New monograph on the New Kingdom town of Sai

I am very proud to announce the publication of AcrossBorders’ first monograph!

The volume just published by the architect Ingrid Adenstedt presents the results of the building research undertaken on Sai Island in 2013 and 2014. It deals with the internal structure of the New Kingdom town at Sai Island, concentrating on the organization of the living space, the architectural outline and features of the individual buildings in the southern part of the site.

During two field campaigns in 2013 and 2014, the southern part of the settlement (SAV1), excavated by a French team in the 1950s and 1970s (see Azim 1975), was revisited and newly assessed, including a survey with a 3-D laser scanner as well as a building analysis. The results of this work are now being presented in the new publication. Next to a detailed description and building-historical assessment of the individual structures, the building remains are illustrated by manifold plans and 3-D reconstructions.

This volume is the first of a series of monographs as outcome of the START and ERC project AcrossBorders, and the architecture of SAV1 can serve as a sound basis for a deeper understanding of settlement patterns in Sai during the 18th Dynasty. The reassessment of SAV1, the southern part of the New Kingdom town of Sai Island, has produced several new results, which are relevant for a better understanding of the town layout.

I hope that the high efforts, meticulous and beautiful plans and 3-D reconstruction by Ingrid Adenstedt will be not only recognized, but will fulfil their desired outcome: to illustrate as one specific case study living conditions in respect to domestic space and Egyptian architecture in New Kingdom Nubia.


Azim 1975 = M. Azim, Quatre campagnes de fouilles sur la Forteresse de Saï, 1970–1973. 1ère partie: l’installation pharaonique, Cahiers de Recherches de l’Institut de Papyrologie et d’Égyptologie de Lille 3, 1975, 91–125.

A Visit to Berlin for the Summer School in Landscape Archaeology

Currently I’m busy with some preparations for a participation in a Summer School in Landscape Archaeology, which is taking place in Berlin, Germany from August 29th to September 3rd organised by the doctoral program Landscape Archaeology and Architecture of the Berlin Graduate School of Ancient Studies. As the topic “opening the landscape–methods in landscape archaeology” already reveals, the focus lays on an examination of the broad spectrum of methods applied in landscape archaeology and here in particular the underlining theoretical concepts as well as the applicability of specific methods.

The school is open for young researchers from all different disciplines working on landscape archaeological issues and is not limited to either region or time period, which I’m sure, will make this event especially interesting. Additionally, an excursion to a Neolithic excavation site and a visit of the laboratories of the German Archaeological Institute and the Neues Museum Berlin is planned. Every participant has to present her/his own research project with a poster. Of course mine will be dealing with the Egyptian temple towns in New Kingdom Nubia, focussing especially on the methods and aims of landscape archaeology I’m using to investigate the distribution and development of the temple towns based on spatial as well as environmental analysis and site typology.

I am very happy to have the chance taking part in this Summer School. It is in particular for young researchers and Ph.D. candidates a good opportunity to gain insights into new techniques and methods of potential relevance for one’s own research and last but not least to show an ongoing Ph.D. project to other fellows from the same field of discipline.

AcrossBorders Study Day in Munich

With all of the exciting results from current fieldwork in Egypt (Elephantine) and Sai (Sudan), it is time to present AcrossBorders’ most recent research in public. I am delighted that the first “AcrossBorders Study Day” is scheduled for the upcoming Friday, June 17, 1-6 pm. Thanks to the kind support by our colleagues of the Staatliches Museum Ägyptischer Kunst, the public lectures will take place in the lecture hall of the museum. Entrance is free and everybody is cordially invited!

A wide range of topics will be presented by team members working on various tasks within the project – fresh results from the fieldwork season 2016 on Sai Island including the GIS based documentation and 4D models, New Kingdom prosopography, aspects of the material culture and general thoughts on New Kingdom temple towns as well as new ideas about the New Kingdom landscape on Sai and data based on the micromorphological sampling programme will be discussed.

Looking much forward to this lecture day and to a reunion with fieldwork team members & friends of AcrossBorders!

