As it has become traditional, in the second day of the International Conference for Nubian Studies – this year held at Neuchâtel, Switzerland, the academic base of Matthieu Honegger, the new director of the Swiss Archaeological Mission to the Sudan – the plenary session focused on the End of Kerma and the Egyptian Presence in Nubia. We could not attend the first two talks, since we have come to Neuchâtel with our two little sons and surprises can always appear in the morning hours ;-)
Our colleagues though praised the talk of Neal Spencer who works at Amara and has often been referred to in this blog, while surely much attraction gained also the talk by Charles Bonnet about the spectacular finds at Dokki Gel – Kerma.
The break found Alexandros debating the pros and cons of the QSAP as it was expected since rumors have reached our ears about dissatisfaction with the fact that we have addressed critic on the political dimension of this project. Two interesting points to retain: many people have seen the related entries in the blog and have been speaking in their own circles about them – have the same people discussed with equal interest all the other infos, data, and ideas that we have brought forward through medievalsaiproject.wordpress.com?
The interesting and friendly discussion soon had to come to an end. People had to move back to the Aula des Jeunes Rives and enjoy the rich in material and humor talk by Stuart Tyson Smith.
One can only feel happy that the site of Tombos, producing such a rich archaeological record, is in the hands of someone with the ability to combine this data in such eloquent schemes and nuanced intellectual patterns.
An amazing intellectual exercise was presented in the end of the morning session by Luc Gabolde whom we had the chance to meet on Sai in 2010 and who offered us an Insight into the Perception of Royal and Divine Power among Kushites and Egyptians, using also material from Sai Island. Gabolde proved the adoption of Nubian religious elements by the Egyptians, who wished thus to promote their religion to the Nubian elites. The example of the cult of Horus shows that in its essence Egyptian religion remained marginal to the belief system of the locals and disappeared together with the pharaonic control and as the Kushite world was creating its new image of the Napatan/Meroitic periods – the focus of tomorrow’s plenary sessions.
In the afternoon, the bulk of our attention was concentrated in session 4 where the very interesting presentations chaired by professor Godlewski generated vivid discussions. We retain four talks in particular:
1. Artur Obluski’s discussion of the two monastic sites that he is studying – fieldwork at Ghazali and publication of the OINE digs of the 1960s at Qasr el Wizz. We have times and again talked about these projects and Alexandros’ role in the latter. From the discussions that followed Artur’s talk, we retain the moment when professor Ali Osman observed the decline in medieval studies in the Nubiological Congresses (although their beginnings were almost exclusively focusing on the Middle Ages) and his suggestion to create fora and venues for medievalists of the Nubian world to meet and discuss their topics of interest in more depth than it is permitted by the time restrictions of such huge conferences as the ISNS ones.
Professor Godlewski promised to return to this matter with concrete suggestions during his talk on Friday. Looking forward!!
2. Magda Wozniak’s excellent insight into the miniature of Ms. Or. Quart. 1020 from the Berlin Staatsbibliothek, that she suggested convincingly to identify with the donator of the work itself to the town of Serra East, while at the same time proposing a very fitting for the archaeological record from Serra East terminus post quem in the 12th century.
3. Dobrochna Zielinska’s presentation of the first results from the project she is leading concerning the Technology of Nubian painting that has showed the way for interdisciplinary approaches to the study of the Nubian material. Her group’s work is improving dramatically our understanding of technical know-hows of the Nubians in the Middle Ages, their social and economic networks, and their perception of prestige, authority and show-off. All that amalgamated in Dobrochna’s unique manner of dealing with her case studies, this time proposing a new apprehension of the importance of blue – plausibly to be called in the future Makuritan blue, paralleling imperial purple!
4. Karel Innemée’s presentation was the cherry on top of the cake in today’s afternoon session. For he presented – in cooperation with Dobrochna Zielinska – A Painting in the Throne Hall of Old Dongola that indicates the existence of a religious iconographic program in a space that could be rather linked with ceremonies related with the royal authority. And therefore we get another insight into the very close relationship of monarchy and the divine in Makuria.
The discussions that followed stopped only because people had to move to the reception at the Palace de Peyrou!!
Closing this report from the third day at the Neuchâtel conference, special mention should go to Adam Lajtar’s presentation of the Greek and Latin papyri of the time of Augustus from the EES excavations at Qasr Ibrim, because on the one hand it showed the abilities of our friend, professor of Warsaw University, in tackling the material of all periods producing excellent results, while on the other hand the results threw ample light on this special moment of the history of the fascinating Qasr Ibrim site. His conclusions on Roman military was a fine prelude to what we will hear tomorrow from Claude Rilly in the plenary sessions turning the attention to the Kushite Kingdoms of the Nubian past.
This last comment allows a reference to another important conference that is taking place these days and is of interest for us: Unravelling the John Rylands Papyrus Collection starting in a couple of hours at Manchester.