تقرير عن التنقيب الآثاري بموقع جبل مويا – الموسم الرابعEducation, Excavation, Gallery, Methodology, Outreach, The site
ترجمه أحمد آدم
This Arabic version of the report was kindly translated by Dr Ahmed Adam. For the English version click here.
إنه الموسم الرابع بالفعل – وقد كان موسمًا جيدًا حقًا. أصبح عملنا الميداني ممكنًا بفضل دعم المعهد البريطاني للدراسات الليبية وشمال إفريقيا.
وقد تمثلت أهدافنا هذا العام في الآتي:
1. تقييم حالة الموقع – حيث نقوم بذلك عند بداية كل موسم
2. مواصلة أعمال الحفريات الآثارية
3. استرداد بقايا الهيكل العظمي التي تم تحديدها في الموسم الماضي
4. تقديم تدريب أولي ومتقدم
5. تمديد برنامج التوعية المجتمعية
في بداية الموسم، قمنا بإجراء مسح آثاري حول الوادي وذلك كي نتحقق من آثار موسم الأمطار الذي يليه موسم الجفاف. حيث يمكن أن يؤدي هذا في كثير من الأحيان إلى الكشف عن الرواسب الأثرية التي تتطلب الانتباه.
تظل منهجية التنقيب دون تغيير والتي تمليها الطبيعة الجيولوجية للموقع. تستند طبقات الموقع إلى أربع طبقات جيولوجية رئيسية (A-D ، بترتيب تنازلي). تمثل هذه الطبقات فترة استيطان مستمرة من أواخر الألفية السادسة قبل الميلاد وحتى حوالي ألفين (2000) عام مضت. لهذا السبب ، نحفر 10 سم لكل طبقة – كل 10 سم تسمى طبقة ويتم ترقيمها وتسجيلها في ورقة منفصلة. هذا يسمح لنا بمعرفة التسلسل الزمني. في كل موسم نقوم بتدريب الطلاب الجامعيين على هذه الأساليب العلمية ويتم تدريب طلاب الدراسات العليا على الإشراف والقيادة.
تم افتتاح خندق الحفر رقم Trench 2 لأول مرة في الموسم الأول وتم الوصول إلى مستويات العصر العصر الحجري الوسيط المتأخر في الموسم الثاني، بينما تم الوصول إلى حجر الأساس(القاعدة) في الموسم الثالث. لا يزال هذا الخندق الأغنى في البقايا الأثرية والنباتية والحيوانية. يتضمن الأول بعضًا من أقدم الأمثلة على الذرة الرفيعة المستأنسة في العالم. في العام الماضي تم التعرف على جدار طيني جاف. وقد تم التأكيد في هذا الموسم على أن هذا الجدار المهم بني في أواخر الألفية السادسة قبل الميلاد. كما اكتشفنا أيضًا أنه يستمر في الخندق 14 المجاور. كما اكتشفنا أيضًا جدارًا ثانيًا من أواخر العصر الحجري الوسيط في الخندق 14.
صورة تظهر الجدارين
من الخندق رقم Trench 14 أزلنا الهيكل العظمي الذي تم اكتشافه خلال الموسم الثالث. كانت هذه فرصة رائعة لتوفير مزيد من التدريب على حفر بقايا الهياكل العظمية. كما كانت عملية حفر صعبة إلى حد ما – لم يكن الرأس موجوداً بينما كانت العظام هشة للغاية. وشملت المقابر قطعة صدف صغيرة وخرزة وثلاث أدوات حجرية صغيرة حول العنق.
لقد قمنا بفتح خندقًا جديدًا للعمل فيه بالرقم Trench 17. كان هذا الخندق غنيًا جدًا ببقايا المواد النباتية، والتي يتم تحليلها في المعمل. تضمنت المكتشفات هنا الجزء السفلي من إناء كبير غير مزخرف. كما تم العثور على عظام بشرية في الجدار الشرقي. تم الحفاظ عليها جميعاً بعناية وسيتم مواصلة التنقيب عنها الموسم المقبل.
