International Kurru Archaeological Project — Fieldwork Friday #4

End of the season and some results!

desert landscape with pyramids
Sun setting across the desert landscape from the top of Jebel Barkal, with the pyramids in the midground.

15 February 2019

By Gregory Tucker

I was hoping to submit this last blog post on my time in Sudan, sharing some of our results, as I left the country on 21 December 2018, but unfortunately some rather significant events occurred and I had to leave the country early. On the 19th and 20th of December, protests erupted across the country with various motives that I will not focus on in this post, but I encourage you to read up about these events here and here. I was on my way to Khartoum during this period and while there I was advised to stay in the hotel and to leave the country on the earliest flight possible. In the end, I had no trouble at all leaving Sudan and saw no signs of the protests or their aftermath on the streets from the hotel to the airport, and I was very glad to arrive safely back home to news from my Sudanese friends and colleagues that they were all safe and in good health. Since I left, other research projects have continued to visit Sudan, such as the Uronarti Regional Archaeology Project, although the protests have continued off and on. These protests have recently resumed after a period of relative calm and I hope that the Michigan team now in Sudan stays safe and out of trouble!

magnetometry results
The results of our survey work in December 2018 as part of the University of Michigan-led project!

In the image above, you can see the results of this season of geophysical survey and how it relates to the large Temple of Amun, visible in the left center of the image, and to the palm line to the lower right. This season of geophysics at Jebel Barkal was successful in defining a large number of archaeological features of interest, some of which are being investigated more intensively right now by other members of the project team on site. One of these is shown in more detail in the figure below, which zooms in on the center of the larger area of gray results in the larger image. What is most significant are the straight lines and right angles formed by the lighter and darker pixels, which reflect differing magnetic readings across the surface.

aerial view of magnetometry results
Results from the center of the survey area, showing rectilinear anomalies that likely define a buried structure, not visible on the surface.

More detailed results and analysis of this survey season will be published after thorough analysis, interpretation, and comparison with the excavation results. It was a fantastic field season, even with the hot weather at the beginning and the other obstacles we encountered. At times I didn’t think that we would complete everything we set out to do, but in the end we did even more than we targeted — a rare event in my experience!

selfie with archaeological ruins in background
A final selfie over the site from the top of Jebel Barkal, including the Temple of Amun in the foreground and the main survey area in the near distance to the upper left of the image.

Many thanks are due to the many people who made this fieldwork possible. First of all, I want to thank my assistants in the field, Bakri Abdelmonim and Abdelbaqi Salaheddin Mohamend, who I have worked with now for many years and whose experience and expertise make my job significantly easier. Thanks also to Sami Elamin, our NCAM (National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums of Sudan) inspector, who helped me to organize work on site as well as my day-to-day life while in Sudan, and who invited me to many social events in El Kurru and nearby towns and cities, including me as much as possible in the life of the region. Many thanks to everyone in El Kurru who welcomed me during the month of fieldwork and have always welcomed me — it feels like a home away from home when I am there. I would like to also thank our project’s overall director, Geoff Emberling (University of Michigan), for supporting my work from the very start. Hopefully we’ll make many more discoveries together. Finally, the greatest of thanks are due to Larry and Julie Bernstein for the financial support that made this work possible, we could not have done it without your generosity.

Camels on a road
Camels on the highway on the trip back to Khartoum.

Ugly Object of the Month — February 2019

By Suzanne Davis, Curator of Conservation

Guess what, everyone?! We have a new exhibition going up right now: Ancient Color. Co-curated by my conservation compatriot Carrie Roberts, it features one her favorite Egyptian gods. Yes, you guessed it, HARPOCRATES RETURNS!

If you read this blog series with any regularity you will know that Carrie has a thing for Harpocrates. And it’s not because he’s really, really good-looking. Although when you know a little bit about him, you’d think he would be. Son of Isis (who we all know is gorgeous) and Horus (not bad if you’re into birds), he symbolizes the newborn sun (nice, right?). He also has magical healing and protective powers, exerted especially on behalf of women and children. This all sounds pretty great, and yet if you wanted a figurine of this god for your house (who wouldn’t?), it would look like this:

terracotta figurine of harpocrates
Painted terracotta figurine of Harpocrates. Egypt, 2nd century CE. Height 21.3 cm. KM 6947.

