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.

SARS colloquium 2015, British Museum London

Time flies by: the annual one-day international colloquium of the Sudan Archaeological Research Society (SARS) at the British Museum London is approaching! Like in the last years, some team members of AcrossBorders will of course participate.

As usual the programme is very promising; several talks will focus this year on the New Kingdom in Nubia. I am happy and grateful to the organisers for the opportunity to present AcrossBorders’ latest fieldwork. The title of my talk is “New excavations in the Pharaonic town on Sai Island and its role in the urban landscape of New Kingdom Kush”.

Among others, feature 15 and it’s amazing number of complete pots and clay sealings will be addressed. And of course the discovery of tomb 26 has to be pointed out. I am especially looking forward to share the news about the inscribed, worked stones from the shaft. One piece belonging to the deputy of Kush Hornakht under Ramesses II is particularly exciting!

One of the inscribed blocks from the shaft of tomb 26 is of particular importance...

One of the inscribed blocks from the shaft of tomb 26 is of particular importance…

Looking much forward to tomorrow’s trip to London, the colloquium, the chance to meet many colleagues working in Sudan and discussing recent findings in a stimulating environment!

Landscape archaeology and environmental remains at Sai

Simply a perfect start into the New Year – we arrived safely yesterday on Sai Island, early enough to enjoy the beautiful sunset!

IMG_1241Today we got settled and are currently preparing everything to start excavating on Saturday. With the beginning of 2014, I have furthermore the pleasure to welcome two new team members of AcrossBorders, both of them will also join us in a few days on the island.

Erich Draganits studied Geology and Prehistoric Archaeology at the University of Vienna. Within the Earth Sciences he is specialized in clastic sedimentology, deformation of sediments, landscape evolution and Earth surface processes. Based on his expertise and interest in interdisciplinary research he carries out geoarchaeological studies at numerous archaeological excavations including diverse sites, periods and countries like Austria, Italy, Greece, India, Turkey and now also Sudan.

This January, Erich will conduct a first geoarchaeological survey (including drilling and test pits) on Sai – investigating the harbour situation, geological formations, sandstone quarries and more. He will closely cooperate with Konstantina Saliari and also Giulia d’Ercole who is investigating the clay deposits of the island related to her research on the local pottery production.

Konstantina Saliari is the second newcomer. She has studied archaeology and prehistoric archaeology at Athens where she received her MA in 2011. She is currently a PhD student of the University of Vienna and has joined AcrossBorders as researcher specializing in zooarchaeological remains. In the upcoming season, Konstantina will work on animal bones coming from the site of SAV1N within the New Kingdom town of Sai.

Environmental and climatic settings and changes are important issues for our research questions and the aim to reconstruct living conditions at Sai Island during the New Kingdom. We aim at estimating the human interaction with the landscape and will tackle the question of the location of settlement areas and cemeteries over the ages. Assessments of real living conditions in the past are essential to understand the relations of the Egyptians living on Sai with the indigenous Nubian population.

Just one small example – from Egyptian texts, temple reliefs and wall paintings we have plenty of evidence that various wild and domestic animals were imported to Egypt from Nubia.

Davies & Gardiner, The tomb of Huy, Theban Tomb series vol. 4, pl. 48: Boat with cattle from Nubia, being brought to Egypt.

Davies & Gardiner, The tomb of Huy, Theban Tomb series vol. 4, pl. 48: Boat with cattle from Nubia, being brought to Egypt.

At least five different types of cattle are mentioned in the texts! For example, the beautiful paintings in the tomb of viceroy Huy at Thebes show jw3-cattle being brought from Kush. It is intriguing whether there are possibilities to reconstruct differences between cattle also in reality, using the corresponding bones. How do the actual remains relate to the texts and pictoral representations of Upper Nubian animals in general? What kind of wild and domestic animals can we trace at Sai Island and can we estimate their numbers?

Davies & Gardiner, The tomb of Huy, Theban Tomb series vol. 4, pl. 23: jw3-cattle are brought from Kush.

Davies & Gardiner, The tomb of Huy, Theban Tomb series vol. 4, pl. 23: jw3-cattle are brought from Kush.

Joint research by Erich, Konstantina and others will help to understand the environmental conditions on Sai – the expected new data will allow putting the island in a broader context and can also adress very detailed questions about living conditions in Kush.

I am very happy to welcome Erich and Konstantina as new team members, looking forward to their first results this season!