Scientific trip to the Abry market

This week I was accompanying a group of experts working with Julia Budka and focusing on the scientific analysis of the composition of mud bricks used in the ancient Egyptian city on the island of Sai. This study is highly relevant to understand the ancient plants and botanical species.

During our trip to Abry market, looking for modern comparisons, the following caught my attention:

The production of agricultural tools in a traditional, local way:

The tool maker sets wood on fire using wood a bellow for pushing the air – his tool is made of an animal skin and iron. The bellow is used by hand to push air to ignite the fire for heating the iron preparation for a variety of forms, especially to manufacture tools for cultivation.bellow2

Local tool (bellow) made from animal skin.

Local tool (bellow) made from animal skin.






Some of the tools manufactured are the following:

– Machete: or Mongal (local name) used for cutting and cleaning plants.

– Metaphase: or torya used to dig the ground and organized in preparation for planting.

– Axe or Nagama (traditional name) is the tool used to dig a hole to put the seed on the ground.


Farming tools and their method of manufacturing.

Farming tools and their method of manufacturing.










The other thing that caught my attention at Abry was:

The presence of a large room on the Nile containing large and bulky machines, tubs of cement inside the room and outside, located to the west of the gas station of Abry.

According to the locals, it goes back to the period of the English presence in Sudan and has been used for grain milling and turning it into flour, using the water from the Nile. The mill is run both by air and water, converting it into kinetic energy.


Machine for grinding seeds and pulling water from the Nile.

Machine for grinding seeds and pulling water from the Nile.



Season 2015 in the Pharaonic town of Sai Island

Today was the start of the new season of archaeological excavations in Sai Island within the Pharaonic town! Like last year, it was our pleasure that the people of Sai Island came to celebrate a good year near the archaeological site and with the participation of the New Kingdom town mission under the leadership of Julia Budka. Happy New Year and a very successful season to the General Authority for Antiquities and Museums, to the Nubian people and good luck to the director of the mission and all team members!

Impressions from last year's celebration of the season.

Impressions from last year’s celebration of the season.


Four days at Vienna

I arrived to the city of Vienna (my big dream) in the morning of August 28. Julia Budka kindly picked me up from the airport on arrival at 10:30 AM. We then went to my accommodation: Hotel Post, just around the corner of the Austrian Academy. My hotel room reminded me of the one I had during my stay in London, on the occasion of the International Training Programme at the British Museum.

My hotel room in Vienna.

My hotel room in Vienna.

Vienna near the hotel.

Vienna near the hotel.







I have heard about Vienna, I saw it in pictures, but I did not expect this beauty, cleanliness and high degree of organization everywhere! I really consider myself fortunate to have visited this wonderful city.

My stay in Vienna was scheduled for four days and the main task was a workshop on pottery. I was aiming for additional training in the study of Egyptian pottery thanks to the joint venture of Dr. Julia, her project and the Sudan National Museum. Back home, I am currently working on a catalogue of New Kingdom pottery in the Sudan National Museum.

On the first day, we met for lunch and had a nice tour through the city – together with the team members of AcrossBorders, some of who I know very well from Sai Island, others I just met in Vienna.

Me and my colleagues in Vienna.

Me and my colleagues in Vienna.

Scenes from the walk through the city of Vienna.

Scenes from the walk through the city of Vienna.







The 29th of August 2014 was a very full day for me and started at 9:30 am. We met in the office of the department Egypt and the Levant of OREA with the staff of AcrossBorders and a student interested in pottery and archaeology.  Julia Budka, the director of the project and of excavations in the Pharaonic town of Sai Island,  started the workshop with a presentation discussing and reviewing the last two field seasons. We spoke about dating, the settlement remains and objects.

Afterwards Giulia D’Ercole explained some of her work about the scientific analysis of the fabric from the New Kingdom town, giving some details about Nubian pottery.

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Later we all went to have lunch at a famous falafel restaurant close by. In the afternoon, we started the workshop with discussing and practicing how to use the fire dogs! It was unfortunate that Nicole, the student working on the fire dogs and who I know from Sai, could not come on this occasion!Huda wien 8

Trying to look for the way in which fire dogs may have been used.

Trying to look for the way in which fire dogs may have been used.







After that the workshop focused on the drawing and classification of New Kingdom pottery. Arvi Korhonen explained to the students and then they practiced with some sherds. Julia and me had now time to discuss details about the Sudan National Museum New Kingdom Pottery project: some of the vessels find very nice parallels at other sites, also at Sai. Others were familiar to Julia thanks to her experience from Egypt, especially on Elephantine.

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After that I went back to the hotel where I took a little bit of rest, and then I met the group again for dinner at a restaurant just next to the oldest church of Vienna! Here I had the first original Wiener Schnitzel of my life!

The famous dish!

The famous dish!

