The last day of the conference was shorter than usual, but our departure for a break from academic duties and a bit of leisure with good friends at Reichenau did not permit us either to follow the entire morning session or to compose this last entry on the Neuchâtel conference before tonight. Nevertheless, what we heard on Saturday morning was very interesting because it consisted of two presentations discussing the topic of salvage archaeology in general and in Sudan more particularly. The first talk was by Jean-Paul Demoule, who leads the National (French) Institution for Research relating to Salvage Archaeology (free translation of the French title: Institut National de Recherches archéologiques préventives, better known as INRAP) and who had some very useful input to offer from his experience from France and from a more European perspective of dealing with salvage archaeology. The director general of NCAM, Dr. Abdelrahman Ali, had the more difficult task of describing the situation in Sudan in view of the plans of further dam constructions at Dal, at Kajbar, in the Fifth Cataract, at the Upper Atbara, at Roseires.
And his task was difficult for several reasons among which we retain:
1. the presence of people from the local communities to be affected from the dams.
2. the fact that irrespectively of his academic opinion, his position would not allow him to criticize the sociopolitical dimensions of the dams.
3. the comparison with the other half of the archaeological present and future in Sudan, namely the Qatar Sudan Archaeological Project (QSAP).
During the discussion following Abdelrahman’s presentation, our host at Neuchâtel, professor Matthieu Honegger, very correctly remarked that he sees a huge contrast between on the one hand the issue with the dams and the risk that they entail for both the Nubian cultural heritage and the future of Nubia itself; and on the other hand the prospects for the archaeology of Nubia offered by QSAP. And it is true that QSAP offers very big money for important issues in Sudan Archaeology, like the protection of the sites, their preparation for visitors, and their general promotion, for example by supporting the publication of some fine site guides – from which we managed to get hold only of the one about the site of the Royal City of Meroë.
Another opinion expressed during the discussion that ensued Abdelrahman’s talk was that of Dietrich Wildung. He advised optimism for the future of archaeology in Sudan and Nubian Studies more generally, thanks to the new era opening with the QSAP, and despite the hidden or more obvious agendas that surely exist behind such gigantic investments. We’d surely vote for such optimism, refraining from further critic of the political dimension of QSAP until at least things prove differently than what everyone hopes for.
And we will be looking forward to hearing more in four years at the 14th International Conference for Nubian Studies to be held at Paris, where the host will be Vincent Rondot, at the end of his second period as President of the ISNS.
In the meantime, a big MERCI to Matthieu Honegger and his assistants who should be enjoying some rest after so much hard work to make the 13th International Conference for Nubian Studies so successful.
For this photo, we thank our dear friend Dobrochna Zielinska.