Nubian Studies in Germany

The last week has seen various Nubiological activities deriving from German milieus:

The Sudan Archäologische Gesellschaft (SAG) had its annual elections and the famous Sudan Day, this year dedicated to two topics:

  1. Professionals and amateurs of Sudan archaeology in Germany followed the paths of the Lepsius expedition, both in real and from the study room, as it discovered the great monuments of the Sudanese past. Now they have brought forward the dialogue between past and present through the reproductions and the photographs of the exhibition “Beyond Egypt: Following the trail of the Lepsius Expedition to ancient Sudan”, hosted in the foyer of the Faculty of Law at Humboldt University in Berlin. Open until the 9th of July.
  2. Medieval Nubia on the basis of the Sur discovery. In 2007 the Humboldt University Nubian Expedition (H.U.N.E.) managed to excavate a small Medieval Church near the northern tip of the island of Sur in the Fourth Cataract region, despite the problems that the riots of the locals against the construction of the Merowe Dam was causing to most archaeological missions in the Dar el Manasir. The good contacts of H.U.N.E. with the locals offered the world the knowledge of a very impressive center of rural Makuria, with high degree of artistic and literary treasures unearthed by Ph.D. candidate Daniella Billig. She is conducting her research under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Claudia Näser, who opened the Sudan Day of SAG in 2011 with a general and informative introduction to Medieval Nubia from a Fourth Cataract perspective. The focus, however, of the presentations was on the marvelous textual finds that were presented publicly for the first time by the conservator Myriam Krutzsch, head of the department of conservation of paper, parchment, and papyrus in the Berlin Egyptian Museum, and Alexandros Tsakos, Ph.D. candidate working under the supervision of Näser on the Greek parchment fragments from the Sur church.

The previous day (Friday 13th), Prof. Näser had invited students and researchers working on the medieval period of the Middle Nile Valley to meet at the old library room of the Institute of Archaeology, Department of Egyptology and Northeast African Archaeology of Humboldt, in order to discuss topics linked to the relations between “image, text, and space in Christian Nubia”.

Dr. Dobrochna Zielinska (lecturer at the University of Warsaw) and Alexandros Tsakos introduced the seminary. Based on theoretical approaches used in their own personal studies, as well as a wish to discuss aspects of the relations between “image, text, and space in Christian Nubia” inspired by their work on the compilation of the Corpus of Wall Paintings from Medieval Nubia, they discussed the theoretical background to the problem, linking the experience of working on the Corpus project with practical applications relating to the finds of H.U.N.E. from Sur: texts and images found in bits and bites during the dig of the church at site  SR022.A, as well as plaster decoration on the walls of the church at site US22.

The excavator of the site, Daniella Billig, presented her revisiting of the architectural types of the Nubian churches and useful discussion ensued on relation between space and cult practices, development of interior details, application and restrains imposed by the natural landscape, regional characters and their meaning etc.

The day was concluded by an always interesting presentation from the works conducted on the textual material found at Qasr Ibrim: Joost Hagen redressed past presentations with a focus on the particular case study of the seminary and offered food for long discussions that surpassed the time frame of the meeting and developed into casual talks at a fine Berlin café as the sun was setting. The discussion about the contents of the tomb T.2 and the meaning of the deposition of so many textual finds there, never discussed before under such a perspective became proverbial among the participants for the fine days that followed in Berlin…

It was also from Berlin that Tim Karberg and Julia Budka started their careers in Sudan Archaeology, each continuing now their academic activities from other German speaking universities, namely Münster and Vienna respectively.

Karberg presented online aspects of the Bayuda project directed by Angelika Lohwasser – also having left Berlin for Münster – and discussed briefly the intriguing interest of discoveries relating to some of the rock carvings located in the Sudanese desert.

Finally, Julia Budka presented at the SARS colloquium the results from her work on the New Kingdom pottery from the Pharaonic city north of Qalat Sai, after her first season of work on Sai under the direction of Florence Doyen.

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