Yes, obviously this has seen better days. But imagine it with all the paint still on it! It would be very colorful, but would you really want to look at it every day? I know I wouldn’t, but figurines like this were very popular in Roman Egypt.

Carrie likes this figurine because she is crazy for ancient paint. But I’m not going to tell you about the traces of paint on this little guy, because that would spoil your Ancient Color exhibition experience.

I like this figurine for a different reason: it makes me contemplate two different but equally intriguing possibilities. One: that my decorative taste is very different from that of the typical Roman Egyptian. Would I have hated their interior decorating schemes? I feel like I would have, but I like to imagine what they’d have looked like, all the same. Two: that figurines like this — which were mass-produced by pressing clay into molds, firing the figurines, and then slapping on some paint (I have never seen one of these that was carefully painted) — were meaningful regardless of how they looked. The magical powers of this figurine are not dependent on beauty, in other words. Harpocrates can be messily made and slapdashily painted, and still heal your snake bites. He doesn’t have to look good to take care of business.

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Learn more about this figurine by visiting the Kelsey’s new exhibition Ancient Color, here in Ann Arbor beginning February 8, or anytime online.

 

 

 

 

From the Archives #38 — January 2019

By Sebastián Encina

Researchers from around the world often visit the Kelsey Museum, or seek out its holdings, in order to learn more about the ancient world. The archives of the Kelsey have detailed information about sites where Michigan has excavated, the artifacts discovered there, and the general timeline of occupation of the site. With new research, even legacy information plays a vital role.

For modern researchers, the archives provide a secondary benefit: learning what life was like for the excavators. Who were the they working with? Who did they hire? What were the logistics of the excavation? Where did they get their food? What visitors came through the site? Scholars ask these questions not only for curiosity’s sake, but also to recreate the circumstances under which project directors worked. Often, the researchers are working or leading a project in the same area, and are interested in seeing the similarities and differences.

The journals found in the Kelsey Archives provide an even closer look at the people behind the excavation directorship. Not only what work was occurring, but also who they visited with, who they corresponded with, what they did on their way to and from the site. For example, we have the journal that dig director Clark Hopkins kept at Seleucia on the Tigris in October–December 1936, with notes about his experiences while overseas. Reading it, we can see that he spent time at the Museum of Aleppo, where he encountered a statue of Brahma. He took notes on artifacts on display at the Palmyra Museum. There is even a detailed account of expenses he incurred while traveling, including food purchased for a train journey, nights stayed in Palmyra, and tea. He even begins the journal by noting what he plans to look for at the site when it rains (“walls of palace, theatre, walls + canal sides, etc.”).

Every once in a while, we are treated to even more amusing entries. For this month’s “From the Archives,” we present a single page from Hopkins’ October–December 1936 journal. Though much of the journal discusses work happening at the site, as well as Hopkins’ work and travels, we weren’t expecting to find this:

recipe for rice
On the right-hand page, a recipe for cooking rice, from the Seleucia journal of Clark Hopkins, 1936.

Friday Dec 18

Captain + Mrs. Modin [sp?], Mrs. Mitchell, Mr. Lampard + party visited us for lunch.
No special finds.

Recipe for cooking rice.
Brown slightly in butter.
Cook over slow fire to 2 cups of water to one cup of rice until water disappears + little holes appear in the rice.
Take off fire + cover w. napkin, the napkin touching the rice to dry it.
Better still use chicken broth instead of water to give flavor to the rice.

Being able to cook a basic meal of rice is important, and we are happy Hopkins found a recipe he could use. It is still a welcome surprise to find when researching the finds of Seleucia, the architecture and the temples.

