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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I joined the Tombos archaeological team from this season to enhance community engagement efforts in the village that surrounds archaeological remains of Tombos and where the team have stayed over the last two decades. The archaeological team previously created educational materials for students and teachers at a local primary school in 2017 , an information pamphlet for them and excavation workers in 2016, and organised public talks at the nadi – soccer club. To continue and further develop the previous work, I’ve started asking schoolteachers and local people if they have any questions to archaeologists or whether they are interested in any programmes about archaeology. We invited a group of 5th grade students and a history teacher to visit the excavation in the cemetery (image below). I also investigate stories and ritual practices that relate to archaeological records in Tombos – the rock inscriptions, statue and ancient cemetery, and whether aspects of the local history and heritage are considered associated to these records. As I am a new face for the residents of the village, I started from having conversations with some of them to get to know each other and talk around the topics of my interests over tea and breakfast.