Focus on Sai Island, Sudan: continuing studies on an ancient island

By beginning a research programme on Sai Island in Sudan, France is returning to one of French archaeology’s favourite sites. Research began there in 1954 and resumed in 2015, led by Vincent Francigny, drawing on the solid scientific network created on the ground.

Located on the Nile to the north of Nubia, in Sudan the island of Sai is seen as a genuine open-air Sudanese history museum. It contains exceptional heritage which is very well conserved due to the site’s island location, from prehistory to independence (in the 8th century BC), including several centuries of Egyptian colonization.

The mission concentrates on studying the fortified city overlooking the Nile, set up by the Egyptian monarchs who founded the New Kingdom (1500-1000 BC), marking the start of the island’s colonization phase. It focuses on periods which remain largely undocumented: the Napatan (9th-5th century BC), Meroitic (4th century BC - 4th century AD), post-Meroitic (5th-6th century AD) and medieval (Christian kingdom of Makuria) periods. It will be able to compare its results with those of other French missions active in the region, like the Kerma - Doukki Gel mission, which the Ministry also supports. The aim is to better assess the displays of cultural transmission underway in this region, which for many years was an independent kingdom.

The French Section of the Directorate for Sudanese Antiques (SFDAS), directed by Vincent Francigny, is actively involved in the successful operations of the mission, both as a logistics base and a training centre. This project also includes a crucial conservation and museum component. As a result of a major Qatari investment, the mission will help to develop the site (e.g. clearing earth resulting from previous excavations, restoring the archaeological material) and in particular to build a site museum backing onto the site storehouse. It will help to promote the magnificent collections passed down since the early stages of the French Mission.

Image Diaporama - 7. Sai Island: aerial view of the levels of (...)

7. Sai Island: aerial view of the levels of the ancient city under the Ottoman fortress. Photo: Sai Island archaeological mission.

Image Diaporama - 8. Sai island: view of the Meroitic necropolis

8. Sai island: view of the Meroitic necropolis under excavation, with the city and the Nile in the background. Photo: Sai Island archaeological mission.

Image Diaporama - Work by the excavation team at the Sai (...)

Work by the excavation team at the Sai mission. Photo: Sai Island archaeological mission.

Image Diaporama - Analyzing remains at the Sai mission. Photo: (...)

Analyzing remains at the Sai mission. Photo: Sai Island archaeological mission.

Image Diaporama - Local workers at the Sai excavation. Photo: (...)

Local workers at the Sai excavation. Photo: Sai Island archaeological mission.

Image Diaporama - Local workers at the Sai excavation. Photo: (...)

Local workers at the Sai excavation. Photo: Sai Island archaeological mission.

Image Diaporama - Work by the excavation team at the Sai (...)

Work by the excavation team at the Sai mission. Photo: Sai Island archaeological mission.

Resources:

Sai Island Archaeological Mission (SIAM)

Updated : January 2017

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