Programme AcrossBorders Study-day1

Some thoughts on the Legitimization of Pharaonic Power in Nubia

Back in 2013, I was fortunate to participate in the highly interesting 7. Tagung zur Königsideologie (June 26-28 2013), hosted by the Charles University in Prague and dedicated to “Royal versus Divine Authority. Acquisition, Legitimization and Renewal of Power”. The proceedings are now published and I would like to summarise some of my ideas given in this paper (Budka 2015).

Taking Sai Island and the evolution of its fortified town of the New Kingdom with a small sandstone temple as a case study, I tried to re-examine the evidence for Egyptian authority in Upper Nubia during the Eighteenth Dynasty. Focal points are the viceregal administration, the most important deities, the temples and the royal cult in Nubia. Considerable limits in assessing real dynamics in Upper Nubia during the early New Kingdom are highlighted and the potential of an approach which includes both archaeological and textual sources is stressed.

AcrossBorders’ work on the evolution of the Pharaonic settlement at Sai Island is still in progress – our 2015 field season resulted in many interesting new finds highly relevant for administrative aspects. In 2013, the purpose of my Prague paper was presenting preliminary results and highlighting the potential contribution of settlement archaeology to understand power structures during the New Kingdom.

The basic outline of the Egyptian Administration in Nubia is well understood and has been discussed by several scholars, most recently by Müller (2013) and Morkot (2013). Tracing the local administration on a regional level becomes more difficult, and here it is especially challenging to speak about the persons involved. I tried to address in the paper some of the individuals behind the “re-conquest” of Kush and speak about personal dynamics, taking the viceroys of Kush and mayors as examples. Two individuals with the title “H3tj-c” have been buried on Sai (Minault-Gout/Thill 2012), but as yet no in situ evidence for the mayor of Sai was found within the walled town.

MayorsAll in all, I hope to have illustrated in the article the changing character of Sai from the reign of Ahmose Nebpehtyra to Thutmose III, very well traceable in both the architecture and the material culture. The “re-conquest” of Kush was a long process with changing Pharaonic authority and differing areas of influence. The new administrative system and the divine kingship established under Thutmose III reflect political changes and altered power structures in Upper Nubia (cf. Török 2009), and within this system Sai developed to become a very important centre.

Budka Prague Königsideologie 2013aOur still limited understanding of the real dynamics in Upper Nubia during the early New Kingdom will hopefully be improved by the ongoing fieldwork on key sites like Sai, Sesebi and others. Quoting from my paper: “At present, it is essential to consider the lack of evidence for Egyptian authority in Kush at the beginning of the New Kingdom, but to carefully distinguish it from confirmed lack of presence.” (Budka 2015, 81).


Budka 2015 = J. Budka, The Egyptian “Re-conquest of Nubia” in the New Kingdom – Some Thoughts on the Legitimization of Pharaonic Power in the South, in: Royal versus Divine Authrority. Acquisiation, Legitimization and Renewal of Power, 7th Symposium on Egyptian Royal Ideology, Prague, June 26-28, 2013, ed. by F. Coppens, J. Janák & H. Vymazalová, Königtum, Staat und Gesellschaft früher Hochkulturen 4,4, Wiesbaden 2015, 63-82.

Minault-Gout/Thill 2012 = A. Minault-Gout, F. Thill, Saï II. Le cimetière des tombes hypogées du Nouvel Empire (SAC5), Fouilles de l’Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale 69, Cairo 2012.

Morkot 2013 = R. Morkot, From conquered to conqueror: the organization of Nubia in the New Kingdom and the Kushite administration of Egypt, in J. C. Moreno García (ed.), The Administration of Egypt, Handbuch der Orientalistik 104, Leiden 2013, 911-963.

Müller 2013 = I. Müller, Die Verwaltung Nubiens im Neuen Reich, Meroitica 18, Wiesbaden 2013.

Török 2009 = L. Török, Between Two Worlds: The Frontier Region between Ancient Nubia and Egypt 3700 BC – 500 AD, Probleme der Ägyptologie 29, Leiden 2009.

