Annual Egyptological Colloquium at the British Museum: Nubia in the New Kingdom

On our way to London: Giulia, Florence and me will be attending scientific events at the British Museum, organized by our British colleagues headed by Neal Spencer. In addition, Veronica Hinterhuber, much waited-for future collaborator of AcrossBorders, will also join us on this occasion from Berlin! And I am especially happy that Huda Magzoub, our inspector from NCAM, kindly accepted an invitation as well and is already waiting for us in London!

Tomorrow we will be busy with two informal workshops, bringing together scholars currently working on New Kingdom sites in Nubia as well as some other colleagues with specific expertise. Giulia will present our pottery samples and I will mainly focus on questions of the early development of Sai at the very beginning of the 18th Dynasty. Huda has prepared a presentation on some nice New Kingdom pot sherds from the Sudan National Museum’s collection, among them an amphora from Sai with an hieratic docket.

Thursday and Friday will be completely occupied by the two-day colloquium “Nubia in the New Kingdom: Lived experience, pharaonic control and local traditions” – a very rich programme focusing on new insights from the latest fieldwork at major settlements and cemeteries in Nubia. Elephantine, Aniba, Amara West, Sai, Sesebi, Dukki Gel, Tombos and other sites will be in the spotlight – temple architecture, settlements, tombs, statues, ceramics and other finds will illustrate the complex picture of the material culture and social identities at Egyptian sites in Nubia during the New Kingdom. Abstracts of the colloquium are available via the British Museum website!

New finds from recent excavations and old archives

Having just returned from London, I am still really excited – the SARS-colloquium yesterday offered a lot of new information and was extremely interesting! A splendid event thanks to both SARS and the British Museum!

Besides fantastic new work at Kawa, the Fifth Cataract and at Kurru (among others), the period of the New Kingdom was addressed in several papers. Our “neighbours” at Amara West offered impressive summaries of the 2013 fieldwork – Neal Spencer reported on the investigation of the town, Michaela Binder showed the highlights of work in the cemetery. Thanks to our visit to Amara back in February, we have seen some of the new features and unexpected finds in course of excavation. As on the site, I was especially fascinated by the newly discovered inscribed door lintels and door jambs – now also with a personal name and title! Congratulations on these important finds adding new information on the administration and history of Ramesside Upper Nubia!

One of the highlights was definitely the lecture by Hans-Åke Nordström – he reported on his major publication project of the last years, to be submitted for printing very soon: “The West Bank Survey of the 1960s. From Early Nubian to New Kingdom.” This is the first of a series of volume on the UNESCO-campaign undertaken in Lower Nubia – an analysis of the complete fieldnotes and records by the Scandinavian Joint Expedition which all have been collected in a large FileMaker database. Nordström presented the diachronic distribution of sites in the area surveyed more than 50 years ago – among them important A-group and Kerma sites, but also New Kingdom sites and here in particular tombs of various types. This new material, presented in a splendid overview and set into context, will be of major importance for comparison of current fieldwork.

Equally impressive was David Edwards’ paper – he gave an overview of “Pharaonic” Sites in the region of the Batn el-Hajjar, focusing on the 130 km from Gemai to Dal, surveyed by Tony Mills from 1963-1969. Edwards has carefully revisited the archives and fieldnotes of the work in the 1960s – they offer a lot of information, raise many questions and illustrate the rich potential of this early work. Edwards contextualised the location of major “Pharaonic” sites within the ancient landscape, especially referring to ancient goldmines, strategic and administrative values of fortresses. It was in particular striking that he could show how much an isolated perspective on “Pharaonic” sites can gain if we consider contemporaneous Nubian sites at the same time!

All in all, yesterday clearly illustrated how much is changing in Nubian archaeology with every new season of excavation, but also with careful (re)assessments of older excavations, archives and survey reports. It was especially stimulating that most of us working currently in Northern Sudan in the period of the Egyptian New Kingdom share similar thoughts and ideas on certain subjects – especially about the so-called “Colonisation” of Nubia, presumably much more complex than previously thought, an on proposed firm frontiers between “Nubian” and “Egyptian” in this region, not reflecting obviously the past reality. The New Kingdom in Nubia must have been a period of a highly interesting co-existence, a merging and also adaptation of different cultures – requiring a lot of future research to be assessed in more detail.