As one reads through any archive, they will undoubtedly find surprises. This will likely not be the last time we find a recipe from long ago in the Kelsey Archives, nor will it be the last random non-archaeological thing we encounter. This makes our work all the more exciting. We never know what we will read next.

 

 

News from the Conservation Lab — Conservation at the Abydos Middle Cemetery

By Suzanne Davis, Curator of Conservation

Happy New Year! My January has gotten off to a good start, because I spent most of December working at the beautiful site of Abydos, Egypt. Abydos is an ancient Egyptian royal cemetery site, and the Kelsey has a field research project there, directed by museum curator Janet Richards. We have a number of special conservation projects at Abydos, and the one I’m most closely involved with focuses on preservation of painted wood artifacts at the site. When they’re excavated, these objects are in truly terrible condition (rotten wood that’s chewed by termites, with bits of paint raining off into piles in the sand), and then the conservation team is responsible for putting them back together, taking care of them, and studying them along with the rest of the research team. It is interesting work, but my favorite thing about work at Abydos isn’t the work, it’s the people I work with.

Although the entire team is great, I’ll specifically call out the conservation colleagues I worked with this year (after all, this is a conservation blog post) — Hamada Sadek and Eman Zidan.

Selfie of three people at airport
Left to right: Suzanne Davis, Hamada Sadek, and Eman Zidan, arriving at the Sohag airport for work at Abydos.

Hamada is a professor of conservation at Fayoum University. He is an incredibly thoughtful and careful conservator. He’s practical and good at bench treatment, but he also does research and publishes, AND he really likes teaching. He is a lot more patient than I am. Our in-lab dialogue is usually like this:

Me: Let’s get this thing done right now!
Hamada: GAH! Slow down! Did you even look at this, Suzanne??

Eman Zidan has worked in conservation and heritage preservation for both the Egyptian Museum and the Ministry of Antiquities in Egypt, and she’s currently taking some time off so she can finish her master’s degree in preventive conservation. This is her career mission — facilitating and improving care of archaeological collections throughout Egypt, including at places like Abydos. This is an area where I often feel overwhelmed and paralyzed by the scope of the work, but Eman is calm and able to plan for things like termite infestations and pest control (think snakes) in storage areas.

Although I appreciate Eman and Hamada for their unique contributions to the conservation program at Abydos, for me personally they have also been important peer-mentors. I’m especially grateful to the American Research Center in Egypt, whose generous funding has given me the chance to work with them. Thanks, ARCE!

Don’t miss the deadline to enter the 2018–2019 Jackier Prize Competition!

The deadline to enter the 2018–2019 Jackier Prize Competition is fast approaching!

Are you a U-M undergraduate interested in archaeology, ancient history, or museum studies? Do you fancy a little extra pocket money? If you answered “yes” to both these questions, consider entering the Jackier Prize Essay Competition!

What is the Jackier Prize Competition?

Every object has a story to tell about the people who made it and those who used it or gave it value. The Jackier Prize Competition provides an opportunity for U-M undergraduates to explore and discover the stories behind the objects at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. The competition is open to any undergraduate from any discipline at U-M. The essays that best demonstrate excellence in archaeological research will be awarded a cash prize, made possible by the generous donation of U-M alumnus Lawrence Jackier and his wife Eleanor.

How can I enter the contest?

Submit a five- to ten-page essay that examines an object or objects in the Kelsey Museum. This can be a paper you have already written for a class or one written specifically for this contest. You may choose an object on display or one from collections storage. The subject matter of the essay may vary, but the essay needs to reflect careful research.

Submissions are due by 8 a.m., Monday, January 28th. Up to five winners will announced in mid-February 2019.

The Jackier Prize will be presented to the winners at a ceremony in early April 2019. Each winner will also receive a collection of Kelsey Museum publications and will have the opportunity to participate in the creation of a museum exhibit featuring the objects written about in the winning essays.

Ready to submit your essay?

Submit your essay via email to Jackier.Prize2019@umich.eduOn the first page of the essay, please provide the title of the essay, a picture(s) of the object(s) discussed in the essay, and your name and email address. You will receive an email within 48 hours confirming that the essay was successfully submitted.