“Settlement patterns in Egypt & Nubia”: Workshop in Munich, 29-30 June

AcrossBorders focuses on settlement patterns in Egypt and Upper Nubia in the 2nd Millennium BC – various interactions and mutual influen­ces are attested for these regions which are situated across ancient (Phara­­onic Egypt and Kingdom of Kush) and modern (Egypt and Sudan) borders with diverse environmental and cultural pre­­cond­itions. Much progress has been made in Egyptian and Nubian settlement archaeology in recent years, but further research addressing general aspects of living conditions and the specific coexistence of Egyptians and Nubians is required. Of chief interest are the architecture and structure of the Egyptian towns established in Upper Nubia during the New Kingdom, their social stratification, the local relations of Nubians and Egyptians and the specific material culture.

To provide a platform for the scientific exchange and discussion of ongoing research, AcrossBorders will hold a workshop at the end of June. Thanks to the kind support by my colleagues in the Egyptian Museum Munich, the event will take place in the museum. Bringing together all of AcrossBorders’ cooperation partners and other distinguished colleagues working on settlement sites in Egypt and Nubia, the upcoming 2-day workshop in Munich will focus on recent fieldwork at key sites like Elephantine, Amara West, Sesebi and Sai Island. Diverse evidence and new findings relevant for establishing standards of living at the respective towns will be discussed. The programme comprises a range of interesting topics, covering a time span from the Neolithic period to the New Kingdom and introducing current research from Bubastis in the North to Kerma in the South.

Budka Summary titlePresentations about Sai by AcrossBorders researchers will start the event: Giving an overview of three field seasons, I will present, among others, feature 15 and its implications for understanding the evolution of the fortified town of Sai. Ingrid Adenstedt will show her latest results working on the town map of Sai. Area SAV1 North is the focus of the research conducted by Florence Doyen. Giulia D’Ercole and Johannes Sterba will cross the bridge from Prehistory to the New Kingdom and show some of their results of iNAA on ceramics from Sai.

I am especially delighted that Charles Bonnet and Dominique Valbelle will join us for the workshop – the highlight of the event will be an evening lecture by Dominique Valbelle on Tuesday evening. This lecture is open to the public and will be followed by a reception at the Institute for Egyptology.

Looking much forward welcoming all colleagues and discussing settlement archaeology here in Munich!

Update of the research on the so-called temple towns in New Kingdom Nubia

In the last few months I was very busy with the review of the literature so far published  concerning especially the New Kingdom architectural remains which the Egyptians left on their way from north to south during the so-called conquest of Nubia and afterwards.

I commenced this task from a chronological point of view: with the “reoccupation” of the Egyptian Middle Kingdom fortresses between the First and Second Cataract. The common sense in Egyptological publications is that the Egyptians reused the Middle Kingdom fortresses such as e.g. Kuban, Ikkur, Aniba, Uronarti and Semna as staging posts at the beginning of the conquest and afterwards also as residential areas sometimes with the feature of an newly built Egyptian stone temple (säve-söderbergh 1941; Trigger 1976); Adams 1977; Bard 2007; Heidorn 1999). One point of the thesis is to clarify whether these fortress settlements played a role in the development of the temple towns as kind of ancestors or if the latter is a peculiar type of settlement specific for New Kingdom Nubia.

Studying relevant publications it became clear that the evidence of the so often mentioned reoccupation and renovation of the forts in the New Kingdom is rather hard to find. Also the meaning and usage of this obviously exchangeable description of reusing of the forts attracted my attention. It is not in any case clear if the authors really differentiate in general between undertaken renovation in the course of the reoccupation or the restoration of the defensive fortifications (e.g. Emery 1965; Trigger 1976; Adams 1977; Bard, 2007; Heidorn 1999). Of course it makes a difference concerning the nature of the settlement to speak of reoccupied or refortified settlements. Thus I searched intensively in the old excavation reports and publications for any hint of New Kingdom construction activity in the Middle Kingdom forts (like Emery & Kirwan 1935; Steindorff 1937; Randall-MacIver & Woolley 1911; Emery etal. 1979; Dunham & Janssen 1960; Dunham 1967). But unfortunately in most cases there is only little building activity or material post-dating the Middle Kingdom mentioned, because the main focus lies on the primary architecture and remains. Another issue in this respect is in general the dating of the late Middle Kingdom and/orSecond Intermediate Period material: it still remains unclear whether some of the fortresses have been still occupied during the Intermediate Period or not.

