This week in Munich: Bioarchaeology in Nubia

I am delighted that in this week AcrossBorders welcomes, jointly with the Egyptian Museum in Munich, Michaela Binder from the Austrian Archaeological Institute here in Munich. Michaela will give a public lecture about her work at cemeteries at Amara West on Thursday, April 26 at 6 pm.

Possibilities and limits of modern bioarchaeology will be discussed with material from Amara West as a case study. Michaela will also illustrate the latest insights into the living conditions during the New Kingdom in Nubia (cf. Binder 2017). This is of course highly relevant to AcrossBorders’ research focus of the past five years, comparing evidence from the New Kingdom town of Sai with the contemporaneous elite cemetery SAC5. I am therefore very much looking forward to this talk and excited to hear more about the anthropological findings at Amara West, especially from the point of view from Sai and the latest study of Andrea Stadlmayr and Marlies Wohlschlager on Tomb 26. Some pathological finds in Tomb 26 are quite remarkable, concerning Khnummose as well as other New Kingdom individuals buried in Tomb 26 – will be great to compare these findings and possible conclusions about the lifestyle of the occupants of 18th Dynasty Sai with the life histories of Ramesside officials at Amara West!

Reference

Binder 2017 = Binder, M. 2017. The New Kingdom tombs at Amara West: Funerary perspectives on Nubian-Egyptian interactions, in: Spencer, N., Stevens, A. and Binder, M. (eds.), Nubia in the New Kingdom. Lived experience, pharaonic control and indigenous traditions. British Museum Publications on Egypt and Sudan 3. Leuven: Peeters, 591-613.

 

Preparing for publication

The last weeks have been quite intense – time flies by and the end of the project is approaching while the teaching term here in Munich has again started. All of us are currently busy preparing tasks for the next publications of AcrossBorders.

Johannes and me have submitted the manuscript of our conference proceedings to Sidestone Press – it will appear, as planned, in September 2018! And will provide new information about cities and households in Ancient Egypt and Nubia, of course with a special focus on AcrossBorders and its case studies Sai Island and Elephantine.

Veronica is currently preparing several things for the next monograph, to be published again in CAENL of OREA. This volume will be entitled “AcrossBorders 2: Living in New Kingdom Sai” and will comprise descriptions of the environmental conditions for the New Kingdom town of Sai Island as well as overviews of the excavations in SAV1 East and SAV1 West and the associated material remains. The book will also include results of AcrossBorders comparative approach looking at Abydos and Elephantine when assessing Sai as New Kingdom microcosm in ancient Nubia.

Last 3D models, sections and plans are getting prepared by Cajetan, while Daniela is busy with digitalizing drawings of objects from Sai Island, here in particular from SAV1 East.

I am very proud of my team because we’re so well in time, processing is much advanced and the assembly of all data will provide fresh results in the very near future.

Palaces in New Kingdom temple towns?

One of the characteristics of the so-called temple towns in Nubia is the presence of so-called governor’s palaces in the south-eastern corner of the walled area. These exceptional, palace-like houses are situated in the vicinity of the stone temples of the individual towns and most probably functioned as headquarter for the local ruler or highest official. In an article recently published, I presented some thoughts based on the evidence from Sai and the so-called palace SAF2, including AcrossBorders’ new results from sector SAV1 East (Budka 2018).

Overview of southern part of the New Kingdom town of Sai, with so-called palace in the background (southeastern corner of town).

I tried to argue that the close relationship of the “palace” and the stone temple for gods becomes very evident on Sai. Obviously, SAF2 was a representative building for the local administration and offi cials like the mayor and the jdnw of Kush. Small details like the non-axial access to the main columned hall and storage installations indicate that in addition to its evocative character as an “Egyptian” building, SAF2 was really used for domestic purposes.

Ingrid Adenstedt has worked on the ground plan and also the 3D reconstruction of SAF2  – she convincingly showed that the building most likely had two storeys (Adenstedt 2016). Her reconstruction was also used in the animations of our recently published short film about the AcrossBorders project.

Reconstruction of SAF2, Ingrid Adenstedt 2016.

What also became evident by the reassessment of the so-called governor’s palaces within Egyptian temple towns in Nubia is the fact that despite of all their common characteristics (location within the town, two storeys, columned central hall etc.), a site specific approach considering the local topography as well as the functional aspects of the site (depending on its date of foundation, its specific situation, the local temples, the surrounding Nubian sites, the hinterland etc.) is essential for our understanding of these palatial buildings of the New Kingdom.

References

Adensted 2016 = I. Adenstedt, Reconstructing Pharaonic Architecture in Nubia: the case study of SAV1, Sai Island, Contributions to the Archaeology of Egypt, Nubia and the Levant 3, Vienna 2016. http://hw.oeaw.ac.at/7952-8inhalt?frames=yes.

Budka 2018 = J. Budka, Palaces in so-called Nubian temple towns: A reassessment, in: Manfred Bietak and Silvia Prell (eds.), Ancient Egyptian and Ancient Near Eastern Palaces. Volume I. Proceedings of the Conference on Palaces in Ancient Egypt, held in London 12th – 14th June 2013, Contributions to the Archaeology of Egypt, Nubia and the Levant 5, Vienna 2018, 251–273.

