Sudan: Archaeologists race to save Nubian history from Nile waters

The TimesBel Trew, Amara West, Sudan
They say the swarms of biting black flies can turn even the calmest men mad when they take over this area of Sudan in the spring. The bugs, however, are just one of the plagues facing British Museum archaeologists at the Amara West dig, 430 miles north of Khartoum. They are also battling scorpions, camel spiders as big as your fist, and crocodiles on the banks of the nearby Nile.

This area may be uncomfortable for the experts working there but it is one of the most exciting frontiers in archaeology. A team of ten is racing to excavate a 3,300-year-old Pharaonic town that is shedding new light on how Egypt’s rulers controlled the Nubian territory that they conquered to the south of their heartlands.

An ivory statue of the Pharaonic god Bes with a Nubian face found at Amara West
An ivory statue of the Pharaonic god Bes with a Nubian face found at Amara West – British Museum

Amara West was the centre of Pharaonic administration between 1300 and 1070BC and as it is excavated the team is able to unearth history and correct assumptions about Nubia.

There was no written form of the Nubian language so for 200 years Egyptologists scrutinised the ancient civilisation through the lens of the damning hieroglyphs of Pharaonic propaganda, in which the Nubians were described as a simple people who needed to be civilised by the advanced dynasties of Egypt.

The latest research at Amara West and other key sites in this area has unveiled the truth, however — the civilisation was sophisticated, and under Egyptian occupation in the 2nd millennium BC there was a blending and borrowing of cultures.

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