وعاء كبير غير مزخرف
هذا العام أطلقنا أيضًا مهرجان جبل مويا التراثي السنوي. وقد قمنا بزيارة أولية للمدارس المحلية ووزعنا نسخًا من كتابنا الجديد الموسوم بـ: قصة جبل مويا. هذا الكتاب متوفر باللغتين الإنجليزية والعربية ويحكي قصة الموقع بناءً على الحفريات التي أجريناها. تفضل الدكتور أحمد آدم بترجمة الكتاب إلى اللغة العربية وسيكون متاحًا على موقعنا الإلكتروني قريبًا. عمل عضو المشروع عز الدين حجاج بجد ونشاط كبير لإقامة مهرجان تراثي رائع ساعده في ذلك كل أعضاء فريق العمل الاثاري وتشرفنا بدعمه من المشروع. انضم إلينا عمدة المنطقة في هذا الحدث وتحدث عن أهمية علم الآثار. لقد تم تكريمنا بصورة كبيرة ومبهرة للغاية من خلال الترحيب الحار الذي وجدناه. كما قام عدد من الشباب بإلقاء قصائد عن تاريخ السودان وتراثه، وشارك الأطفال في الألعاب والفعاليات.
مشاهد من مهرجان التراث
لا يزال جبل مويا موقعًا مثيرًا للاهتمام ورائعًا حقًا. يظهر بحثنا أن قصته قديمة جدًا بالفعل. يقع هذا الجبل المذهل في منطقة مهمة جدًا في السودان. اليوم هي قرية هادئة ، لكنها كانت في الماضي جزءًا من شبكة طرق مزدحمة ومهمة تربط أجزاء مختلفة من السودان. نحن نتطلع بشغف كبير للعمل في الموسم القادم من الحفريات.
The Season 4 ReportEducation, Excavation, Gallery, Methodology, Outreach, The site
The season 4 report is finally here! Click here to read the Arabic version.
It’s season four already – and it’s been a really good season. Our fieldwork is made possible thanks to the support of the British Institute for Libyan and Northern African Studies.
This year our aims were:
- Assess the condition of the site – we do this every season
- Continue excavation
- Retrieve skeletal remains identified last season
- Provide beginner and advanced training
- Extend the outreach programme
At the start of the season, we surveyed the valley. We have to check the effects of the rainy season followed by the dry season. This can often expose archaeological deposits which require attention.
The excavation methodology remains unchanged and is dictated by the geology. The site’s stratigraphy is based on four main geological strata (A-D, in descending order). These strata represent a continuous period of occupation from the late 6th millennium BC down to 2000 years ago. Because of this, we excavate 10 cm at a time – each 10 cm is called a spit and it is numbered and recorded in a separate context sheet. This allows us to figure out the chronology. Each season we train undergraduates in these methods and graduate students are trained in supervising and leadership.
Trench 2 was first opened in Season 1 and Late Mesolithic levels were reached in Season 2, while bedrock was reached in Season 3. This trench remains the richest in archaeological, archaebotanical and faunal remains. The former includes some of the earliest examples of domesticated sorghum in the world. Last year we identified a dried mud wall. This season we confirmed that it was built in the late 6th millennium BC. We also found out that it continues in the adjoining Trench 14. We also identified a second late Mesolithic wall in Trench 14.
The Mesolithic walls
From Trench 14 we removed the skeleton identified during Season 3. This was a great opportunity to provide further training in excavating skeletal remains. This was a rather difficult excavation – the head did not survive and the bones were very fragile. Grave goods included a shell, a bead and three small stone tools around the neck.
We also opened a new trench, Trench 17. This was very rich in plant matter, which is being analyzed in the laboratory. Finds here included the bottom part of a large undecorated pot. We also identified human bones in the eastern wall. These have been carefully preserved and will be excavated next season.
The undecorated vessel
This year we also launched the annual Jebel Moya heritage festival. First, we visited local schools and distributed copies of our new book, The Story of Jebel Moya. This book is available in English and Arabic and tells the story of the site based on our excavations. Dr Ahmed Adam kindly translated the book into Arabic and this will be available on our website very soon. Ezzeldin Hajjaj worked very hard to create a fantastic heritage festival and we were honoured to support him. The Umda joined us for the event and he spoke about the importance of archaeology. We were very honoured by the warm welcome. A number of young adults performed poems about Sudan’s history and heritage and children took part in games and events.
Scenes from the Heritage Festival
Jebel Moya continues to be a really interesting and fantastic site. Our research shows that its story is indeed very ancient. This amazing mountain is located in a very important area of Sudan. Today it is a quiet village, but in the past it was part of a busy and important network of roads that connect different part of Sudan. We are looking forward to the next season of excavations.
