Prof. Dr. Hans-Werner Fischer-Elfert


Dr. Claudia Näser
Jana Helmbold-Doyé

Project Group D: Integration and Absorption, Project D2

An Archaeology of Interaction – Nomadic Groups, Rural Peoples and Egyptian Conquerors in Upper Nubia in the New Empire (1550 to 1070 B.C.)


In the New Empire (approx. 1550 to 1070 B.C.) the Egyptian state again expanded into the southern Nile Valley. In Upper Nubia the empire encountered three ethnic groupings: the nomadic pan-grave culture, the C-grouping, a rural people of little social complexity, and representatives of the Upper Nubian kingdom of Kerma, which had expanded its rule in this territory shortly before the extension of Egyptian control. The interaction within these groupings, as well as between them and the Egyptian conquerors following occupation, represents the subject of project D2.

The starting point of the examination is the archaeological remains of Aniba, which were the subject of research by the Ernst von Sieglin expedition of the Leipzig Egyptology institute in 1912, 1914 and 1931. Aniba was the seat of the Egyptian administration in Upper Nubia and simultaneously a centre for the local peoples. The historical importance of the place corresponds to the complexity of the archaeological evidence. This includes a fortified city, numerous settlements of the C-grouping, extensive burial grounds of the C-grouping and the pan-grave culture, as well as two necropolis with Egyptian characters.

Following the Egyptian occupation the local peoples of Upper Nubia vanished from the archaeological findings within a small number of decades. Taking into account the existent burial grounds with Egyptian characters the research, until now, has explained these findings, in a rather sweeping fashion, as the radical acculturation of the local peoples by the Egyptian conquerors. It has not been acknowledged, however, that such an acculturation represents a consequence, and the manifestation, of the multifaceted interaction between the specific life forms and groupings. In the present study acculturation signifies – according to the working hypothesis – a specific strategy, engaged in by nomadic and rural groupings in relation to transformations in social standing and the relationship to the Egyptian conquerors. This phenomenon represents the first point of the examination.

The second point revolves around the concrete relationships between the various life forms and groupings, especially the exchange of goods and the transfer of technology. The pertinent questions here relate to the modality of the transport of economic and cultural influences and the localisation of sources in the Egyptian mother country.

In the first research period the project will concentrate on Aniba, which has acquired a key position due to its historical importance and the richness of its archaeological remains. A regional expansion is planned to follow within the framework of a pilot study. An important consideration is also that, although the central character of Aniba was based upon micro-geographic conditions, other options also exist – especially in relation to the nomadic peoples – that prove the ecologically determined externally oriented intentional moulding of contact zones.


Prof. Dr. Hans-Werner Fischer-Elfert

Sedentarism and Nomadism as Criteria of Ancient Egyptian Cultural Identity. In: S, Leder / B. Streck (eds.): Shifts and Drifts in Nomad-Sedentary Relations. Wiesbaden 2005 (Nomade und Sesshafte 2), 327-349.

Dr. Claudia Näser

Ethnoarchäologie, Analogie und Nomadismusforschung. Eine Einführung mit einer Fallstudie aus Nordostafrika. In: Mitteilungen des SFB “Differenz und Integration” 8, OWH 17 (2005), 17-42.

Ethnoarchaeology, Analogical Reasoning, the Question of Universals – and the Archaeology of Nomadism. In: S.R. Hauser (ed.): The Visibility of Nomads and Seasonal Occupation in the Archaeological Record. Multidisciplinary Approaches to a Methodological Problem. Wiesbaden (Nomaden und Sesshafte) (forthcoming)

Structures and Realities of Egyptian-Nubian Interactions from the Late Old Kingdom to the Early New Kingdom. In: S.J. Seidlmayer/D. Raue/P. Speiser (eds.): The First Cataract: One Region – Various Perspectives. Proceedings of an International Workshop, 3-5 September 2007, Berlin. (forthcoming)

Nomads at the Nile. Towards an Archaeology of Interaction. In: H. Barnard/K. Duistermaat (eds.): The History of the Peoples of the Eastern Desert from Prehistory to the Present. Proceedings of a Conference at the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo and the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA, 25-27 November 2008. Los Angeles. (forthcoming)