What I can say by now is that serious reconstruction and restoration of the fortifications only took place at Aniba and Buhen, where it is proofed by archaeological evidence. In contrast, because of absence of archaeological evidence, Semna seems not to have been refortified as always stated in the literature (Reisner 1929a; Säve-Söderbergh 1941; Adams 1977; Bard 2007; Heidorn), but indeed reoccupied, attested by the presence of a New Kingdom temple and cemetery (Reisner 1929b; Dunham & Janssen 1960). Another observation I made concerns the fortress of Askut near the Second Cataract. Excavation work was conducted there in the 1960ies by Badawy and the excavated material was reinvestigated by S. T. Smith in the 1990ies (Badawy 1964; Badawy 1968; Smith 1995; Smith 2003). They plausible ascertained a New Kingdom occupation phase at Askut, but still this fortress is often neglected in general studies concerning the New Kingdom occupation phase in Nubia (e.g. Emery 1965; Trigger 1976; Adams 1977; Bard, 2007; Heidorn).

Further and detailed studies are necessary to give an answer to the development-issue of the temple towns and to the dating-issue of the maybe continuously settled or indeed reoccupied fortresses. But the fresh evaluation and reconsideration of the literature shows by now some interesting first results.


Adams, W. Y. 1977      Nubia. Corridor to Africa, London.

Badawy, A. 1964      Preliminary report on the excavations by the University of California at Askut, Kush 12, 47–56.

Badawy, A. M. 1968      A history of Egyptian Architecture. The Empire (the New Kingdom), Berkely.

Bard, K. A. 2007      An introduction to the archaeology of Ancient Egypt, Malden, Mass.

Dunham, D. 1967      Uronarti, Shalfak, Mirgissa: excavated by George Andrew Reisner and Noel F. Wheeler, Second cataract forts 2, Boston.

Dunham, D. & Janssen, J. J. 1960      Semna, Kumma, Second cataract forts 1, Boston.

Emery, W. B. 1965      Egypt in Nubia, London.

Emery, W. B. & Kirwan, L. P. 1935      The excavations and survey between Wadi es-Sebua and Adindan 1929 – 1931., Mission Archéologique de Nubie 1929 – 1934, Cairo.

Emery, W. B., Smith, H. S. & Millard, A. 1979      Excavations at Buhen. The archaeological report, Excavation memoir 49, London.

Heidorn, L. A. 1999      Nubian towns and temples, 579–583, in: Bard, K. A. & Shubert, S. B. (Hrsg.), Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt, London, New York.

Randall-MacIver, D. & Woolley, L. 1911      Buhen, Eckley B. Coxe Junior expedition to Nubia 7, Philadelphia.

Reisner, G. A. 1929a    Ancient Egyptian forts at Semna and Uronarti, Bulletin of the Museum of Fine Arts 27, 64–75.

Reisner, G. A. 1929b    Excavations at Semna and Uronarti, Sudan notes and records 12.

Säve-Söderbergh, T. 1941      Ägypten und Nubien: ein Beitrag zur Geschichte altägyptischer Aussenpolitik, Lund.

Smith, S. T. 1995      Askut in Nubia. The economics and ideology of Egyptian imperialism in the second millennium B.C, Studies in Egyptology, London, New York.

Smith, S. T. 2003      Wretched Kush. Ethnic identities and boundaries in Egypt’s Nubian empire, London, New York.

Steindorff, G. 1937      Aniba. Mission Archéologique de Nubie 1929 – 1934. 2, Glückstadt.

Trigger, B. 1976      Nubia under the pharaohs, Ancient peoples and places 85, London.

