12th May 2014:
From January to March this year, OA East’s Gareth Rees was seconded to work in Sudan with an international team of archaeologists and Egyptologists from Humboldt University Berlin carrying out field survey and excavation as part of the Mograt Island Archaeological Mission (MIAMi). The project is one of many research-led excavations in Sudan currently being funded by the Emirate of Qatar.
In this preliminary season the project aimed to identify archaeology on the island from the Palaeolithic through to the Islamic era, with dedicated teams led by period specialists undertaking trial excavations, fieldwalking and digital terrain modelling. Gareth’s role in the project involved developing and implementing a strategy for both survey and excavation of part of a Bronze Age 'Kerma' cemetery containing over 100 tombs. These tombs tended to be single interments in cairns where special care had been taken over the selection and positioning of stones based on size and colour.
Prior to excavation the ridge was mapped and a DTM created in order to have an accurate record of the current state of preservation of these tombs, which are often disturbed by gold prospectors. Five tombs were excavated, revealing construction with inner walls surrounding a central pit, and pavements of flat stones laid around the outside. All but one of the skeletons were articulated, with the exception of the skull which was often missing. The most significant feature uncovered was a family cemetery within the larger cairn cemetery. An area measuring 4m by 4m contained the remains of 15 human skeletons and two goats all buried with grave goods including faience and ostrich egg shell beads, highly decorated Kerma pottery and leather bags and pillows.
Although many of these graves were undisturbed there appeared to have been some exhumation and reinterment of bones in other pits, possibly indicating an extended burial rite lasting for years after death. The MIAMi project is proposed to continue until 2018.