Suzanne Davis, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology
On March 11 I will leave icy Ann Arbor for hot and sunny North Africa, where I’ll be joining an international archaeological team working at the site of El Kurru in the Republic of Sudan. El Kurru is a UNESCO World Heritage site and it’s large, with pyramids, temples, an ancient city, and a necropolis. It was part of ancient Nubia, or Kush, a kingdom along the Nile River in an area that’s now part of southern Egypt and northern Sudan. If you studied ancient art and archaeology, you might remember that the capital of Kush was first at Napata and then later at Meroë. El Kurru, however, was the site of the first royal pyramids and many of the Napatan kings are buried there, including the so-called “Black Pharaohs,” the kings who conquered and ruled Egypt from roughly 750 to 650 BCE (aka the 25th Dynasty).
The University of Michigan/Kelsey Museum of Archaeology team, under the direction of Dr. Geoff Emberling, is investigating the Napatan Dynasty at the site. You can read more about the site, the team’s work, and see what a local haircut for men looks like on Geoff’s blog: http://elkurrukush.blogspot.com/
My small part in all of this is to assess the project’s conservation needs. Geoff and his colleagues conducted an exploratory season last year, locating features previously identified by George Reisner in the early 20th century, but this is their first real excavation season. For an archaeological conservator, being on-site during a project’s first excavation season is a fantastical dream that rarely comes true. In my 20 years of fieldwork, this will be the first time it’s ever happened to me. Usually I first arrive at projects after they’ve been excavating for years, after small conservation issues have ballooned into big problems, and at a point where it’s difficult to mitigate damage or find funding in the budget for what the project really needs. This is a great opportunity to be involved from the beginning, and I hope I’ll be able to assist the project in a meaningful way.
View of the large temple explored in the 2013 season (photo Geoff Emberling, 2013)
I’m also really looking forward to getting the heck out of Michigan. Daytime highs lately at El Kurru are about 105F, and the forecast in Khartoum every day this week has been a single word: dust. When compared to the massive piles of dirty snow lining the streets of Ann Arbor, and the six inches of ice stuck firmly to my driveway under the snowpack, the hot and dusty desert sounds pretty darn good.
Return to El Kurru, back-filled temple in foreground (photo Geoff Emberling, 2014)