Nubia in the USA (to be continued)

This is my last night in Chicago. I look back on two weeks of very fruitful work with the textual material from the site of Serra East in Lower Nubia.

serra east panorama

A panoramic view of the site of Serra East, prepared by Bruce Williams

It was excavated between 1961 and 1964, during the fieldwork by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago in the frame of the Aswan High Dam Campaign. If you want to find out about the two seasons of work, you may wish to visit the site of the Section Française d’Archéologie Soudanaise from where all the volumes of the journal Kush can be downloaded (click on Kush 11/part 1 and Kush 14/part 1).

Moreover, there are already three Annual Reports available online from the Orienal Institute webpage, from the years 2011-12, 2012-13, and 2013-4. This year’s Annual Report is being prepared as I write these lines, and some of the numerous discoveries from my work and collaboration with Bruce Williams will be announced there soon!

These reports conern all the four projects that will complete the Oriental Institute Nubian Expedition series, namely: volume 11 on Qasr el Wizz; volumes 12 and 13 on Serra East; and volume 14 on Dorginarti.

About the work conducted in 2011 in Chicago with the archaeological record and the textual material from Qasr el Wizz, as well as about the subsequent public presentations and workshops in Warsaw, we have written many times from here.

The excavations on the island of Dorgi (-n for the genitive and -arti for island in Nubian) were in fact conducted between January and April 1964 by Richard Holton Pierce from the University of Bergen and his wife Wenche Pierce who is the only “bergenser” who has worked in the Aswan High Dam campaign. The work was completed by late June 1964 by Jim Knudstad, Rudy Dornemann, and Al Hoerth. The archaeological record is today studied and prepared for publication by Lisa Heidorn.

Bruce Williams is responsible for the entire publication process, but his main focus is the fortress and the town of Serra East. Our collaboration concerns the medieval phase of the town, Cerre Matto – renown from references in a couple of medieval manuscripts.

"nubian" lab @ OI

Lisa Heidorn and Bruce Williams at the lab. Note the material on the plastic bag in the center: parts of the archive of Richard Holton Pierce from his fieldwork for the OI during the Aswan High Dam campaign!

We worked at a lab in the magazines of the Oriental Institute and although each one was concentrating on one’s own screen, the room overheard so many good ideas and discoveries, steps ahead in the understanding of these important sites of the Sudanese past.

Especially for the case of Serra East, a medieval city occupying a Middle kingdom fortress, some further plans might shed even more light to understanding its character and development. These plans took form when I traveled last weekend to Los Angeles, where I met with our dearest friend Mohamed Faroug Abdelrahman Ali


…and his supervisor at the University of California Santa Barbara, professor Stuart Tyson Smith. Stuart has written his thesis on the material from the Pharaonic period of the site of Askut excavated by the UCLA (for a report of the fieldwork in 1962-3, see Kush 12-part 1), but a lot remains to be done yet regarding the final publication of the site, including the medieval town which again occupied a Middle Kingdom fortress. With the kind assistance and enthusiastic support of Wendy Teeter, Curator at the Fowler Museum and Lecturer at UCLA, we saw parts of the collection and happily agreed to try to build a team and prepare an application for bringing the publication to fullfilment!

goal: askut

But a lot must happen before that. The two collections from Chicago, Wizz and Serra, have all priority. I hope that in the next two years, among the links offered through our blog, you will also find those referring to the ready OINE volumes…


If you want to see more images from some places that attracted my attention in dowtown Chicago, in Hyde Park, the Mansueto and Regenstein libraries of the University of Chicago, or from Santa Monica and Hollywood in Los Angeles, then you may wish to visit my photo-blog at tumblr!

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