From Berlin to Meroe and from Meroe to Alwa

Last week found me in Berlin again.
I was there at the invitation of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI)  to begin cooperation with Cornelia Kleinitz on the medieval graffiti from the pyramids at Meroë and I cannot wait to present the results of this most interesting corpus of texts from the still unknown kingdom of Alwa. I have already published two papers in the series Miscellanea Epigraphica Nubica about two Christian graffiti from the ancient sites of Meroë and Musawwarat.

A monogram of "Abraham" carved on the northern wall of the offering chapel in front of the pyramid of Queen Amanitore in the Northern royal cemetery of the Meroitic capital

A monogram of “Abraham” carved on the northern wall of the offering chapel in front of the pyramid of Queen Amanitore in the Northern royal cemetery of the Meroitic capital

The epigraphic corpus from the southernmost known state of Christian Nubia is small and the largest number of texts consists of graffiti. Together with Cornelia we are also working on the graffiti recorded for UCL-Qatar in the quarries around the Meroitic capital and this study will surely see the light very soon.
I hope to be able to show already in the study of the quarries’ graffiti the richness of this material and its importance for understanding literacy in Alwa.
From the same region, more graffiti treasures are awaiting study and publication, namely the corpus from Mussawwarat Es-Sufra. Cornelia has already started to create a web page for the Musawwarat graffiti, which will hopefully be a third aspect in our collaboration on the medieval textual material from the Meroitic heartlands.
I do not know if someone has remarked the importance of the work of Berlin institutions in the Meroitic heartlands for understanding the formation of the Alwan Christian kingdom, but if one adds to the sites of the pyramids of Meroë (Friedrich Hinkel and now DAI) and Musawwarat (Humboldt University), the capital city of Meroë (DAI), and the towns of Naqa (formerly Egyptian museum) and Hamadab (Pawel Wolf), then the picture emerging is surely impressive and promising when it comes to the potential of studies on Medieval Nubia from Berlin.

To come back to my last visit in Berlin, let me share a photo from a building that my dear friend and colleague Pawel Wolf pointed to me in downtown Berlin.

The first AKNOA premises

At Reinhardtstr. 9, I saw the first seat of the Institute “für Archäologie und Kulturgeschichte Nordostafrikas” (AKNOA). When it was founded by Fritz Hintze in the 1950s it was called “Bereich Ägyptologie und Sudanarchäologie/Meroitistik”. It was from here that the first archaeological concessions in Sudan were undertaken in the 1960s, at a time when very few institutions were active in Sudan archaeology. The political situation in the 1970s and 1980s did not permit fieldwork to continue uninterrupted, but Musawwarat has been seen as a trademark of Sudan Archaeology in Berlin ever since.

Since its early days, the institute has moved four times, first to Oranienburger Str., still in the centre of Berlin, close to Humboldt University’s main building, then further away to Prenzlauer Promenade, after that to Mohrenstr. back in the centre of town. Now, its offices and its new exhibition room for the Sudan Archaeological Collection are located in the West Wing of the main building of Humboldt University itself, on Unter den Linden.

The new exhibition room for the Sudan Archaeological Collection with a temporary poster exhibition created by students and members of the Sudan Archaeological Society Berlin on the Lepsius Expedition to Sudan in 1844.

The new exhibition room for the Sudan Archaeological Collection with a temporary poster exhibition created by students and members of the Sudan Archaeological Society Berlin on the Lepsius Expedition to Sudan in 1844.

Apart from shifts in its location, the institute has re-invented itself over and over, changing its name (Bereich Ägyptologie und Sudanarchäologie/Meroitistik, then Bereich Sudanarchäologie und Ägyptologie, then Seminar für Archäologie und Kulturgeschichte Nordostafrikas, now Lehrbereich Archäologie und Kulturgeschichte Nordostafrikas), renewing its staff, but always producing quality work that formed many generations of important scholars working on the languages and the archaeology of Ancient and Medieval Sudan.
Its lively history needs to be written down in detail, while there are still active people who remember its beginnings. For the time being, I have gleaned two related publications:

  1. Steffen Wenig, Die Berliner Sudanarchäologie, Das Altertum 42.1 (1996), 5-10.
  2. Erika Endesfelder: “Die Ägyptologie an der Berliner Universität” in Endesfelder E. (ed.), “Von Berlin nach Meroe. Erinnerungen an den Ägyptologen Fritz Hintze”, Berlin 2003: 21-29 (partially accessible HERE).

Of course there are many more things to be found online, among which a video at the YouTube channel of the British Museum, where my host last weekend speaks about (one of) her favorite subjects: Rock-gongs!

With this video, I wish Cornelia best of luck for her return to England, where she will be presenting on the 9th of May during the SARS Colloquium 2016, the project in the frame of which we worked together last week!

________________________________

And of course many thanks to Conny and Pawel for helping me putting together this post!

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