Italian archeaologist sheds light on nomads in Upper Egypt

Pan-grave culture re-emerges through Bologna-Yale collaboration

26 March, 13:27

    (by Rodolfo Calò) (ANSAmed) - CAIRO, MARCH 26 - Ancient Egypt does not consist solely in pyramids and hieratic pharaohs, but also of semi-mysterious nomadic populations.

    The populations, like modern-day migrants, exerted pressure on the southern gates of the kingdom and were later 'swallowed' by history, leaving traces however that make it possible to reconstruct part of their culture and even individual tragedies.

    This emerged in Cairo in a conference held by the well-known Italian archaeologist Maria Carmela Gatto on the most recent discoveries in cemeteries and settlements of nomads that transited through the Aswan area between 1,800 BC and 1,500 BC. The populations were from a Pan-Grave culture, a name given to them in the late 19th century by archaeologist Flinders Petrie, in reference to low, circular mounds of stones that were over their graves. Gatto, coordinator alongside Antonio Curci of the Aswan-Kom Ombo Archaeological Project (AKAP) of the University of Bologna and the Yale University - underway since 2005 - said at the Archaeological Center of the Italian Institute of Culture in Cairo on Sunday evening that the Second Intermediate Period was a phase in Egyptian history that was ''very complicated and chaotic''. ''Egypt was divided'' into ''small political units'' and invaded by the Hyksos from the north, while the Kush Kingdom was pushing towards its southern borders. An absence of control over the territory would probably have enabled nomads to infiltrate from Nubia, the Eastern Desert and the ''fourth cataract'' of the Nile. The specialist in Nubian archaeology, well known for the discovery of the oldest representation of a pharaoh in 2008 in rock graffiti dating back to 3,000-3,100 BC north of Aswan in Upper Egypt (the southern part of the country), illustrated finds discovered in three cemeteries, three settlements and two enemy and herd observation points on the western bank of the Nile that had been at risk of disappearing due to an expansion in construction. Through this ''rescue excavation'', the mission sponsored by the German Gerda Henkel Foundation and the Italian foreign ministry is preventing the traces of the nomads from being erased further, she said. In illustrating circular tombs that evolved into rectangular ones, semi-buried amphorae, bracelets, handmade leather items and painted cow horns, the archaeologist - who has also worked for the British Museum - underscored that these are ''more ancient proof'' of the Pan-Grave culture, which offer a 'different perspective'' on the history of Ancient Egypt.

    Thus, not only the story of kings and elites, but also that of ''poor people'', ''nomads that were coming from the desert'' - very arid in that period - and that were thus ''pushing and wanted to enter'', ending up as mercenaries under the Thebian dynasty that later united the country in the New Kingdom, Gatto said. In the presence of Italian Ambassador to Cairo Giampaolo Cantini - as well as high-ranking officials from the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and Cairo's Egyptian Museum, the latter attracted by a resumption of conferences by the Italian Archaeological Center after a few months' break - the visiting professor from the American University of Cairo also showed that archaeology can bring back to life a remote and otherwise obscure history in detail: the tomb of a young female nomad made it possible to reconstruct that the 20-year-old was pregnant with a 38-month-old fetus that likely died after the woman's pelvis was broken and prevented her from having a successful delivery. For her last 'journey', a vase was placed beside her that was presumably inherited from one of her ancestors. (ANSAmed).

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