This trip was a great pleasure for me – I was accompanied by Julia and her group, we saw historical monuments and also some roman archaeological remains in the heart of Vienna. What triggered my surprise was the nature of the range of architecture and I was very impressed by the architecture of the churches, ranging back to very early times.

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Most enjoyable of my trip to Vienna was my visit to the amusement park Vienna, the PRATER. Here one of my escorts was Kara, Julia’s dog, who joined us at the Riesenrad and apparently enjoyed the ride as well!IMG_20140831_135338

On this day I tried another local speciality: a so-called Langos – a kind of a very large, fried pancake with a pleasant taste. There are similar ones in my country, but the size is much smaller and we eat it with sugar instead of with salt and garlic like the Austrians!

IMG_20140831_141237After the weekend, I travelled with Julia and Jördes via Zurich airport by train  to  Neuchatel  to attend the Conference for Nubian Studies.

Thanks to the company and programme, my visit to Austria was the most beautiful and the greatest trip to an European country in my life! Many thanks to Julia and all my colleagues in Vienna!

Last but not least, I had the great pleasure to get to know Ishraga MUSTAFA HAMID: scientist, author, poet and more from Sudan living in Vienna since 1993! We spent some wonderful time together, including a trip to the castle of Schönbrunn. Alf shokron und vielen Dank!

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Two months at the archaeological site of Sai Island

The director of the mission thinking about the future of this area.

The director of the mission thinking about the future of this area. Photo: Martin Fera.

It’s not a fairy tale, but a real-life story: telling the tale of a group of researchers, experts and trainees in the field of archaeology of different nationalities and various ages. They are Austrians, Germans, French, Belgian, Italian, Greek, British, Egyptian, Sudanese, and local Nubians, all working under the direction of someone who despite of her young age was able of leadership and brilliant management, dealing with situations severely when there was the need to.

Family, work and archaeological excavations in the Pharaonic city of Sai Island.

Family, work and archaeological excavations in the Pharaonic city of Sai Island.
Photo: Martin Fera.

The archaeological mission covered a period of two months, during which the group of researchers was set in center of the local community in the French digging house on Sai Island. Surrounded on the east by the great Nile and a magnificent scenery with palm trees, sand and mountains. On the south, west and north of the house expand the archaeological remains of one of the greatest sites in Northern Sudan, covering a wide range of periods: This is Sai lsand, or as the locals call it, the Land of Khalil. The property of the famous Sudanese poet (Khalil Frah) , who used to live on this island,  has still survived in the extreme north of the island.

Huda 4Huda 5Huda 6Huda 7Huda 8huda 3Sai Island archaeological site in the heart of beautiful landscape (Photos: Martin Fera)

The schedule of the mission required very hard work in the field, conducting archeological excavations, and also documentation in the lab, especially with the study collection of Pharaonic Egyptian antiquities characteristic for Upper Nubia.

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The field work team members during office work in the afternoon. Photos: Huda Magzoub.

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The tasks of the director Julia were immense, as the administration of the house, field work and mission accumulated with her beloved study and classification of pottery.

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High expertise in the classification of large amounts of pottery from the Pharaonic town of Sai Island. Photos: Huda Magzoub.

Huda 12 Huda 13Documentation and drawing of the ceramics were achieved with the help of a group of German, Austrian and Italian students and archaeologists. The study of pottery from the New Kingdom town of Sai, and here especially of the proportion of Nubian vessels and wares, plays a significant role in understanding 18th Dynasty Sai.


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Members of the pottery study  group: Dr Giulia, Julia, Nicole (and Elke, not in the picture). Photos: Huda Magzoub.

Another important aspect of understanding Sai is the study of animal bones – this year undertaken by Konstantina (Nadia) Saliari.

Study and classification of the Pharaonic animal bones from Sai.

Study and classification of the Pharaonic animal bones from Sai. Photo: Huda Magzoub.

More specialists: Dr Erich, Dr Ingrid, Dr Robert and Florence (the last three not in the photo), had special tasks and worked in various areas. Photo: Martin Fera.

More specialists: Dr Erich, Dr Ingrid, Dr Robert and Florence (the last three not in the photo), had special tasks and worked in various areas. Photo: Martin Fera.

The director of the mission did not forget to reward her team for the hard work, and also tried to find ways to come together with the local community despite the tight working schedule. During the two months she organized trips to visit archaeological sites (Soleb, Sedeigna, Gebel Ducha, Sesebi and of course to Amara West in the North). In addition, interconnection and communication with the local community and families on Sai was achieved by joining them at their ceremonies, both on formal and informal occasions.

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Team members of Sai Island visit other archaeological sites. Photos: M. Fera.

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The reception and a number of visits by local residents, foreign missions (visit of the British Museum team working at Amara West, visit of the French ambassador and his companions) and by staff of the National Authority for Antiquities and Museums has to be mentioned.

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Photo: Martin Fera.

The archaeological season on the island has ended with much joy and celebrations, wishing the advent of a new year 2015 inshaallah.