On being thorough: The stories told by spoil heapsarchives, Excavation, Henry Wellcome, Site history
As archaeologists we like to be thorough in what we do. Gone are the days of shovels, and the vast majority of us spend many hours carefully doing our jobs, generally while battling heat or rain and sometimes both at once. But no sensible archaeologist believes that we retrieve or keep “everything”. What is everything, anyway?
Henry Wellcome was so focused on being the best at whatever he did that he frequently missed the wood for the trees, or in this case the practicalities of archaeology. On the one hand, he wanted to collect multiples of everything to create a vast museum of humanity. This proved to be impossible, for reasons that were obvious to everyone but him. Equally, he was determined to preserve everything on the field. You might think that this was rather noble of him, but as always the story is much darker.
Whether he was busy with his museum or his dig, he did not much care how the objectives were achieved as long as he got his way. In practice, it meant making life downright impossible for many people. On the field, he instituted a series of punishments for anyone caught throwing away even the most innocuous of body sherds (and he had a series of punishments for all sorts of perceived infractions). The harsher penalties were directed towards the Sudanese workers, not the Europeans and Americans. One might think he was simply trying to be careful, but he happily ignored many of the basic field conventions of the time and his workers brought to light a staggering amount of burials. The aim was to collect as much as possible, driven by ideas of a grand narrative that would change the world and show him as a champion of science and knowledge.
The mega museum of humanity never happened. After his death, plenty of objects were sold off or sent to a number of museums in the U.K. and beyond – yes there was that much material and it was stored in multiple warehouses. The Jebel Moya material was also dispersed. Some of it was outright discarded by Addison and Kirwan while they prepared the site report. Allegedly they discarded body sherds but then a number of decorated sherds turned up in leafy Middlesex. The mystery was solved by Martin Biddle. Turns out they had sent the sherds to be destroyed but an enterprising landscape gardener used them as foundation debris for garden paths.
Going through the Wellcome archives, it is clear that Henry demanded perfectionism from everyone. He also craved ownership over knowledge, whether it relates to pharmaceuticals or archaeology. He went about the latter by essentially throwing money at the project, coupled with a long list of demands. He liked to give the impression that he got his own way, especially on the field. Till now it was clear that he did not always get his own way, albeit nobody dared defy him openly. I wonder what he would have made of Addison and Kirwan’s decision.
This season, though, we realised that people found ways to defy him on the field. It’s funny – reading Oric Bates’ personal diary it’s clear that archaeologists found him very trying. Duncan MacKenzie found it impossible to deal with Wellcome and spent much of his time at Sagadi and Dar el Mek and like many others did not last beyond one season at Jebel Moya. But this year we realised that Wellcome was also defied on the field. We knew where many of the old spoil heaps were located (incidentally folks, please mark these clearly in your own work – future archaeologists will thank you and raise a glass in your honour). But this season a number of them were exposed as a result of rain and erosion. And what did we find? Defiance. That’s what we found.
Here’s one of the old spoil heaps. Note the huge amount of archaeological material – animal bones, pot sherds and much more. The amount of material is staggering. In all honesty, I could not help but smile wryly when I saw it. Part of me is sad at the amount of information that has been lost, particularly when it comes to faunal remains. The more practical part of me selected a number of objects to use in the reference collection and the community museum.
The more time I spend working at Jebel Moya, the more I learn about the Wellcome excavations, Wellcome himself and the history of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. And of course it is impossible to do archaeology in Sudan (and many other places!) without dealing with the British Empire. At a time when there is a growing far right and pro imperialist narrative, I am rather pleased to see that part of the story is told via the spoil heap.
The current expedition is led jointly by archaeologists from UCL, the University of Khartoum and NCAM. It is made possible by the generous support of the British Institute for Libyan and Northern African Studies. More information about their very valuable work can be found here.
Gifts that protectExcavation, Food, Gallery
The Season 4 report is coming soon but today I wanted to talk about a fantastic gift we received while we were working. We were visited by the very lovely Dr Emad and Dr Waled – who are both from nearby Sinnar. Dr Emad has written about Jebel Moya and the need to protect the site (the article in Arabic is here). You can read about his visit on our Facebook page, here.
