The Swiss-Franco-Sudanese Mission of Kerma-Dukki Gel
(Northern State, Sudan)
The Swiss-Franco-Sudanese joint mission began on 26 November 2017 and ended on 9 February 2018. The fieldwork took place from 4 December 2017 until 5 February 2018. Raïs Gad Abdallah, Saleh Melieh, Abdelrazek Omer Nuri and Idriss Osman Idriss have supervised 80 workmen and 20 specialists. Some 100,000 mudbricks were made for restoration works on the remains. Thanks to the help of inspector Abd el-Megid Mahmud, we could buy the northern parcel (next to the government site) on behalf of the Antiquities Service. A wall of galous was erected around this new protected area. This situation improves the archaeological ensemble, which becomes more important, with more than two additional hectares. Fourteen researchers and technicians from different countries took part in the study programme.
Members of the Mission.
|Prof. Charles Bonnet||co-director|
|Prof. Dominique Valbelle||project director|
|Dr. Séverine Marchi||co-director|
|Jean-Michel Willot||curator of patrimony|
|Philippe Ruffieux||Ph.D. candidate, ceramicist|
|Dr. Pierre Meyrat||egyptologist|
|Marion Berti||excavation technician|
|Orianne Dewitte||excavation technician|
|Emanuel Laroze||architect, CNRS|
|Imogen Coulson||student, Cambridge University|
We benefitted from the support and collaboration of Dr. Abd el-Rahman Ali Mohamed, director of NCAM and member of the board of the mission.
Report on the excavation of Dukki Gel
When Thutmose I entered the heart of the Kingdom of Kush with his armies, he discovered a large city with a complex urbanization. The urban centre was protected by a first precinct some 6 m thick, with double towers erected over the gates. Huge monuments surround the urban core, and a second precinct increases the protected area in a powerful fortification with connected bastions. Further away, lines of large towers of important diameter will make this city impregnable. The king and his Egyptian architects will have to organize the cohabitation with the local agglomeration by means of a menenu, a fortified pharaonic institution established in this case in conquered territory. This season, we could understand the organization of a foreign city by the strategists from Egypt. The acquisition of the neighbouring northern parcel has given a new impulse to our researches, which bring the proof of the huge area taken over by the local persons in charge or by populations from central Sudan in the Antiquity.
There are two main ways to enter the ancient city of Dukki Gel on the northern side. They start at least 200 m away from the center, and are characterized by pathways paved in bricks and protected by walls. One, to the west, leads to a religious complex where circular monuments are rebuilt many times on the same spot. In the urban core, an important cult place was important enough to be equipped with a bronze workshop. The Egyptians certainly destroyed the central temple so as to build a group of three temples. However, they accept the other places of worship, which will stay on the outskirts until the Meroitic period. On these access ways were found oval or circular entrance vestibules where one could wait for admittance or display goods for sale. The Egyptians will replace these huge buildings by gates equipped with outer gates covering a vast area. The north-western gate was erected in two oval towers, partly following the profile of the former entrances of the vestibules. In the outer gate, a ceremonial aisle is built during the reign of Thutmose I, and this way turns in the eastern oval tower. It then goes further with a pathway some 12,50 m large with thick side walls and porticoes on both sides of the way. This ceremonial aisle would reach the northern gate to enable an easy access toward the main Egyptian temple. The study of the aisle linking the two gates enabled some useful observations. One must also observe that the gate enabled circulations towards the temple of Amun, whereas the axial passage towards the African places of worship is slightly off and becomes secondary.
The ceremonial aisle mentioned is destroyed by a coalition of three war chieftains mentioned in the rock-cut stela of Thutmose II near Aswan. The menenu was razed, and rebuilt soon afterwards. The symbolic importance of this aisle seems clear.
