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Month: February 2020

Largest Egyptian colony fortification in Nubia

A test trench based on geophysical data revealed the full dimensions of the trench fortification of the Tombos town (ancient Taroy).  The fortifications enclosed a very large area, over 238 meters east-west to the river and 246 meters going north-south. A similar feature at Sesebi was only about 80 meters to a side. The fortifications at Tombos were larger than any other Egyptian colony. Only the later enclosure at Sesebi was nearly as big; most of the other colonies in Sudanese and Egyptian Nubia were much smaller. 

This fortification began to fill with trash at the end of the 18th Dynasty, around 1300 BCE, but parts were reused and/or continued to fill with trash during the Ramesside and even Napatan periods. 

2020 Tombos Team

Big thanks to our great team this year, including several first timers.  We had a lot of fun and laughs along with a productive season.

Entangled practices in tumulus graves

Excavations in the tumulus cemetery this season have continued to provide evidence for entangled practices using elements of Nubian and Egyptian traditions. All tumuli excavated this season show signs of looting and disturbance but we were able to observe mortuary customs. We have found bed trenches in the bottom of the tomb and the decayed remains of beds. Pieces of decayed wooden coffins and coffin outlines indicating a mummiform shape were also visible along with evidence for wrapping of the body. Sometimes these practices are found in the same tomb with the original burial on a bed and a second placement of an individual in a coffin on top. All individuals were found in a supine position. Pottery also reflects both Nubian and Egyptian traditions and indicates a Third Intermediate/Napatan Period date for the graves excavated this season.

Tumulus chamber with trenches for bed legs for first burial on bed.
Same chamber with remains of coffin for second burial above level of bed (outlined in white).

A new look at a ceramic coffin fragment

We found this section of the trough of a ceramic coffin at the bottom of Siamun’s tomb shaft during a previous season. Although it was once elaborately decorated with spells and figures of protective deities, the inscriptions had been badly damaged by the damp conditions in the deeper parts of the tomb and are barely legible.

Team member Nick Brown of UCLA used the D-Stretch program to intensify the contrast between the yellow inscriptions and black background of the coffin. A partial hieroglyphic inscription can be seen to the right of the deity, beginning with “A speech by Anubis…”. To the left of the figure, the name of the tomb owner appears. This is rendered by a glyph showing an ibis on a stand, a logogram for the god Thoth, and below it a glyph with three lines crossed at the top, a phonogram for ms, spelling “Thutmose,” (literally, “Thoth is Born”), a popular New Kingdom name and the personal name of four 18th Dynasty Pharaohs.

Unique Pyramid Shaft

This season, we continued to excavate a previously found pyramid structure.  The monument was built on top of a sandy layer that contains debris from the collapse of the 18th Dynasty pyramid of Siamun. The shaft, located in the chapel, is unique in its stone lining. All of our other pyramid shafts were lined in mudbrick or cut directly into bedrock. As far as we are aware, this is the only structure of this kind in Nubia or Egypt. This building’s construction over earlier debris points to a date at the end of the New Kingdom or the early Third Intermediate/Napatan Period, suggesting both a long continuity and innovation in pyramid building at Tombos.  We plan to continue excavation next season.

Guest Excavator: Elliot Buzon Cooper

Elliot (and his dad Kory Cooper) visited Tombos (and mom, Co-Director Michele Buzon) for the first time (Kory’s second visit) and joined the excavation team for a week at the site.  Elliot provides a glimpse of his experiences:

The landscape of Sudan is very bumpy.  The Sudanese people were very nice. The field house was nice and big.  There was this really good bread [note: we’ve had trouble buying from bakeries this year so have paid a local woman to bake bread for us and it is amazing].  The best part about excavating was digging.  I found a piece of a pot. My favorite site was Jebel Barkal.  It has pyramids and a big mountain. I want to visit Sudan again.  It was warm and very nice.

Elliot Buzon Cooper (age 7)

Geophysical Survey

We are collaborating with colleagues from the University of Dongola at Wadi Halfa, Department of Geophysics. The team (pictured) is led by Associate Professor Mohamed  Abd alwahab Mohammed Ali with Ammar Adam Ali Ibrahim, Muhannad Hassan Orkeldin and Mosaab Hussein Altom.

Using magnetometry and resistivity, we have identified anomalies that could represent buried domestic and/or public structures and the southern boundary of the Tombos town fortification. We plan to conduct test excavations to ground truth the geophysical data. We hope that these data will open a new avenue for our research, allowing us to investigate daily life in the town of ancient Tombos.