From MedNub
Jump to navigationJump to search

The inundation of successively larger portions of Lower Nubia by the building of dams on the Nile necessitated a series of very extensive salvage excavations, before the antiquities of the region should be forever submerged. As a result, the archaeology of Lower Nubia (from the First to the Second Nile Cataracts) has been more thoroughly investigated than has any other region of comparable size in the world. However, the earliest surveys, from 1097-11 and from 1929-34, limited themselves almost entirely to the excavation of graves and the recovery of their contents. Consequently, they consistently ignored Christian graves, once it was recognized that they contained no offerings.

This deficiency was somewhat compensated by the work of F. Ll. Griffith of Oxford University, who excavated Christian remains of many kinds in the Faras area in the years 1910-19 (esp. Griffith 1926 and 1927). In the same era surveys of Nubian church architecture were undertaken by Somers Clarke (1912) and G.S. Mileham (1910). However, the title "father of Christian Nubian archaeology" probably belongs most appropriately to Ugo Monneret de Villard, who in the years from 1929 to 1934 compiled an inventory of all recognizable Christian antiquities from Philae to Khartoum (Monneret de Villard 1935; 1957).

The building of the Aswan High Dam brought a flood of renewed salvage archaeology to Lower Nubia in the 1960s, this time much of it conducted by persons who were neither Egyptologists nor museum people primarily interested in objects for display. These scholars gave far more attention to Christian remains than had their predecessors, excavating several important villages, cemeteries, pottery-making sites, and every church that could be identified. Out of this work arose the now generally accepted chronological scheme for medieval Nubian history, as well as typologies of pottery and church architecture, devised by W.Y. Adams. Important also were the extensive studies of church mural art that flowed from the discovery of well preserved murals in several churches.

Archaeological work, in areas not destroyed by flood waters, has continued throughout the years since the High Dam salvage campaign. A new flurry of activity came about at the beginning of the 21st century, when the so-called Merowe Dam was constructed at the Fourth Cataract. This salvage campaign is now also completed, but many of the digs are not yet fully published. Since that time more than a dozen expeditions, from many different countries, remain active every year in Nubia.

Sources: Adams 1977, 71-98 presents a comprehensive summary and discussion of all archaeological work up to 1975. There is no existing overall summary of archaeological work since that date.

(Contributed by William Y. Adams.)