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Cultural diversity in the Middle Nile Valley. Reconstructing biographies in the periphery of urban centres in northern Sudan during the Bronze Age

Project description

Assessing cultural diversity beyond urban centres

Does cultural diversity become archaeologically more visible in the peripheral zones of main urban sites where cultures meet? Does the concept of ‘cultural entanglement’ with its current elite bias also work for the periphery? Answers to these and related questions are important not only for archaeology, but also in the field of border studies and for understanding the role and function of main centres. The EU-funded DiverseNile project has set out to understand the actual cultural diversity of Middle Nile groups, focusing on the periphery of the main centres. It will investigate an important part of northern Sudan as a case study to reconstruct Bronze Age biographies (1650-1200 BCE) beyond the present categories of ‘Egyptian’ and ‘Nubian’. The project adopts an innovative theoretical approach that will be complemented with a large set of interdisciplinary methods such as neutron activation and isotope analysis.

Objective

One of the biggest scientific challenges for archaeology is to move away from established concepts of cultural categories such as static views of culture, which are not suitable to describe realities of ancient lives. Significant work on the complex encounters between Egyptian and Nubian groups in the Middle Nile was conducted by recent projects including my ERC-2012-StG AcrossBorders. They introduced the modern approach of ‘cultural entanglement’ to the main urban sites, but left the peripheries unaddressed.
Based on recent successful results, it is now timely to investigate the actual cultural diversity of Middle Nile groups focusing on the periphery of the main centres. The project will explore a crucial part of northern Sudan as a case study to reconstruct Bronze Age biographies (c 1650–1200 BCE) beyond the present categories ‘Egyptian’ and ‘Nubian’.
The main hypothesis is that cultural diversity becomes archaeologically more visible in the peripheral zones of the central sites. We need to investigate the regional cultural relations within the peripheries in order to catch a more direct cultural footprint than in state built urban centres.
Based on the PI’s excellent knowledge of Bronze Age settlements and material culture in the Nile Valley, she will test with new excavations in a cultural borderscape whether it is feasible to disentangle sites from previous classifications. By applying the new concept of ‘Biography of the landscape’ in conjunction with the ‘contact space’ model, she intends to investigate whether degrees of diversity relate to the peripheral location of sites, which may also be influenced by the geographical topography.
Beyond the impact for archaeology, the project’s innovative theoretical approach together with a large set of interdisciplinary methods such as neutron activation and isotope analysis offers a long-overdue input to general questions of border studies, which are also essential to understand the role and function of main centers.

Host institution

LUDWIG-MAXIMILIANS-UNIVERSITAET MUENCHEN
Net EU contribution
€ 1 999 522,50
Address
GESCHWISTER SCHOLL PLATZ 1
80539 MUNCHEN
Germany

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Region
Bayern Oberbayern München, Kreisfreie Stadt
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Links
Total cost
€ 1 999 522,50

Beneficiaries (1)