The next day, Dr Waled sent us some very lovely gifts – including a special gift of lentils. These adas are not just delicious – they also serve a very important purpose. As you cook these lentils, the steam rises towards the sky and offers protection from the devil’s eye. The steam will bring blessings upon us, especially if cooked on a Monday or Friday. We cooked the lentils on Monday and, as is tradition, we shared them with the team and the community.
The lentils were delicious and we did, in fact, have a very successful season. We are really grateful to Dr Waled for such a wonderfully thoughtful gift.
Sudan and MaltaExcavation, Material culture
Sudan and Malta – two countries that on paper could not look more different if they tried. The former refers to an island archipelago, about 316 km2 in total. And then there is Sudan. With an area of 1,886,068 km2, it is the third largest country in Africa. How could they possibly have anything in common? Well, enter the British Empire.
I suppose in an age of short communications we could start and end our story there, but the devil is not just the empire, it is in the details of the empire. I was born in Malta and I now work in Sudan and there are many reasons why both feel like home. Sure, my country of birth is but a speck compared to Sudan. We are both partial to a certain indefinable chaos that you only understand if you’re from a certain part of the world. Our languages are first cousins, we both have a rich heritage and complex histories and we both have a penchant for food, community and a laid-back approach to personal space.
But let’s dig a little deeper. The earliest traces of human activity in Malta date to 5000 BC, in Sudan they are much older of course, with the Singa skull dating to around 131-151,000 years ago. The Singa skull and many of Malta’s early remains (although not the earliest ones) were found by colonial hands and they paid the same level of attention to their retrieval (which is to say none) in both cases. And pieces of our heritage are hidden away in museum storage. We were both a colonial playground. Neither of us particularly wanted to be part of the British Empire and in both cases the empire made itself at home without so much as a by your leave. Of course, technically Sudan was not a colony. And technically, Malta didn’t invite the Brits to stay for a couple of hundred years.
And of course a similar cast of characters appears in both stories, especially when it comes to archaeology. Take Field Marshal Francis Wallace Grenfell. After fighting in South Africa, he went on to take part in the Anglo-Egyptian War in 1882. This is when the British occupied Egypt, in the process fighting Egyptian and Sudanese forces. He then commanded the Battles of Suakin (1888) and Toski (1889) and in 1898 was rewarded with the post of Governor of Malta. Grenfell does not appear to have enjoyed Malta. There is much discourse about how the Brits found the islands impoverished and in desperate need of saving. Of course poverty was rampant – it happens on small islands with restricted resources and a succession of rulers, the last of which before the British was the Order of St John (with a short French interlude before the Brits).
Empire apologists love to talk about philanthropy and how the empire made our lives better. This is largely Victorian propaganda and ignores the swathes of time when the locals were left to their own devices. Grenfell decided to wade into the Language Question debate – a complex part of Maltese history. It can be distilled as a battle for dominance, not in terms of language but power. The empire obviously gunned for English, the existing elite for Italian (for historical and cultural reasons) – and our actual language, Maltese, was only thrown into the mix when it was politically expedient to do so. Remember, Maltese only became recognized as an official language in 1934. Anyway, Grenfell obviously gunned for English and travelled directly to Chamberlain and the Colonial Office to state his case. Ultimately he found the whole thing foolish (because he thought English should be the obvious choice) and when the opposition in Malta refused to pass his education budget, he shut down schools until they gave in.
In 1900 he called on all English “and Maltese” interested in archaeology with the view of establishing a society. Obviously, this was not open to all Maltese. In his memoirs he states that on the island there were a number of objects of interest “which were not properly described and in which sufficient interest was not taken” and he further claimed that this honourable endeavour of his brought the Maltese and English together. This is, of course, nonsense. Plenty of Maltese (and other) scholars had an interest in the archaeology and the British navy had already done its bit to destroy a couple of sites in the name of adventure.