Summary of the 2014 field season

Almost ready to leave Sudan tonight, it’s time to sum up the last 9 weeks here in the field. All of the envisaged tasks and sub-projects within the framework of AcrossBorders have been successfully carried out: excavations at SAV1 East and at the new site SAV1 West; documentation of the architecture at SAV1 North and processing of finds and pottery from all sectors of the New Kingdom town. Furthermore the 3D Laser Scanning of the New Kingdom Town was conducted by Robert Kalasek and Ingrid Adenstedt, Giulia d’Ercole continued her sampling of ceramics from the town for iNAA and petrographic studies, Konstantina Saliari started to work on the animal bones, coming from sector SAV1 North and Erich Draganits carried out geoarchaeological investigations, providing interesting results about the natural sourroundings of the New Kingdom town.

SAI_0217At SAV1 East much progress has been made in 2014 to understand the outline of the major structure, “Building A”. Its date to the mid 18th Dynasty was confirmed; we now know that it extends further to the norSAI_0712th and to the west. Schist pavements and mud pavements have been noted and especially the western part with small interior walls resembles closely the front rooms of SAF2, the so-called governor’s residence in the southern part of the Pharaonic town – nicely fitting to our preliminary assessment of the building.

However, some of our previous assumptions had to be revised. This holds in particular true for feature 15 – its western part was exposed in Square 4. In 2013, we interpreted this rectangular feature, lined with red bricks on the interior, as an intrusive structure of Post-Pharaonic date and of unclear function. The new findings in 2014 now change the picture a bit: Feature 15 has a minimum extension of 5.6 m West-East and 2.2. m North-South.

To be excavated in 2015: Feature 15 in SAV1 East.

Still to be completly excavated in 2015: Feature 15 in SAV1 East.

Its western wall is set against the natural pebble in Square 4 – the top part of which is covered with an 18th Dynasty mud floor. The Southern wall of feature 15 is still preserved to a height of 55 cm and the bottom edge has not yet been reached! So it is much deeper than we originally thought! The complete western part of the structure is still covered with very loose back filling of gravel, mud bricks and ceramics. Interestingly, the ceramics deriving from the newly exposed sections of the walls of feature 15 are all consistently mid 18th Dynasty in date – thus, contemporary with the other walls and features of Building A. All in all, the present working hypothesis is that feature 15 represents a New Kingdom storage installation of a rectangular shape, with a vaulted roof located below the floor level of Building A. It is therefore most probably a cellar, set against and dug into the natural gravel. Excavation of feature 15 will continue in the next season.

SAV1 West proofed extremely interesting and rewarding – even if it took us four weeks to clean sandy fillings of pits and later disturbances. As already reported, we found the New Kingdom town wall and also remains of the occupation within the town. Towards the east of the enclosure wall, thus inside the city, large amounts of sandy backfilling of pits and collapsed mud bricks had first to be removed, but then we reached a level in the Eastern half of the Square where in situ New Kingdom structures are visible!

A view into the "wall street" in Square 1 with promising deposits and structures to the East.

A view into the “wall street” in Square 1 with promising deposits and structures to the East.

Several floor levels and ashy layers attest to a multi-period use of small mud brick buildings orientated along the “wall street” of the western edge of the town, resembling very much the findings in SAV1 North.

Based on my analysis of the ceramics, the mud brick structures and remains in Square 1 of SAV1 West seem to originate from the mid until the late 18th Dynasty. No material earlier than Thutmose III was found, seemingly providing a terminus ante quem non for the building of the town wall and the visible structures belonging to the interior occupation. But of course this will have to be clarified by excavation next year! What we can say now is that there are several phases of use and the early 18th Dynasty is as yet missing.

SAV1 West: 1000ds of diagnostic pottery sherds from the 18th Dynasty are still waiting for detailed processing!

SAV1 West: 1000ds of diagnostic pottery sherds from the 18th Dynasty are still waiting for detailed processing!

In addition to the Pharaonic building phases, we spend much energy to carefully document the Post-Pharaonic formation processes at SAV1 West. This resulted in a better understanding of the later destruction and also the re-use of the town wall. The destruction happened mostly in (early) Christian time, additions and secondary structures seem to have been added later, partly using the taken out brick work. With the findings of walls in Square 1W, we can trace a continuous use of small shelters set against the ancient wall – they must have been in use over a certain period – details must await a coming ceramic analysis.

