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.

The 5th International Congress for Young Egyptologists in Vienna

Every third year, the International Congress for Young Egyptologists takes place and this time it was hosted by the University of Vienna in corporation with the Austrian Academy of Sciences from September 15-19 in Vienna, Austria. The key theme of the conference was “Tradition and Transformation in Ancient Egypt”, so I took the chance to apply with an abstract for a paper entitled “New Kingdom temple towns in Nubia: Transformation of an (urban) landscape”. Thanks to the scientific committee, I got accepted and was one of 33 speakers! 33 people coming really from all over the world: Australia, United States of America, Japan, United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, France, Poland, Hungary, Serbia, Czech Republic, Belgium, Germany and of course Austria. Talks with an overwhelming wide range of topics in archaeology, cultural and social studies, religion and ancient beliefs, art, material culture and philology were presented. Additionally Manfred Bietak, E. Cristiana Köhler and Ian Shaw gave very interesting keynote lectures.

Impressions from the International Congress for Young Egyptologists in Vienna, 2015.

Impressions from the International Congress for Young Egyptologists in Vienna, 2015.

I presented my own talk on the very first day within the morning session, so I could relax and enjoy the remaining days with all the talks to come! My presentation dealt with the preliminary results of my ongoing PhD-dissertation on the New Kingdom temple towns in Nubia and was focussed on the display of a supposed development of these settlement structures over almost 500 years and considerations about the typology resulting from this compilation. Furthermore,  I tried to show the impact that the construction of temple towns had in Nubia on urban and cultural transformation processes.

In both the discussion following my talk and in the more informal ones afterwards, I got stimulating feedback and some interesting remarks, which will help me with my ongoing research. Time for meeting old and new friends and colleagues was guaranteed by the generously made time schedule for breaks and receptions, for instance at the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien. On the last day of the conference we enjoyed typically Viennese cuisine with, of course – Schnitzel! So, it was in every respect a very successful conference! Hereby I would like to thank Andrea Kahlbacher, Elisa Priglinger and all the others who helped organizing this great conference! See you at the 6th International Congress for Young Egyptologists in 2018, then in Leiden.

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.

Some impressions from the 13th International Conference for Nubian Studies

This year the International Conference for Nubian Studies, a quadrennial event of the International Society of Nubian Studies last held at London in 2010, took place at the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland from 1st Monday to Saturday 6th of September 2014, organized by Matthieu Honegger. This big conference brings together scholars from all over the world – all those who are interested in the archaeology, history, art and cultural heritage of Nubia and Sudan.

Therefore Julia Budka, our Sudanese Antiquities Inspector of NCAM Huda Magzoub and I travelled from Vienna to Neuchâtel, looking much forward to see friends and colleagues and of course to hear the latest research news. For Huda and me it was the first time being in Switzerland and especially for me also the first attendance to such a large scientific event – over 270 people announced their participation.

View from our hotel illustrating the beauty of the conference's venue.

View from our hotel illustrating the beauty of the conference’s venue.

Distributed over five days, a total of 207 talks in six parallel sessions were scheduled! So you were simply spoilt for choice… Every day started with a main session in the morning dedicated to special topics in the course of history of Nubia (from Prehistory over the Egyptian Presence until the Medieval and Islamic periods). After a long break for lunch the parallel sessions followed in the afternoon. As far as I’m concerned I was mostly interested in the session held on Wednesday, which dealt with the end of Kerma and the Egyptian Presence, where the interesting key lectures were held by Neal Spencer (Egyptian settlements in Northern Sudan), Charles Bonnet (Dokki Gel), Stuart Tyson Smith (colonial entanglements) and Luc Gabolde (royal and divine power among Kushites and Egyptians). In the afternoon session I had to choose between 49 parallel talks (among them the paper by Julia Budka referring to current fieldwork on Sai Island) – not an easy task! Of course also the sessions about Prehistory and Kerma as well as about the Kushite Kingdoms and Medieval and Islamic periods were very worth attending. The end of the conference on Saturday formed the main session focusing on the practice of archaeology and its diffusion with lectures held by Jean-Paul Demoule (Archaeological research in XXIst century), Abdelrahman Ali Mohammed (Salvage Archaeology related to Dams in Sudan) and by Salah eldin Mohammed Ahmed (QSAP).