A number of archaeologists have worked in both Malta and Sudan – a sort of colonial conveyor belt. I’ll focus on Leonard Halford Dudley Buxton, who managed to haunt both countries – including Jebel Moya, the site I work on in Sudan. In 1924 he decided to write an “anthropogeographical study” of Malta. Highlights include us having an apparently strong eastern element, megalithic buildings that are too advanced to be Neolithic and point to a closer connection to Africa than any other region and that we are definitely not part of the Hellenic or Roman world. He also argued that we are “Armenoid”, a term coined by Nazi racial theorist Hans F.K. Günther to describe Armenians, Jews, Turks, Greeks… basically anyone not good enough to be Caucasian and part of the Graeco-Roman world (ancient Greeks were fine, apparently – consistency is not a strong point with race ‘science’). Buxton was building on his 1922 ethnological work, in which he spent large amounts of time measuring our skulls and getting nowhere fast. As always, we are not good enough to be Caucasian but we cannot be labelled Negroid. I rather like the fact we gave the Colonial Office many headaches on this front. When it came to Jebel Moya, he really went to town and of course described the ancient Sudanese in horrific terms I do not care to repeat.
In many ways, both Sudan and Malta presented a headache to the empire. There is a lot to say on this but for now I’ll point out that both countries refuse to be pigeon-holed. Sudan is wonderfully diverse and most certainly never wanted to be part of Egypt or the Anglo empire. Sudan is proudly and unashamedly Sudan. I wish Malta had a smidgen of this pride – we appear to continue to struggle with our multi-faceted identity. Are we southern European or North African? We are both and I live in hope that we will finally embrace this. Unlike Sudan, we have not quite shed the burden of colonialism. Mind you, when it comes to archaeology, both of us continue to carry that burden although Sudan is most definitely ahead of the game. I can only hope that we follow our Sudanese cousins in this.
Dating burials at Jebel MoyaExcavation, Henry Wellcome, Methodology, Skeletons
Radiocarbon dates published in our recent paper in Antiquity (open access) show something very interesting. Trench 8 had two burials very close together – you can see the pictures by following the link. There are many such burials on the site, some are on top of each other. So how do we determine the dates?
Let us consider the burials in Trench 8. The head of the first burial was deliberately and carefully placed on a long slab of rock. The second burial cut through the lower half of the first burial. Both bodies were deposited in Stratum C, the third of four identified macro-strata. Each stratum contains materials from different periods – this is why we carefully excavate in 10 cm spits (small layers). It allows us to see what is going on in detail.
The radiocarbon dates are highly interesting. The date for the first burial – the one whose head is on the rock – is approximately 1200 BCE. The date for the second burial is 2000 years ago. This is a very long gap between burials. The first burial coincides with the more northerly Meroitic state (ca 350 BCE – 350 CE). But what is really interesting is what it means for the site. Our work shows:
(1) later burials were cut down into earlier burials and the level of final resting cannot be taken as indicative of age,
(2) we can trace for the first time through direct dating, rather than surmising from grave goods, burial activity ranging from at least 2350 BCE down to 2000 years ago.
This is very important. When Henry Wellcome excavated the site, he did not carefully excavate. He did not attempt to arrive at any dates for the site. The first attempt was done by Frank Addison in 1949, where he hypothesised all the burials were contemporary with the northerly Napatan state (ca 800 – 350 BCE). Later, A.J. Arkell (Institute of Archaeology, UCL) critiqued Addison, which forced Addison to revise his chronology and attribute all the burials to the same time as the Meroitic state. There were no attempts at directly dating the skeletons and subsequent to both gentlemen there were no attempts to radiocarbon date the surviving curated human remains in Cambridge. It is only now with our project that the whole intricate history of the site is being deciphered, from chronology to studying the environment and how people lived over a timespan of more than 5000 years in the valley.
We remain optimistic that we will find earlier burial activity. We have occupational activity all the way back to the late 6th millennium BCE.
Uncovering the complex history of Jebel Moya takes a lot of time and skill. We are so proud of our whole team.
Note: a version in Arabic is currently being prepared.
Why we need to move away from Big NarrativesGenetics, Material culture, Media, Methodology, Skeletons
Today’s post is not about Jebel Moya as such, but a bit about Malta. Malta and Sudan share a number of colonial experiences, including British rule, the exclusion of people from their heritage and the treatment of human remains. A number of archaeologists worked in both Malta and Sudan, for example Leonard Dudley Buxton. I’ve written about him here (Twitter thread). As you’ll read in the thread, his work in Malta was neither scientific nor stellar. His work on Jebel Moya was equally unimpressive and distinctly not stellar (yes, even by the standards of the time).
But that’s by the by. The other thing we have in common is the insistence of scholars to create Big Narratives based on limited data sets. By this I mean writing a Big Universal Story that encompasses a large amount of space across a very long time period. Notable (!) examples include the “Agricultural Revolution” or the “Bantu Expansion”.
