At 09:00 this morning, Matthieu Honegger opened officially the 13th International Conference for Nubian Studies in front of an almost full auditorium.
During the official ceremonies for the opening, representatives of the University and of the Sudanese state welcomed the participants.
The Egyptian minister could not attend as was explained by Vincent Rondot, the president of the International Society for Nubian Studies.
At about 09:30, the first plenary session started with the talks of two Italian Prehistorians, Donatella Usai and Maria Carmella Gato. They work in different areas, the former in Central Sudan (around the Khartoum region) and the latter in Nubia (in the Egyptian desert). Usai argued for the potential of thoroughly analyzed results from detailed fieldwork with the latest scientific methods, suggesting important influences coming to the Nile Valley from the Near East, but she also stressed the limitations of extracting generalizing statements from the hard evidence produced from digging the soil. Gato on the other hand insisted in the difference between Central Sudan and Nubia in prehistory and saw the 5th millennium as the turning point for what we can call Nubian cultures. On the basis of pottery studies she sees in this period the beginning of the merger of Central Sudan and Nubia. In the discussion after the paper, Julia Budka, correctly remarked on the absence in the argumentation of Sai Island where yet another Italian prehistorian is working, Elena Garcea.
The two talks taken together showed that it is high time for syntheses on the basis of the data accumulated in the last decades of prehistoric fieldwork in Sudan, while keeping up with carefully selected archaeological excavations.
This conclusion was further strengthened by the two presentations of the second half of the morning session with the talks of our host, Matthieu Honegger, and the host at the previous Nubiological Cnference, Derek Welsby, who presented to us the state of the knowledge in pre-Kerma and Early Kerma cultures in the Kerma basin and in the Fourth Cataract respectively.
Already at the coffee break, but more intensely during the lunch hour, the participants, friends and colleagues from many years of collaboration in projects along the Nile, exchanged vivid talks on all possible topics ranging from the latest finds to challenges of fieldwork nowadays through bits and pieces of more personal news and anecdotes. Discreetness prevents us from sharing the latter from here, but many of the former related to us will appear in future entries from here.
At 14:30, the six (!) parallel afternoon sessions started and inevitably it is impossible for anyone to follow everything. Especially when one member of our family is giving a most thought-provoking talk…
…and the other one is chairing a session.
So, the day had little of medieval interest on the official level of the proceedings and the situation did not change with the event gathering all participants in the early evening. For we were taken with buses offered by the conference organizers to the Laténium, the archaeological museum of Neuchâtel, where we witnessed the opening of a fascinating exhibition titled: Aux origines des pharaons noirs. 10,000 and d’archéologie nubienne. A topic that very few places in the world outside Switzerland can speak so eloquently about, given the work for almost half a century of the Swiss Archaeological Mission directed previously by Charles Bonnet and in the last years by Matthieu Honegger. In our case, we will leave some photos to speak about the venue itself: