 1998 = R. Caminos, Semna-Kumma I. The Temple of Semna, Archaeological Survey of Egypt 37th Mem., EES, London 1998.

Carlotti 2011-2012 = J.-F. Carlotti, II. L’architecture du temple A et ses modifications, 36-47, in: M. Azim/J.-F. Carlotti, Le temple à de l’île de Saï et ses abords, Cahiers de Recherches de l’Institut de Papyrologie et d’Égyptologie de Lille 29, 2011-2012, 11–63.

Thill 2011-2012 = F- Thill, Statuaire privée égyptienne de Saï, Cahiers de Recherches de l’Institut de Papyrologie et d’Égyptologie de Lille 29, 2011-2012, 253-295.

Zibelius-Chen 2013 = K. Zibelius-Chen, Nubien wird ägyptische Kolonie, in: St. Wenig/K. Zibelius-Chen (eds.), Die Kulturen Nubiens – ein afrikanisches Vermächtnis, Dettelbach 2013, 135-155.

Crossing Borders, Encounters with “Old Friends”

One of the aims of AcrossBorders is identifying human behaviour of specific individuals under different circumstances – some persons have left textual records at both Sai and on other sites. As prominent example, Nehi, viceroy of Kush under Thutmose III, is well attested at Sai, Elephantine and also elsewhere.

One of the door jambs of Nehi, reused as treshold in the New Kingdom town

One of the door jambs of Nehi, reused as treshold in the New Kingdom town

Nehi’s monuments illustrate that mobility of administrative staff and officials is not a modern phenomenon, but was also common in Pharaonic Egypt. During the New Kingdom there is both archaeological and textual evidence that officials had temporary living quarters in different parts of Egypt as well as in Nubia. In addition, statues, stelae, shrines and in particular rock inscriptions allow tracing Egyptian officials at more than one site.

Having spent the last three days in the beautiful region of Aswan, I had the chance to think about the busy lives of the protagonists of the complex Pharaonic administration during the New Kingdom. Egyptian officials who participated in expedition and/or military campaigns towards the South had to pass through Aswan and Elephantine. Obviously they spent some time there before their departure to Nubia as hundreds of rock inscriptions attest.

Bild1 sehel

The island of Sehel is covered with hundreds of rock graffiti, a majority originating from the New Kingdom

Most importantly, I enjoyed the reunion with viceroy Nehi at Aswan – we visited Elephantine where a doorjamb of him was found and one of his most beautiful statues is kept today at the Nubian Museum in Aswan (a kneeling statue holding a sistrum).

In the upcoming years, AcrossBorders will try to tackle questions like: how did Egyptian officials like Nehi experience their job-related mobility and especially their assignments to specific sites, in our case to Sai island? Was a mission outside of Egypt more/less desirable/prestigious? Can we find differences in the ancient reception of staying in the frontier region of the First Cataract or in Nubia proper?