Limited data sets are especially prevalent in genetic studies. There are many reasons for this: the work is expensive and time consuming. And very often, there is not sufficient material for analysis. Your bone sample may yield enough for C14, for example, but not for genetic sampling. The paper in question, Ancient Maltese genomes and the genetic geography of Neolithic Europe is one such example. The paper is open access so do have a read, because it’s very interesting. And it is yet another example of using a tiny sample to discuss a vast area. This trend is the result of many factors, including the increased meddling by management in research, ridiculous protocols of measuring a university’s success and funding bodies demanding more. In reality, a data set from an island archipelago is worth publishing in its own right.
The trend to write highlights in addition to an abstract is another ridiculous thing, by the way, and in this case it opens with a banger. Before you even read the summary, you get “Three inbred genomes from Malta, dated around 2500 BC”. Inbred. And this was picked up by the Maltese media, with headlines declaring we used to be inbred and short. I could talk about many things, including the complete absence of science journalism or how the main newspapers in Malta just parrot statements (usually from politicians) as if they are the unalienable truth. But this is an archaeology blog so let’s talk about the archaeology.
If you want to familiarize yourself with Maltese archaeology see here (spoiler: I wrote this). This small island archipelago consists of THREE main islands and smaller ones; Malta is the largest and Gozo (Għawdex to us) is significantly smaller. The archipelago has an extraordinary prehistory that is most visible via megalithic buildings, often called temples, and present on both Malta and Gozo (bear this in mind). These form only one part of our prehistory, but they are the most visible and as such the most known. There’s more to say about this, but this is not the place. Because these are so visible and so substantially different from the things you find in nearby countries, there is this narrative of “uniqueness” and “isolation”. It goes: the island is too small for so many ‘temples’, no one else is doing this, not even Sicily, so people must have been so isolated from everyone else”. If you’re thinking this is steeped in colonialism, you are correct. For one thing, it doesn’t take into account how people view distance or what counts as “too many”.
This narrative persists and goes unchallenged by some archaeologists and geneticists. At some point, geneticists need to independently try to understand the archaeology before writing big narratives. But what about this paper in particular? The genetic work is, in itself, perfectly fine and indeed laudable. But the narrative is grounded in this problematic Big Narrative of Extrapolation. So to begin with, the paper notes that there are two main routes of Neolithic dispersal in Europe. This is based on a number of works (all cited in paper) which, in turn, have varying sizes of data sets. So this big narrative is by no means set in stone. In any case, the argument goes that the first route came from the Balkans into Central Europe (the LBK culture) and there was a lot of genetic exchange back and forth. The second was along the Mediterranean coast and this produced a degree of genetic insularity. The latter narrative is even more tenuous and based on a data set that leaves much to be desired. Yet, it is chosen as the basis for the argument.
The site under discussion, the Xagħra Circle, is an incredible burial Neolithic burial site that was in use over a long period of time. It also yielded a large number of individuals and overall, it’s a really exciting site. It reminds me a lot of Jebel Moya, although alas most of our burials were hacked away by Wellcome’s team. The Xagħra burials are the result of careful excavation. Like other Maltese prehistoric sites, this was used over a long period of time. The paper discusses DNA from only three individuals, one dated to 2900 BC and the other two to 2500 BC – the site was active for longer than that.
The problem has to do with conclusions. From a mere 3 individuals they conclude that the Xagħra Circle population was never larger than c 400 people at any one time. Maybe, maybe not – the skeletal record provides a much better insight on this. ONE of the 3 individuals is believed to be the result of both genetic insularity and inbreeding – these markers were not detected in the other two examples. So why is this the lead for the paper? This problem of applying broad brush strokes will be very familiar to anyone working on the African continent.
Now, the earliest phases of occupation on the Maltese Islands require further work but the archaeology points to a population arriving from Sicily and southern Italy. This is acknowledged by the paper. But the 3 sampled remains are framed in terms of genetic drift, i.e. from people arriving c 3000 years previously. This is then taken as evidence of isolation. More confusingly, the paper claims that unlike Sardinia, Gozo does not present any genetic hunter-gatherer admixture. Now, this work is fairly problematic and ignores the complexities of Sardinian archaeology. It too is the result of a grand narrative. The lack of hunter-gatherer admixture in Gozo cannot be taken as evidence of shielding and isolation.
