Valentine’s Day Special: An exceptional heart scarab from Sai

Last year on Valentine’s Day, excavations in Tomb 26 on Sai were still ongoing. As Meg Gundlach put it back then “there are few things more romantic than a dung beetle”. Well – exactly! One year later, it’s again time to write about this very special heart scarab, SAC5 349, found next to the skeleton of chief goldsmith Khnummose. Let’s start with a spoiler: no, I still cannot read the name on the heart scarab, there is no complete love story to tell about Khnummose and his wife. But: my assumption that it is possibly the wife’s name on the scarab who was buried next to Khnummose at a slightly later moment still stands, although it remains hypothetical.

The heart scarab of Khnummose’s tomb group is an exceptional example also for other reasons. The general appearance of gold flakes and use of gold for the funerary equipment and jewellery in Tomb 26 is striking and seems to be connected with Khnummose’s profession. Very remarkable, among others, is this beautiful signet ring made of silver and gold found in Chamber 5.

But coming back to the heart scarab: during the process of cleaning it in situ in Chamber 6, very fragile strips of gold came to light.

One piece was clearly attached around the base, other fragments where found close to the head of the scarab.

Possibly there were originally also gold bands across the elytra and at the division of the wing cases; this arrangement finds a close parallel in a Late New Kingdom example now kept at Liverpool – 1977.112.257 is a very nice heart scarab made of green jasper, it still has strips of gold attached.

Heart scarab Liverpool 1977.112.257, http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/wml/collections/antiquities/ancient-egypt/item-317198.aspx

In general, such gold bands on heart scarabs of the New Kingdom are rare – for our example from Sai, I believe that they could attest to Khnummose’s job as chief goldsmith and to the general connection of the island to the gold exploitation in Nubia.

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.

We proudly present: Khnummose’s shabti in full detail

Khnummose’s shabti is, together with the stone heartscarab, definitely the highlight from Chamber 6 in Tomb 26. The shabti belongs to a homogenous group of five stone shabtis from Egyptian officials, found at Aniba, Toshka and Sai, and identified by Ann Minault-Gout as originating from one workshop, dating from the mid-18th Dynasty (Minault-Gout 2012). A common origin might explain why on SAC5 350 the name of Khnummose was inscribed in different hand writing, obviously at a later stage than the remaining text with Book of the Dead Chapter VI. In addition, the raw material used for this group of shabtis is not local to Sudan. The prime sources for serpentinite are located in Egypt (Wadi Semna and Wadi Atalla) – suggesting that the corresponding workshop was probably also located somewhere in Egypt. This is all very significant for the organisation behind Egyptian elite burials in New Kingdom Nubia.

Khnummose’s shabti was now documented in full detail – besides proper photographs, Cajetan created a very useful 3D model based on images and Patrizia did a beautiful drawing which is especially relevant for the inscription.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We still have 2 more days to finish off our study season here in Khartoum – and it has been a great success so far!

Reference:

Minault-Gout, A. 2012. ‘La figurine funéraire Saï inv. S. 964 (SNM 23424) et un groupe de quatre chaouabtis de la XVIIIe dynastie de même type’, Cahiers de Recherches de l’Institut de Papyrologie et d’Égyptologie de Lille 29, 189-200.

 

 

Miniature canopic jars from Tomb 26

Among the interesting finds associated with the southernmost burial in Chamber 5 of Tomb 26 on Sai Island are four miniature jars. The burial was placed in a wooden coffin, had a funerary mask and many flakes of gold foil were discovered in the area of the upper body. In addition to the steatite scarab found at the left hand, an uninscribed heart scarab was found directly between the ribs, thus it was placed on the breast of the deceased.

More items of typical Egyptian New Kingdom burial equipment are the four small ceramic jars which were found close to the skull.

The four small, globular jars as they were found in situ.

These jars are clearly miniature canopic jars – their lids were found a few centimeters apart from the jars, buried between the debris from the collapsed ceiling. All lids show human heads and are also made in clay. Interestingly, the jars were made in Egyptian Marl clay and imitate with their coated surface stone vessels. Miniature canopic jars were also documented in several tombs of SAC5 excavated by the French mission – but none of them is the same type of vessel and the lids are also markedly different (see A. Minault-Gout/F. Thill, Saï II. Le cimetière des tombes hypogées du Nouvel Empire (SAC5), Fouilles de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale du Caire 69, Cairo 2012, Pls. 90 and 131).

Miniature canopic jars united with their lids today in Khartoum.

Today, we finished the photographic documentation of this interesting and so far unique set of 18th Dynasty miniature canopic jars from Sai, drawings will be produced in the next days – another step done towards the final publication of Tomb 26!

On the move again – from Munich to Berkeley

Thanks to the general agreement of cooperation between the University of California, Berkeley and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU), I was able to visit the San Francisco Bay Area for the first time!

