On the move: Barcelona, Vienna, Paris

These days are full of action, movement and travelling – having just returned from a splendid EAA 2018 in the beautiful city of Barcelona, where AcrossBorders was represented in a very interesting session on “border zones” and “mobility”, I am back in Vienna, just in time to participate in the Be Open Festival, celebrating 50 years of the FWF.

The EAA 2018 was fantastic, including a lecture hall with a slendid view of the town! (photo: Patrizia Heindl)

Yesterday’s Science Slam was great fun; I talked about the discovery of Tomb 26 on Sai with all its problems and the happy end, discovering Khnummose and his family.

All participants of yesterday’s Science Slam, including winner Miriam Unterlass. Photo: Helmut Satzinger.

Tomorrow starts the next event which will for sure also be of great inspiration – the Nubian Conference will take place in Paris; of course I’ll be talking about Sai again. My paper aims to provide a short summary of AcrossBorders work in the past years, stressing the new findings which are relevant to understand the site’s history in the 18th Dynasty.

Looking much forward to tomorrow’s travel to Paris, especially meeting all the colleagues working on ancient Sudan!

Of merits and flaws preparing archaeological publications

It has been silent from my side the last months. Too silent for my opinion; for too long, even during summer break. Almost no tweets and no updates or posts on this blog.

Well – I believe I have the perfect excuse: we’ve been extremely busy preparing the next AcrossBorders monograph in the last weeks and I am delighted to say that it’s actually done! Just printed all of it!

This volume is quite substantial – under the title “AcrossBorders 2: Living in New Kingdom Sai” it brings together our most important results of work about the New Kingdom remains at Sai Island in northern Sudan in the last years. Johannes Auenmüller, Annette M. Hansen, Frits B.J. Heinrich, Veronica Hinterhuber, Ptolemaios Paxinos, Nadja Pöllath, Helmut Sattmann, Sara Schnedl and Martina Ullmann have contributed apart from me to this new book. It focuses on the landscape and environmental remains of the Egyptian town on Sai and it introduces AcrossBorders work at sectors SAV1 East and SAV1 West. Archaeology and architecture are presented together with the objects and ceramics as well as specialized chapters on sandstone quarries, animal bones, molluscs and botanical remains. The occupants of New Kingdom Sai are discussed and some new ideas are put forward regarding the ‘social fabric’ and the intermingling of Nubians and Egyptians at the site.

The manuscript has a total of 700 text pages and comprises all together 300 tables, figures and plates – so indeed a substantial next volume in the AcrossBorders series of monographs which will again be published by OREA in Vienna. I will submit the manuscript on Monday and hope that the peer reviewing process will start soon!

As proud as I am today, as tired I feel. The last two weeks have been extremely intense, one could also say crazy. Working hours did not just increase but plainly doubled and several panic attacks about my own insufficient timing took turns with unexpected and very time-consuming problems with hard- and software. Most of us know all of this – finalising a manuscript means just loads of things, loads of organization and occupies one completely. No matter how much I love my occupation as archaeologist, these are the days and weeks when the really important things in life fall short – family and friends, pets and sports. In Munich, the inconvenient opening hours of grocery shops start getting on your nerves and your fridge stays empty. You’re so occupied with these texts and figures of the book you’re working on, you forget to eat and drink – and look at least 10 years older every evening and every morning in the mirror. A certain line for me was drawn when I completely forgot about and just heard it in the radio next morning that my favourite soccer team actually made it to the group phase of the European League after all (and this is the Austrian team which really deserved it, not the other one which simply keeps failing the qualification to the Champions League…).

Well – now it’s done and I cannot believe it. Without the tremendous support and help of Veronica Hinterhuber, this would not have been possible – she took so much work off my shoulders and was perfectly organised as always. Cajetan Geiger also deserves loads of thanks for preparing last minute new versions of figures and plans.

Of course as archaeologists it’s the major task to publish our results – and here, I do not necessary mean the general “publish or perish” policy which is putting so much pressure on especially young scientists from all fields. No, in archaeology, I completely agree with Peter Drewett and the following: “The only truly bad archaeologist is one who does not publish the results of his or her field investigations. All else is opinion” (Drewett 1999, 6). Our work does not stop in the field, but it is actually there where it starts.

Preparing results of archaeological excavations for publication is, however, not an easy task. One always has to balance between a descriptive way of presenting the results in a clear way, and an interpretative analysis of the same. And, since modern fieldwork is usually very interdisciplinary, one also has to bring together a large number of diverse lines of research and try to combine and/or compare results from various groups of data.

The AcrossBorders 2 volume will hopefully meet up to these standards and expectations – I am really looking forward to the reviews, always happy to incorporate some suggestions and to improve certain aspects. But in the end, I believe we did already quite a good job as an archaeological project, finishing the second monograph within one year after our final season at Sai. And I hope this will also be appreciated by the community and colleagues.

I have to stop now. Sportschau is about to start on TV. Back to normal life, at least for a while. Work on the third AcrossBorders monograph will commence soon, but the really crazy days are still a long way off.

Reference

Drewett, Peter L. 1999. Field Archaeology: An Introduction. London.

Presenting new C14 results from Tomb 26 in Vienna

Teaching classes and exams were finished this week in Munich and now some time for research has arrived! While we are still busy preparing the next monographs about the New Kingdom town of Sai, I am delighted that I will take a short break in the upcoming week going to Vienna. Thanks to an invitation for a lecture at the NHM Vienna, I will be talking about Tomb 26 and our latest findings there.

Among others, I will be presenting for the first time the very interesting results from C14 samples from Tomb 26. Unfortunately, the bone samples all failed to yield any extractable collagen for dating. This is why only charcoal samples were used and processed by the Beta Analytic Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory. Nevertheless, these results are informative and support the phases of use of Tomb 26 as proposed based on the stratigraphy and the ceramic evidence.

I would like to highlight the results for the individual who was the first person interred in Chamber 5. This adult male was the one buried along the northern wall with a deposit of flower pots and other vessels at his feet.

Burial in Chamber 5 of Tomb 26 associated with flower pots deposit.

My archaeological dating – not earlier than Thutmose III, most likely mid-18th Dynasty – is now nicely supported by the calibrated dates of 1451-1291BC.

Looking much forward to this small break and the trip to Vienna which is very likely to result in fresh input for our ongoing analysis of Tomb 26.

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!

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.

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