British Museum blog

Amara West 2012: visiting an earlier Egyptian town in Kush

Elisabeth Greifenstein, University of Würzburg

At Amara West, our typical working week consists of six days, with Friday as the traditional day of prayer in Muslim countries. While some team members relax at the house, or catch up on recording, some of us take the opportunity to visit other archaeological sites in the area.

The temple of Soleb

The temple of Soleb

Last Friday we visited Soleb, reknowned for its temple of Amenhotep III, a late 18th Dynasty king who reigned half a century before the foundation of Amara West in the reign of Seti I. Such visits allow us to place Amara West in context – and compare the Ramesside town and cemetery we are digging to others in the Egyptian-controlled area of ancient Nubia.

After an hour-long trip by road and two boat journeys, we entered the temple through its front, east-facing, gate. Well preserved scenes and hieroglyphic inscriptions depict conquered foreign countries (including Kush or Upper Nubia itself) and cities. Egyptian temples, especially in conquered lands, typically presented scenes of domination over foreign lands. Other scenes showed pharaoh offerings to gods, and depictions of the royal jubilee festival (heb-sed). This temple, built on local sandstone of poor quality, would once have been brightly painted.

Column carved with a depiction of a bound Nubian prisoner

Column carved with a depiction of a bound Nubian prisoner

The town surrounding the temple is not well preserved, but remains of Egyptian tombs of the 18th Dynasty were excavated here in the mid-twentieth century, and Soleb may once have acted as the administrative centre of Upper Nubia, prior to Amara West being founded. One tomb was used for the burial of a Deputy of Kush – later incumbents to this position resided in the large building near the West Gate at Amara West.

The trip upstream reminded us how beautiful the country in which we are working is – from landscape to ancient temples and traditional houses.

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These beautiful studies drawn from life are by artist Antoine Watteau, born #onthisday in 1684.
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