In June, we enjoyed an inspiring workshop dedicated to “Archaeologies of human mobility and migration” here at the LMU – this past week, we gathered in Berkeley to discuss the theme “On the move” further. My own presentation focused on Tomb 26 – presenting some of the preliminary data from our ongoing analysis of the systematic variation in the isotopic composition of strontium in the environment of Sai and its significance for exploring the origin of people and their migration along the Nile. I also stressed the significance of Khnummose’s shabti: its raw material serpentinite is not local to Sudan, the prime sources are located in Egypt (Wadi Semna and Wadi Atalla); furthermore, name and title of Khnummose were added in a different handwriting, suggesting an “off the shelf” purchase – so we can assume that this shabti, one of AcrossBorders highlights of five years of digging on Sai, was actually an “object on the move”, being produced at a workshop probably located in Egypt (or close to the border).

I am very grateful to all LMU and Berkeley colleagues for these wonderful days both in Munich and Berkeley – especially to the organisers Carline von Nicolai and Benjamin Porter. Loads of thanks go also to Ruth Tringham for a marvellous tour through “her” San Francisco – this was definitely the highlight of my first trip to California!

 

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!

AcrossBorders in retrospect

Those were the days – back in 2013 we had our first season on Sai Island, starting work at sector SAV1 East. The outlines of Building A were discovered, exciting finds in the southern part of our squares allowed us to date the earliest remains in this area to the very early New Kingdom. Among the highlights were pots from the early 18th Dynasty, found in situ in a small storage bin.

Continuous excavations until this spring season 2017 brought to light further evidence supporting this original interpretation. It is well timed that a substantial volume on “Nubia in the New Kingdom” was just published – edited by Neal Spencer, Anna Stevens and Michaela Binder these proceedings of a conference in London 2013 bring together the latest results and a large variety of finds dating to the New Kingdom, unearthed in northern Sudan. I am proud that also AcrossBorders’ work on Sai Island is represented in this splendid and important volume – an overview about “Life in the New Kingdom town of Sai Island: some new perspectives” summarizes the potential of the first season back in 2013 in SAV1 East – and illustrates among others the significant find of the storage bin with its in situ pots.

Since 2013, I regularly wrote a blog post “summer break” in August, announcing vacation and a short break from our various tasks including blogging – well, those were the days… 2017 is a bit different – with the closing conference “From Microcosm to Macrocosm: Individual households and cities in Ancient Egypt and Nubia”, to be held from 1–3 September, 2017 in Munich, we are all very busy and time for vacation is limited. Travelling between Vienna and Munich, we are especially involved in the anthropological findings in Tomb 26 and the GIS applications of our documentation; the digital landscape models of Sai are getting prepared and all will be presented at the conference.

Perfectly timed is now the release of a video produced by the FWF high lightening our main research questions and most important discoveries on Sai. For those of you who have missed photos and reports about the nimiti flies in the last months – I am convinced that the video will make up for this: beautiful shots of SAV1 East, the one and only nimiti paradise ;-).

In the spotlight: Khnummose and other finds

Summer has definitely arrived in Munich, the teaching term has almost ended and our AcrossBorders conference is quickly approaching.

In the last weeks, Khnummose and his tomb at Sai has received quite some attention, see e.g. an article by Owen Jarus on Life Science (https://www.livescience.com/59534-ancient-nubia-tomb-of-gold-worker-found.html). Interestingly, most articles focused on the question whether the people buried in Tomb 26 were mummified or not – I will discuss this issue as well as other aspects at the upcoming Sudantag of the Staatliches Museum für Ägyptische Kunst, July 29.

Some of the general aims and preliminary results by the AcrossBorders project are presented today on the LMU website. With a small photo gallery, the most important aspects of our work on Sai Island are addressed, focusing on the complex relations between Egyptian and Nubians in the New Kingdom.

LMU website https://www.uni-muenchen.de/index.html, July 24 (screenshot).

Being very proud of and grateful for all the attention paid to Khnummose and other discoveries by AcrossBorders, I am very much looking forward to our upcoming international conference.

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.

Presenting Tomb 26 and other highlights

Almost 2 months have passed since we successfully closed our final season on Sai!

This week is quite busy with presenting our results to different audiences – the SARS Day on Monday in London was great as always, I am really happy about various and mostly very positive feedback!

Tonight, I am going to present the highlights of the 2017 season here in Munich.

This lecture is part of the rich programme organized by the friends of the institute, the Collegium Aegyptium. I will give a brief summary of work in the town and will then focus on Tomb 26. With Chamber 6, the burial of Khnummes and his wife, and especially with the “hidden” Chamber 5 and its 18th Dynasty burials rich of jewelry there is quite something to talk about!

Chamber 5 during the process of excavation; note that, like Chamber 6, it was completly sealed by flood levels.

Looking much forward to this occasion, also because so many team members will be present!