To conclude, the 2014 field season resulted in very important insights and added information about the evolution of the Pharaonic town of Sai Island. Especially the period of the mid 18th Dynasty, of the reigns of Thutmose III and Amenhotep II, marked a major remodelling of the site; the material remains illustrate a prosperous heyday of Sai as on of the important administrative centres of Upper Nubia, thus corresponding with the textual sources.

The New Kingdom town wall at SAV1 West

During the 2014 season we successfully located the 18th Dynasty enclosure wall of the Pharaonic town of Sai in both of our new trenches at SAV1 West. We can hereby confirm the reconstruction of our French colleagues which was based on a surface survey, the general outline of the town and the location of the Western city gate.

The western edge of the Pharaonic town of Sai: looking across the Western city gate towards the new squares.

The western edge of the Pharaonic town of Sai: looking across the Western city gate towards the new squares in the North. To the right, the Northwestern tower of the Ottoman fortress, built above Pharaonic remains, is visible.

We were also able to identify some later additions and Post-Pharaonic construction work in our new trenches. During excavations, it was not very clear whether the later wall in Square 1W was located above a bastion and if the “front wall” we found could be of New Kingdom date after all.

SAI_6467Both questions have been answered in the meantime: There is no tower attached to the enclosure wall in the area of Square 1, and the “front wall” post-dates clearly the 18th Dynasty city wall. The situation in trench 2 seems to be very similar – the outline of the 18th Dynasty wall is now understandable, despite of the deep Post-New Kingdom pits within the brickwork, and it corresponds nicely to the presumed line drawn from the Western city gate towards the North.

Among the most important results of this season is the discovery of floor levels and occupation deposits on the inner side of the enclosure wall, both at Square 1 and trench 2 – all was covered by sand and mixed debris, but now there are really remains waiting for us which seem to be undisturbed! There are several floor levels visible, having been cut by the later pits – suggesting subsequent phases of Pharaonic presence at the site. Thus, SAV1 West will potentially add a lot of information about the inner structure, evolution and layout of the town – and will keep us busy in the next years.

The enclosure wall in Square 1 - almost completly destroyed in the northern part, damaged in the southern area but note the promising deposits towards the East.

The enclosure wall in Square 1 – almost completly destroyed in the northern part, damaged in the southern area but note the promising deposits towards the East.

End of week 4 of fieldwork at Sai Island, New Kingdom Town

During this week, we made good progress at both sites currently under investigation of the Pharaonic town of Sai, at SAV1 West and SAV1 East.


Work in progress at SAV1 West, 30/01/2014.

The brick work at SAV1 West was cleaned of the loose debris – we now have the substantial remains of the New Kingdom fortification exposed. The subsidiary, secondary adjacent wall was also found as proceeding further towards the North – as was the so-called “front wall”. Of the latter, we just cleaned today debris towards the west – the dismantled mud bricks are presumably lying on the natural slope of the western edge of the town; giving us much hope that we will be able to clarify its date and phases of use in the upcoming week!

Overview of SAV1 West; view towards Northeast. Debris at top of western slope in foreground.

Overview of SAV1 West; view towards Northeast. Debris at top of western slope in foreground.

I am especially excited about work at SAV1 East – we were aiming to clarify the western extension of our Building A, a possible large administrative building of Thutmoside date.

Cleaning of western part of Square 3, SAV1 East,

Cleaning of western part of Square 3, SAV1 East.

In the last days, Jördis worked with her team in the very difficult deposit of Square 3: within backfilling of late pits and disturbances, they were able to trace the foundations of a very large mud brick wall! Its alignment matches our East wall of Building A’s courtyard – and it is in line with the main North-South street of the town, running from the Southern gate, the Governor’s residence and Temple A towards our area SAV1 East.

Foundations of substantial mud brick wall at SAV1 East.

