A trip to England, autumn 2015

It has been exactly a year since I last traveled with British Airways from Bergen to London. Then, I was heading for the Conference of Afro-Byzantine and Greco-African Studies at the University of Johannesburg. This time, it was a journey for “business and pleasure” as the saying goes.

The pleasure consisted in staying with friends in London and in Buxton, the business was business as usual: Nubian texts, Sudan archaeology, museum visits…

Many were the welcoming signs already from the first day. Look for example the pattern on the floor of the new residence of the Hashimabs in London, where Mo welcomed us on Saturday at noon:

Welcome to the new Hashim residence

And then, zoom into this pile of books offered to the shoppers at the Hoover building:

sai messages

Although the content of the book had nothing to do with Sai Island, we suspected that there would appear messages about our project during this trip:

sai messages zoom

And it was indeed the case, since we were blessed with the moment of discovery of the meaning of the cross-pattern on two sides of two capitals from the so-called Cathedral site of medieval Sai!!! But allow us to keep the secret a bit longer… We are already composing the first article on this discovery!!

The next day was dedicated to bringing our four boys to the Museum of National History.

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And on Monday Henriette visited Alice Stevenson, the second opponent of her thesis during the defense days of the 3rd and 4th of September. Alice is the curator of the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, where many objects of interest could be seen from close and discussed.

Tuesday was the day we had planned our visit to the British Museum. The main target was the new display of objects from early Egypt. Among the new displays was the famous burial from Jebel Sahaba with the arrowheads showing the violent death of the buried individuals, one of the most renown evidences of warfare from the ancient Nile Valley.

Jebel Sahaba

I spend of course some time in the small corner of antiquities from Christian Nubia and I noted a mistake and a very interesting opinion.


The idea that Michael is the patron saint of Nubia is not new, but it is certainly presupposing a lot of things, among others that there was a notion of a patron saint of Christian Nubia; that for the Nubians the Archangel Michael was indeed a saint; that the focus on his cult in Lower Nubia was a characteristic of Upper Nubia too; that the personal belief in the powers of the archangel can identify with the hierarchy promulgated by the Christian Nubian kingdoms (and then again rather by the Makuritans than by the Alwans?).

I was thinking of these matters when two days later I found myself in Oxford…

St. Michael's Street

…wandering downtown and waiting for my train, after a very interesting day of work at the Griffith’s institute.

Griffith's Institute

The reason for my visit there was to search the archives for material on Serra East that could be useful for the forthcoming publication in the Oriental Institute of Chicago Series. The assistance of Dr Francisco Bosch-Puche was crucial for the success of my mission. Thanks a lot Cisco for both excellent preparation and patience, good collaboration and a fine time!

Dr Francisco Bosch-Puche

Now, the train from Oxford did not bring me to London, but to Buxton! We had arrived there the day before, so that Henriette could meet her second supervisor of the thesis, Timothy Insoll, who could not be at her defense because he was at fieldwork in Ethiopia. There was a lot to discuss, but perhaps the most important thing was that Tim and his wife Rachel MacLean have accepted an invitation to join forces on Sai Island next year!! We are building up a very strong team I think :-)


But before all that there is lots to do here in Bergen, starting on Monday with the conference in honor of Richard Holton Pierce’s 80th birthday, titled “From River to Sea through Desert and Texts“!

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