New short film about AcrossBorders project

A short film, available both in English and German, has just gone live!

In the film (editing and animations: hertha produziert), our new fieldwork on Sai island is presented, especially the work conducted and recently published in sector SAV1 North. 3D reconstructions by our architect Ingrid Adenstedt illustrate the recent advances in the study of the architecture of New Kingdom towns.

Various analyses of the material remains, especially the ceramics – with my personal favorites, the fire dogs, are highlighted to illustrate the new insights into Sai’s regional and trans-regional networks and its heydays.

Looking much forward to feedback for our video!

AcrossBorders monograph now freely available online

I am delighted that the monograph AcrossBorders I, dedicated to SAV1 North, is now freely available online.
The main focus of the book published in the OREA series Contributions to the Archaeology of Egypt, Nubia and the Levant by the Austrian Academy of Science Press is the physical remains of SAV1 North: the architecture and material culture, with emphasis on the pottery and small finds.
Datable to the mid- to late 18th Dynasty, the building phase labelled as Level 3 was the heyday at sector SAV1 North, well-attested by several architectural remains with associated finds and pottery, which are all presented in the volume. A summary of thoughts on possible hints about the lifestyle and activities at SAV1 North preserved in the material remains completes AcrossBorders I. All in all, the evidence from SAV1 North underlines the important role Sai plays in understanding settlement patterns in New Kingdom Nubia.
Of course all of us are very much hoping that the openaccess version of the book will be widely used, especially by users without access to Egyptological/archaeological libraries!

An update on Nun bowls from Sai Island

Back in 2015, Sabine Tschorn recorded all Nun bowl fragments from the New Kingdom town on Sai. This unique group of faience vessels is associated with regeneration and fertility and offers some insights into the daily life of 18th Dynasty Sai.

Happy with small, but diagnostic pieces of Nun-bowls from SAV1 West.

I am delighted that her analysis of the Nun bowls is now published (Tschorn 2017). In her paper, Sabine examines the excavated fragments and their distribution in the different sectors of the settlement as well as their diverse decorative motifs and functions. She is able to show that these faience vessels have to be seen in context with the architectural remains – for Sai, it is highly interesting that most fragments come from SAV1 North and SAV1 West, where a substantial amount of storage facilities and cellars was found, located close to the New Kingdom town wall. An association of the Nun bowls with ritual vessels like footed bowls for burning at both sectors might suggest a connection with offerings and libation. All in all, the function of Nun bowls in domestic settlements of the New Kingdom appears to be quite complex – once again stressing that daily life in ancient times also included various activities connected to the ritual and religious sphere (cf. Stevens 2006).

Thanks to the support of my FWF START project, the paper by Sabine has been published with full open access and will hopefully stimulate further research about an intriguing object group of the New Kingdom.

References

Stevens, A. 2006. Private Religion at Amarna. BAR International Series 1587. Oxford.

Tschorn, S. 2017. Nun-Schalen aus der Stadt des Neuen Reiches auf der Insel Sai, Ägypten und Levante 27, 431–446

New releases – some papers on Tomb 26 on Sai Island

Having just returned from Sudan and the student excursion, it’s very pleasant to find some new releases on one’s desk – especially because these also comprise papers highlightening the significance of Tomb 26 and especially of the burial of Khnummose on Sai Island.

The following new articles are relevant for AcrossBorders’ work in cemetery SAC5:

Budka, J., Pyramid cemetery SAC5, Sai Island, Northern Sudan: An update based on fieldwork from 2015–2017, Ägypten und Levante 27, 2017, 107‒130.
Budka, J., Das Grab eines Goldschmiedemeisters auf Sai in Obernubien, Sokar 35, 2017, 52-63.
Budka, J., The Tomb of a Master of Gold-workers on Sai Island, Ancient Egypt 18, No. 3, 2017/2018, 14-20.

Within the article published in Ägypten und Levante 27, I tried to reconstruct the complete use-life of Tomb 26, presenting for the first time preliminary results from the pottery analysis.

Please note that all of these articles still have to be regarded as “preliminary” – the final analysis, including the anthropological findings in Tomb 26 and the results from the Strontium Isotope analysis, is already well under way and will be published as another monograph in the series Contributions to the Archaeology of Egypt, Nubia and the Levant.

Recruitment for the last months of AcrossBorders

Simply too intriguing: Documenting Egyptian vessels from Sai back in 2012.

Sometimes things turn out just right or even perfect: Back in 2012, when an idea for a research project comparing Elephantine and Sai Island first took shape, I was supported in the field by Veronica Hinterhuber – a  friend and colleague from Humboldt-University who joint me already on several seasons in the Asasif, Thebes, Egypt.

Well – now, getting ready for the final months of AcrossBorders, having finished excavations both in Sai and on Elephantine, I am delighted to announce that Veronica came to Munich and started working for the project on December 1! With her broad experience in databases, with Egyptian and Sudanese objects and with editing publications, she will not only support me in finalizing our datasets, but will also engage in the preparation of the next monographs presenting results from the AcrossBorders project, due already in 2018.

A very warm welcome – it has taken some time, but is still simply perfect!

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 ;-)!

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!