Foundations of substantial mud brick wall at SAV1 East.

Despite the pitting, we do have traces of the floor levels preserved and some smaller East-West walls, possibly of entrance rooms similar to the ones in the Governor’s residence SAF2. The challenge will be to reconstruct the complete outline of our building from these largely destroyed and dismanteled remains!

Overview of western part of Square 3, 30/01/2014: the main North-South wall, remains of pavements and a smaller East-West wall

Overview of western part of Square 3, 30/01/2014: the main North-South wall, remains of pavements and a smaller East-West wall.

As yet, both the New Kingdom ceramics from SAV1 West and SAV1 East associated with our mud brick structures do not predate the reign of Thutmose III – stressing that we are currently working in areas which belong to the main building phase of the Upper Nubian temple town at Sai which flourished during the time of Thutmose III and Amenhotep II.

An Update: The Enclosure Wall at SAV1 West

It is a well-established fact that the Pharaonic town of Sai with its fortified town, temple and administrative buildings falls into the category of so-called Egyptian “temple towns”, built during the New Kingdom in Nubia. The substantial mud brick enclosure wall of Sai with a width of more than 4.20 m has been investigated by the late Michel Azim (Azim 1975) in the South and Florence Doyen in the North (cf. Doyen 2009). As was confirmed in both sectors, the wall is equipped with bastions in regular distances. Our current work at SAV1 West aims to deepen the understanding of the layout, outline and construction of the enclosure wall as well as its building phases and periods of destruction.

At the moment – and this is all work in progress! – we were able to expose the outline of the western enclosure wall in the trenches 1 and 2. Its location fits perfectly to what Azim reconstructed as the western border of the Pharaonic town. However, there are still a lot of open questions – especially because of later disturbances and pits, but also due to several building phases within the brick work. In trench 2 we might have encountered a late sub-circular structure of possible Ottoman date, set into the 18th Dynasty enclosure wall. We will try to clarify this next week.

Western half of Square 1 (left) and Square 1W (right) at SAV1 West - overview towards South (Photo: Martin Fera).

Western half of Square 1 (left) and Square 1W (right) at SAV1 West – overview towards South (Photo: Martin Fera).

In the southwestern corner of Square 1, the upper part of the enclosure wall as we exposed it so far is still covered with debris; a large pit filled with mostly Christian pottery was cutting into this area. Similar holes have been dug into the brick work of the enclosure wall at SAV1 North (see Doyen 2009). As was already observed by Azim in the 1970s, the Sai New Kingdom fortification suffered from several destructions, but also restoration phases during its use-life (Azim 1975, 122). A good example of a restoration is the tower construction N2 at SAV1 North which is maybe of Ramesside date (Doyen 2009).

View of the enclosure wall at SAV1West in the front; the other brick walls in the back (looking West).

View of the enclosure wall at SAV1West in the front; other brick walls in the back (looking West).

A later addition to the western outline of the 18th Dynasty wall is now also traceable with our extension towards the west, Square 1W. Within this trench we also located a possible “front wall”, of which we as yet only reached the upper part. It seems as if a secondary construction was set between the New Kingdom brick work – spanning the area from the presumed front wall and the enclosure wall. A layer holding much organic material, charcoal and pottery of a domestic character may indicate that we have found here a small occupation spot, maybe a modest hut or shelter. Its date remains to be established but the pottery points to a Late Christian origin. However, it is intriguing that we also have some Ramesside sherds coming from Square 1W and the western half of Square 1 – comparing nicely to the findings around the tower at SAV1 North. At present, we cannot rule out that our squares are set above one of the bastions of the enclosure wall, maybe following complex building phases – all of this remains to be investigated during the upcoming three weeks of fieldwork at SAV1 West.


Azim 1975 = M. Azim, Quatre campagnes de fouilles sur la Forteresse de Saï, 1970-1973. 1ère partie: l’installation pharaonique, CRIPEL  3, 1975, 1–125.

Doyen 2009 = F. Doyen, The New Kingdom Town on Sai Island (Northern Sudan), Sudan & Nubia 13, 2009, 17–20.