Survey & Excavations

Tombos Excavation

In 2000, Dr. Smith led an archaeological expedition to Tombos in Sudanese Nubia. Smith and his team uncovered the 3500 year old pyramid tomb of an ancient Egyptian colonial administrator named Siamun and his wife Wernu, along with the remains of contemporary burials of middle class Egyptians or Egyptianized Nubians. The mummified colonists were equipped with coffins, Ushabti figurines, scarabs, amulets and earrings of ivory, faience, glass, jasper and carnelian, ebony tubes and applicators for kohl eye-paint, an ebony boomerang for bird hunting, and numerous pots for food offerings, including two extremely rare Mycenean jars. (To see pictures of all of these items and more, visit the Artifacts page.)

2000 Staff: Michele Buzon, (UCSB), J. Cameron Monroe (UCLA), Elizabeth Klarich, Melissa Chatfield, and Claudia Rumold (UCSB), Antiquities Inspector Al-Hassan Ahmed Mohamed.

Additional excavations were carried out in the winter of 2002 and 2005, supported by the National Geographic Society, ISBER at UCSB, and the UCSB Academic Senate. More information on these seasons will be posted here in the future, including more on the New Kingdom colony and the discovery of tombs from the time of the Nubian Dynasty (Egyptian Dynasty 25). For more information on the 2002 season, see Dr. Smith's recent book, Wretched Kush (Publications Page).

In 2010 we carried out excavations directed by Profs. Stuart Tyson Smith and Michele Buzon (Purdue University) and funded by the National Science Foundation (BCS-0917824) the National Geographic Society, and the Schiff-Giorgini Foundation. Excavation targeted areas of the pyramid and tumulus cemeteries that cover the transition between the New Kingdom colony (c. 1500-1000 BC) and the rise of the Napatan Pharaohs (c. 750-650 BC). With continuing support from the National Science Foundation and the Schiff-Giorgini Foundation, we will return in Winter 2011 to follow up on some of our new discoveries.


The UCSB West (Left) Bank Archaeological Survey from el Kab to Mograt

The University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) expedition began work at the fourth cataract with a reconnaissance survey on the right bank of the Nile from el Kab to the end of Mograt Island in November and December 2003. This salvage work was undertaken in co-ordination with the Meroe Dam Archaeological Salvage Project in areas that will be impacted by the new reservoire behind the Merowe Dam. That reservoire is now quickly filling with the completion of the dam (Summer 2008)

Our team consisted of Stuart Tyson Smith, George Herbst, Michele Buzon, and Brian Park. Hassan Mohamed Ahmed, our representative from the NCAM, ably assisted us.

The project was primarily supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (BCS-0341789), with additional resources provided by UCSB.

The entire area of the concession was covered and fifty-one sites were registered. As part of our goals, we wanted to produce a digital map of the archaeological sites that we identified in the area between El Kab and Mograt. We were initially limited by the fact that current topographic maps of our study area were unavailable to us. To overcome this, we relied on the integration of satellite imagery and Global Positioning Systems data in a Geographic Information System-in this case ArcView GIS. We recorded a total of 51 sites. Neolithic and Kerma sites dominate the temporal inventory, accounting for 60% of the sites that could be dated. Meroitic sites were completely absent, and we could identify only a single Post-Meroitic cemetery, although it is likely that some of the undated tumulus cemeteries can be placed this period. Surprisingly, comparatively few Christian and Islamic sites were identified, indicating that the area was more sparsely occupied than the region further downstream, in spite of the existence of saqqia technology that would allow irrigation past the limited floodplain. This may reflect the high riverbanks, rugged terrain and large sand dunes that characterize this reach and continue to limit

From 2006 to 2009, this project entered its excavation phase as a collaborative project between UCSB and Arizona State University, directed by Stuart Tyson Smith, George Herbst (UCSB), and Brenda Baker (ASU). This work is supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (BCS-0647053), the Packard Humanities Institute (07-1391, 07-1424, 08-1472), the UCSB Academic Senate and the Institute for Social, Behavioral and Economic Research at UCSB (ISBER). Results include the discovery of the only settlement sites in the region from the Neolithic and Kerma periods to have stratigraphy and remains of postholes and intact hearths indicating round houses, and the excavation of a large cemetery that includes an important transition from the late Meroitic period, through the Post-Meroitic, and on into the Christian era. ASU is following up in Winter 2009 with a final season of excavation.

Dongola Reach Survey

From 1996-98, a team led by Stuart Tyson Smith conducted intensive reconnaissance surveys in the Dongola Reach along the West Bank of the Nile running 140 km south to Khandaq. Over a hundred sites were visited, building on and extending the earlier survey of Edwards and Osman from 1992 to 1994. Much of this area had never been systematically investigated. Artifacts found during the survey can be seen in the Survey Artifacts page.

1997 Staff: Bruce Beyer Williams (Oriental Institute, University of Chicago), Julie Renée Anderson (Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto), Antiquities Inspector Al Tahir Adam Al Nur.

1998 Staff: Patti Hill Rabbitt (University of California San Diego), Antiquities Inspector Ali Almirghani Mohamed Ahmed



Photo Album

Survey in the Sahara, 1997

From the Dongola Reach survey: Egyptian 5 piaster coin, Islamic glazed ware, and European transfer print ceramic

Pyramid at Tombos

Scarab of Ramses II