A second fortified precinct
Since the time of the African city, Doukki Gel was equipped with an impressive defence system, as indicated by a second precinct with bastions on each side of a very thick wall. One of the gates in the continuation of an ancient dromos is preserved. The western tower shows a circular plan (12 m in diameter) strengthened by small bastions. Inside the circle are established alignments of mud bricks placed at intervals of 1.5 m. They show a large cross, one side of which is extended within the precinct wall. The military front is extended until the stratigraphy studied some 50 m to the west, where this level is more or less dated by sherds of the Middle Kerma and Classic Kerma.
As already observed, the transformations of the New Kingdom display a remarkable continuity. Thus, a second precinct and a central gate in the continuation of the dromos are established to the south of the African precinct. The wall displays connected bastions and the gate shows four bastions of large dimensions, like the entrance of the first precinct. An intermediate front is thus added ahead, probably in the period during which the coalition took over power. Then, a last front might be erected during the reign of Thutmose II and Hatshepsut.
The northern religious complex
Two circular temples were partly studied to the north during the previous field season. The one to the west was cleared over a depth of 0.20 m, revealing a new plan: the sanctuary with a circular base and two stands on both sides of a central door show its organization. The second plan was mainly obtained with mud-brick walls, and shows features very close to the first one. In the central temple, the clearing is ongoing under the remains of the wooden monument. A thick layer of clear sand goes deeper. The presence of numerous fragments of bricks and bottoms of qadus suggest the existence of a saqia.
The location of the third circular building was also cleared. Over the remains of two circular buildings slightly misaligned are preserved the remains of a quadrangular building taking one of the round temples into account. It shows two elongated rooms, the roofing of which was supported by columns made of mud-bricks. To the north of the two rooms, the walls display rectangular layouts on which one could see circular bases. Small mastabas are found against the lateral and longitudinal sides.
Considering the examples of buildings found at Deir el-Medineh, one could interpret this curious monument like a double room for religious gatherings. In the current state of our research, one must consider that it was built in the Meroitic period.
Once again, the site of Dukki Gel surprizes us by its archaeological richness. The stratigraphic tests carried out in the parcel acquired this year seems to indicate that deeper layers could be dated to around 2000 BC. One must also consider that local fortifications have their own architectural peculiarities, but the influence of the Egyptian forts of the second cataract is certain. The military works are so huge, and the Egyptian answer after the conquest only confirms the fears which must have been inspired by the Kerma/Dukki Gel stronghold.
Achievement of the manuscript of “Les temples égyptiens de Panébès (le jujubier) à Doukki Gel/Kerma”
Dominique Valbelle has done the last complements necessary to the manuscript of the publication of the Egyptian temples on the site of Dukki Gel, which will be sent to the publisher in February.
La ville de Kerma II. Étude du mobilier archéologique
Séverine Marchi has finished the controls on the archaeological material from the town of Kerma, stored in the magazine or shown in Kerma Museum in order to prepare the second volume about the city.
Study of the pottery
Philippe Ruffieux is finishing the writing of his thesis entitled « La céramique du Nouvel Empire à Doukki Gel - Kerma (Soudan) », which he shall defend before the end of 2018. He also studied the ceramic discovered this season in the excavation of the northern part of the concession.
Sealings and seal impressions
During the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 seasons, a large number of fragmentary sealings with different seal impressions of the New Kingdom had been found in a deposit excavated to the north of the eastern Egyptian temple and carefully stored in two boxes. This season, a first assessment of the material was carried out, which enabled to identify two main groups of sealings, i.e. small impressions of scarabs and much larger impressions of bigger stamps. If jar stoppers are well represented, some of the larger sealings show the negative imprint of flat surfaces or small bars on their verso, the interpretation of which will need further consideration. So far, four joins could be found, enabling to better understand some of the fragments, and a first large stamp was studied in detail: displayed on nine different sealings, it shows two scorpions represented tête-bêche, the one slightly bigger than the other. If the names of Amenophis II and Amenophis III appear clearly among the scarab impressions, the presence of other pharaohs cannot be ruled out at this point. The ongoing study by Pierre Meyrat of this material will require several more seasons of work.