And somehow, the argument is pushed further, citing “unique” building methods found only in Gozo. That may be (it’s debated) but it does not automatically result in genetic isolation. Indeed, there are many differences across sites on both Malta and Gozo (you can poke around my Research Gate profile if you are after papers, including why using “obese” figurines as illustrative of genetic markers for obesity is not a good idea. The figurine repertoire is wonderfully complex, the “obese” figurines are deliberately neither male nor female).
DNA sequencing on Sudanese remains is still fairly new, but not unknown of course. This 2021 paper is a major advancement and uses a good sample size over a reasonable period. From our end, we have had trouble finding enough genetic material because of the very arid conditions. Yet, using grand narratives at the expense of archaeology will be familiar to many. For example, we are about as far away from the Meroitic State as you can get and still some scholars insist that Jebel Moya is a Meroitic site (spoiler: it most certainly isn’t, it’s much more fun than that). I find this Meroe-mania very much reminiscent of narratives of isolation on the Maltese Islands – both are inherently wrong, both ignore archaeology and both persist because they keep being perpetuated in scientific and popular discourse.
There are other things shared by Malta and Sudan, despite the vast difference in size, and working in both places really hammers home the point that Big Narratives are harmful. They ignore the complexities of archaeology, and, by extension, of the people we aim to study. Should we use very rich data sets across a region? Absolutely! But these Big Narratives that hinge on small samples are ultimately rooted in colonialism and they erase context (and people!).
Doubtless, someone will coin the term “microarchaeology” when making a case for focusing on context but really and truly, it is just archaeology and we should not forget that.
2022 season report (Arabic version)Excavation, Guest Post, Methodology, The site
Guest post: Ezzeldine Hajjaj, one of our team members, kindly translated this report into Arabic.
رغم كل الصعاب ، تمكنا من مواصلة عملنا الميداني في عام 2022. ويا له من موسم رائع! هذا العام كان لدينا اعضاء من الفريق القديم وأعضاء جدد وانضم إلينا أيضًا المفتش عبد الحي من الهيئة العامة للآثار والمتاحف.
ركزنا في هذا الموسم على الطبقات من الألفية الأولى قبل الميلاد والعصر الحجري الحديث، وقد حصلنا على أكبر عدد من البقايا الحيوانية من جميع مواسم العمل. كما تم العثور على بقاية رفات بشرية والتي تم فحصها من قبل الدكتور إيونا.
هنا حيث قمنا بتخطيط مربعات الحفرية
هذا الموسم وصلنا أخيرًا إلى الطبقة السفلية والتي تشكل الطبقة الأساسية في المربع(2) ، والذي يقدم أول تسلسل أثري كامل في السودان جنوب منطقة الخدي في النيل الأبيض. في الجدار الشرقي وتحت طبقة رقيقة من التربة وجدنا الجزء العلوي من جمجمة بشرية على ارتفاع 10 سم فوق الطبقة الأساسية و 135 سم من الجدار الشمالي،ويعد هذا أعمق هيكل عظمي تم التنقيب عنه حتى الآن بواسطة البعثة ، ولكن ما إذا كان يعود هذا الهيكل إلى أواخر العصر الحجري الحديث أو تم حفره في الرواسب من العصر الحجري الحديث ، فسيتم تحديده من خلال التأريخ بالكربون المشع، وعليه تم اتخاذ قرار بمد المربع شرقا وهذا الامتداد يسمى الآن مربع(14).
أنواع الفخار في المربع 14 تتماشى مع الطبقات الجيولوجية: مجموعة القطع الأثرية المختلفة التي وجدت مرتبطة ببعضها البعض 3 للطبقة B ، و مجموعة القطع الأثرية المختلفة التي وجدت مرتبطة ببعضها البعض2 للطبقة C ، و مجموعة القطع الأثرية المختلفة التي وجدت مرتبطة ببعضها البعض 1 للطبقة D، 23 سم من الجدار الشمالي مثل حجر طحن صغير وفخار وعظام حيوانية.