Need more information? Get the full submission details here.

Good Luck!!

From the Archives 37 — January 2019

By Sebastián Encina, Collections Manager

Recently, the University of Michigan announced it had made an offer to purchase the property currently owned and operated by the Fingerle Lumber Company. This expansion will increase U-M’s Ann Arbor land holdings by 6.54 acres. At this time, the university has not announced what it plans to do with the property.

Over the years, U-M’s presence in Ann Arbor has expanded well beyond central campus. As the needs of the university and its students, staff, and faculty continue to expand, so too does the need for space. The Bentley Historical Library owns original maps of the university showing a very modest beginning, with a few buildings on what is now central campus, including the President’s House and a few other structures.

For this month’s “From the Archives,” we present this gem showing the U-M campus from 1914: the Index to University of Michigan Property Maps. The map highlights U-M property in the darker blocks, from which we can see locations we recognize from U-M campus now in 2019. We see central campus, or just “Campus.” Other blocks are also named, such as the Botanical Gardens, General Hospital, Ferry Field, and Palmer Field.

Though not named, we can also see a small block across from Campus, between State Street and Maynard, the future home of the Kelsey Museum. At this point, the property was not yet a museum.

map of university of michigan
“Index to University of Michigan Property Maps, Ann Arbor Mich., Sept. 1914.” Glass slide, photograph by George R. Swain. Kelsey Museum GL00788.

Around this same time, in 1914, Francis Kelsey hired a photographer named George R. Swain to photograph archaeological sites and artifacts in Europe and North Africa. Swain remained with the university until his death in 1947. After his visits to places such as Karanis, Carthage, and Pisidian Antioch, Swain dedicated his time at the university working for the Library, making copy prints and slides for use by professors and students. This glass slide was likely produced by Swain well after 1914. The reason is unknown; perhaps it was presented as an interesting find from the archives, much the same way we present it today.

Over 100 years after this map was created, the campus of U-M is vastly different, and it continues to change with each passing year. By 2114, a map of campus will undoubtedly look even more foreign to us. Students and archivists looking back on our current maps will see spots familiar to them, but still so foreign. Even a map produced today would would look very different from one produced in just a few months, given the news of Fingerle.

The archives provide for us a snapshot at a certain time period in both the Kelsey’s history as well as that of the university. Though constantly changing, we can see the progression of both, and how nothing remains static. In 100 years, a future Kelsey archivist may present this same image in the same manner we do now, showcasing the humble beginnings of the university and how much progress has been made since.

Ugly Object of the Month — January 2019

By Caroline Roberts, Conservator

We’re kicking off the New Year with what I wager will be a top contender for the 2019 Ugly Object of the Year. This Etruscan (likely votive) bronze statuette from the late 4th–early 2nd century BCE was cast from a mold, so there were probably a number of them in circulation around that time. Can you identify the figure? Hint: what he lacks in musculature he makes up for in telltale attributes, such as the lion’s pelt draped over his left arm.

bronze statuette
Front and back views of a bronze statuette of Herakles. Etruria, Italy, late 4th-early 2nd century BCE. H. 8.5 cm. KM 91834.

That’s right folks — this is none other than Herakles, son of Zeus, paragon of strength and masculinity. I love this particular rendering of Herakles for a number of reasons. First, it reminds me of a certain stop-motion animated character so much that I find myself wanting to call it Gumby Herakles (which I promise I won’t). Second, it flies in the face of hyper-masculine depictions we so often see of Herakles. It’s got a lithe stylization no doubt typical of the time and place it was made but which I find kind of cool and modern. Third, it makes me think about the person who purchased and offered the votive statuette in the hope of achieving some particular outcome. Did this little Herakles work his magic for this individual? I’d like to think so.

Come see Herakles and his companion statuettes in the Etruscan and Southern Italy case, on the first floor of the Kelsey Museum’s Upjohn Exhibit wing.