Apart from the scientific contributions there was some time for social activities and meetings, where we were fortunately very lucky with the weather. Especially noteworthy are the opening reception of the exhibition on Nubia at the Laténium Museum in Neuchâtel or the cocktail at the Palace Du Peyrou and finally the wonderful reception-cruise on the Lake of Neuchâtel.

IMG_20140905_190616 IMG_20140905_200807The last week was, due to the tough time schedule, indeed slightly exhausting, but nevertheless very interesting, highly informative, inspiring and a good chance to get in touch with other scholars and young researchers. I’m looking forward to the next International Conference for Nubian Studies in 2018, then in Paris.

Impressions from the SARS colloquium 2014

On this Monday, May 19, the annual colloquium organized of the Sudan Archaeological Research Society took place as usual at the British Museum, London.  The one-day colloquium focusses on recent archaeological fieldwork in Sudan and this year especially on projects within the framework of the Qatar-Sudan Archaeological Project.

For me it was the first time joining the SARS colloquium and so I was very much looking forward to it and of course to hear the latest about research, surveys and excavations in the 2013-2014 season.

The first session of the dense programme was dedicated to the excavations in the Northern Dongola Reach and comprised talks by Derek Welsby on the very interesting work going on at Kawa this season (e.g.  erecting fences to protect archaeological zones, excavation of domestic houses and further work in the cemetery), by Pernille B. Jenson (animal deposits at a Kerma Ancien cemetery) and Ross Thomas (intriguing new rural settlement with strata from the New Kingdom). The second session started with an informative contribution by Matt Nicholas and Scott Haddow showing us the new excavations in the medieval fort and cemetery KRG3 at Kurgus. Further speakers were Julie Anderson (presenting on-going research at Dangeil representative of the sacred landscape of the late Kushite period), Neal Spencer (about work which was done in the desert hinterland of Amara West this season,  about the potential and meaning of the western suburb as well as protecting the archaeological zones through fencing). The key lecture of the day was given by Matthew Davies, who talked about a survey in South Sudan he conducted for the British Institute in Eastern Africa in 2009.

A very enlightening talk was given afterwards by Vivian Davies about a survey of inscriptions along the Korosko Road, where he and his team recorded over 40 inscriptions, mostly of New Kingdom date, and where they were able to reconstruct the journey of personnel involved in gold-working industries from their home town to their destination, the Nubian Desert. The last session was held by Salah Mohamed Ahmed (for Mahmoud Suliman Bashir) about the survey and excavation between ed-Debba and the Merowe Dam, by Pavel Onderka, who informed about the past and present research at the site of Wad Ben Naga and finally by Jane Humphris. She gave a fascinating talk about the Post-Meroitic iron production in industrial Kush – a research project which has just started but obviously has much potential.

All in all it was highly informative and a great opportunity to gain the latest news of the several missions and projects so shortly after the end of the fieldwork season. The following reception offered the chance to chat and talk to the colleagues and to get to know one or the other, as in my case.

The so-called temple towns of Nubia in the New Kingdom

Temple towns, also known as fortified towns, are a special phenomenon according to studies dealing with settlement patterns and urbanism in ancient Nubia during the New Kingdom. In most cases the published works in question are general overviews, introductions or entries in encyclopediae concerning the archaeology of ancient Egypt. Following these studies, Egyptian stone temples as well as enclosure walls were major features of New Kingdom settlements in Nubia, like Sai Island. Because of these two major elements such sites are typically called temple towns or fortified towns (e.g. Heidorn 1999; Welsby 2001; Bard 2007; for actual fortresses and military bases in New Kingdom Egypt see Morris 2005).

Presumed layout of the New Kingdom town of Sai after Azim 1975.

Presumed layout of the New Kingdom town of Sai after Azim 1975.

Kemp was one of the very first scholars, who dealt with these special settlement structures and presented the then almost generally accepted model of how a fortified town in Nubia has to look like (Kemp 1972a). The design of the towns is assumed to have been fairly uniform and they were enclosed with a mud brick wall as a rule. The internal structure was basically dominated by three types of building: a stone temple of characteristic Egyptian design as well as domestic and administrative mud brick buildings, including the civil government residence (Kemp 1972a: 653). As references Kemp cited only the settlements at Amara West and Sesebi, reflecting the restricted state of knowledge and publication back in the 1970ties.