توجد اكتشافات أكثر ثراءً ابتداء من الطبقة 6 فصاعدًا. أسفرت الطبقة 6 عن فخار وعظام حيوانية وأصداف، ومدقة ومطرقة وأزمة شفاه. احتوت الطبقة 7 على فخار وفحم وأصداف وأزمة شفاه وقطع فخارية كبيرة. كما تم العثور أيضًا على قطعة حجر دائري الشكل من صنع الإنسان يرتكز على قاعدة الطبقة 6 ، مع قطع فخار كبيرة الحجم تستقر فوق الدائرة التي تمتد شمالًا إلى جدار المربع الشمالي. تم العثور على تمثال صغير مصنوع من الفخار في الطبقة 8 لم يتم دراسته بعد. يظهر الجزء السفلي من الطبقة 11 القطع لحفرة الدفن – هذا قيد الدراسة حاليًا ، لذا سيكون هنالك المزيد من المعلومات حول هذا عند الإنتهاء من الدراسة.
تم حفر المزيد من الرفات البشرية في الموقع ، بما في ذلك البقايا التي تم انتشالها من الوادي بالقرب من مربع (2). كشف نشاط التعرية هذا الموسم عن جمجمة بشرية مغروسة في الطبقة C في جانب الوادي. تم رفع هذه الجمجمة بعناية، كما تم العثور على عظام ساق طويلة ، ولكن لم يتم العثور على بقايا بشرية أخرى. تم العثور على بقايا هيكل عظمي آخر من المربع 12 وكان المربع16 يحتوي على رواسب من عظام الحيوانات مثيرة للاهتمام للغاية. في الوقت الحالي نعمل على جميع العينات التي تم جمعها في هذا الموسم – لذلك سنشارككم بمزيد من المعلومات عندما تكون متاحة.
في هذا الموسم ، لعب جميع أعضاء الفريق دورًا حيويا في العمل المجتمعي، بفضل ريان ، جاء عدد من النساء للتحدث إلينا عن حفريات هنري ويلكوم. لا يزال عدد مذهل من الأشياء من مخيم هنري ويلكم موجودا في القرية معظمها عبارة عن أدوات ، على سبيل المثال أواني الشاي. وقد تم تسجيلها وتصويرها وإعادتها إلى أصحابها. انضم عدد من الأشخاص للمساعدة في عملية تجهيز وفصل البقايا النباتية عن التربة عن طريق تقليب خليط الماء لدراستها معمليا لاحقا أو مايعرف بعملية (التعويم ) بقيادة مصعب. أثبت عزالدين و بكري أنهما وسيلة اتصال ممتازة – في الواقع ، يجب على فريق العمل تحمل الصعاب لان المشروع يستحق الجهد.
بالطبع لقد كان وقتًا عصيبًا على الجميع ونحن نقر بأن الوضع السياسي في السودان لا يزال صعبا،إذ لم ينته الوباء ولا يزال عدم المساواة في أخذ اللقاحات مصدر قلق. ومما يجدر ذكره أن المشروع استمر بمباركة شركائنا السودانيين ونحن ممتنون لهم ولسكان جبل مويا بعمق.
Community OutreachEducation, Gallery, Outreach, Social, The site
This season’s outreach deserves its own post, largely because our team members Ezzu and Bkry did such a great job.
Ezzu joined us with a wealth of experience in setting up community museums and as a result we are expanding our outreach. Bkry is not just an archaeologist – he is also a teacher and a journalist and these skills have proven to be extremely useful. First up, here’s our team (as always, I hide behind the camera). It’s the beginning of the day, which explains why we are (relatively) clean. From left to right we have Abdelhai, Ahmed, Bkry, Mike, Musab, Ezzu and Rayan.
Abdul returned to the site. This year he joined us in digging, sieving and looking for burials. He has a keen eye and a really good hand for excavation.
Once we settled down, we spent afternoons talking to people. Bkry and Ezzu took the lead, aided by Musab, and they were fantastic.
Everyone came to see what’s up – at one point these guys had really large crowds! The Neem tree became our regular meeting point.
And Bkry, being the brilliant teacher that he is, gathered all the children and he combined teaching English with talking about heritage. He was absolutely brilliant – and as you can see it’s not just the children who paid attention.
Our days are long, really long, and involve a lot of physical labour. After a long day of digging, we barely had time to rest before we had to deal with the usual post excavation and all our other activities. But outreach has to be an essential part of any project – this is not to say we have any funding for it. In fact, this was funded by personal funds and the free labour of our team. We are deeply grateful to them, but at the same time we really need to think beyond immediate research. I shall save those thoughts for another time – for now, please join me in thanking our team.