At present, we know much more about settlements and towns founded or being reoccupied in the New Kingdom in Nubia – all of which received the designation of a temple town. Most probably the labelling is solely based on the existence of a temple. None of the authors seem to respect the other features postulated by Kemp. Furthermore, from the published works, it is impossible to say how many of these sites have been labelled as a temple town, as the opinions range from only three temple towns (Welsby 2001, Bard 2007) to 28 (Zibelius-Chen 2013)! Another contentious issue is the motivation for its development: was this due to political and religious factors (as proposed, e.g.  by Morkot 1993, 2001; Spence 2004; Bard 2007 and Zibelius-Chen 2013) or to purely economical ones (Trigger 1965; Kemp 1972a, 1972b; Heidorn 1999)?

As one can see there is much potential for a new consideration of the topic of the so-called temple towns starting with a fresh evaluation of Kemps model from 1972 considering the current state of research to the general question how a city or town has to look like for the Egyptians in Egypt and in turn in Nubia (the so-called town problem, e.g. Bietak 1979). Special attention has also to be given to the question whether some or even all of the refurbished and reoccupied Middle Kingdom-fortresses have been taken into account speaking about New Kingdom temple towns, like obviously Zibelius-Chen is doing (Zibelius-Chen 2013).

View of part of the New Kingdom Town SAV1 at Sai.

View of part of the New Kingdom Town SAV1 at Sai.

Especially Sai Island is one of the most interesting settlements among the potential temple towns or fortified towns as it was the first newly established town founded most probably by Ahmose. With all of its strategic advantages, Sai served as a bridgehead during the further expansion into Nubia (Davies 2005). As recent fieldwork has clearly illustrated, we are far away from understanding the complete layout and development of the New Kingdom town of Sai. How did the very early town founded by the Egyptians look like? Was there a predecessor for the Egyptian Amun temple built by Thutmose III? All of these questions are currently investigated by AcrossBorders.

Thus Sai fits perfectly into my envisaged PhD-Thesis at Humboldt-University Berlin briefly summarized here and I am very happy and grateful to Julia Budka, not only for her supervision of my PhD, but also for giving me the great opportunity to work as a PhD-researcher in her fantastic project. I am very pleased to have joined the AcrossBorders team!


Bard, Kathryn A. 2007. An introduction to the archaeology of Ancient Egypt. Malden, Mass: Blackwell Publ.

Bietak, Manfred 1979. Urban archaeology and the ‘town problem’ in ancient Egypt, in: Kent R. Weeks (eds.), Egyptology and the social sciences. 5 studies. Cairo: American Univ. in Cairo Press. 97–144.

Davies, Vivian W. 2005. Egypt and Nubia. Conflict with the Kingdom of Kush, in: Catharine H. Roehrig (ed.), Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh. New York, 49-56

Heidorn, Lisa A. 1999. Nubian towns and temples, in: Kathryn A. Bard & Steven Blake Shubert (eds.), Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt. London, New York: Routledge.   579–583.

Kemp, Barry J. 1972a. Fortified towns in Nubia, in: Peter J. Ucko & Ruth Tringham, et al. (eds.), Man, settlement and urbanism. Proceedings of a meeting of the Research Seminar in Archaeology and Related Subjects held at the Institute of Archaeology, London University. Gloucester. 651–656.

Kemp, Barry J. 1978. Imperialism and Empire in the New Kingdom Egypt (c. 1575-1087 B.C.), in: Peter Garnsey & C. R. Whittaker (eds.), Imperialism in the ancient world. The Cambridge University research seminar in ancient history. Cambridge classical studies. Cambridge [Eng.], New York: Cambridge University Press. 7–57.

Morkot, Robert G. 1993. Economic and cultural exchange between Kush and Egypt. London. Unpublished PhD thesis.

Morkot, Robert G. 2001. Egypt and Nubia, in: Susan E. Alcock (eds.), Empires. Perspectives from archaeology and history. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press. 227–251

Morris, Ellen F. 2005. The architecture of imperialism: military bases and the evolution of foreign policy in Egypt’s New Kingdom. Probleme der Ägyptologie 22. Leiden: Brill.

Trigger, Bruce 1965. History and settlement in lower Nubia. Yale University publications in anthropology 69. New Haven: Dept. of Anthropology.

Welsby, Derek A. 2001. Nubia, in: Donald B. Redford (eds.), The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt 2. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press. 551–557.

Zibelius-Chen, Karola 2013. Nubien wird ägyptische Kolonie, in: Steffen Wenig & Karola Zibelius-Chen (eds.), Die Kulturen Nubiens – ein afrikanisches Vermächtnis. Dettelbach: Röll. 135–155.