Nubiana

22 we now ask ourselves fifty years later. The houses of the priests on the island of Philae, for instance, were not transferred to the Island of Agilkia and it remains unclear what these could have told us about the lives of the priests, temple services and the craftsmen that created the objects used in the temple. Archaeologists used to focus on monuments but have realised that living quarters, work places and middens may provide us with infor- mation about what actually went on in and around the famous temples. Besides the immense and impressive international collaborative effort, the Nubian Campaign was important because it allowed a deeper understand- ing of this narrow part of the Nile valley. The sandy landscape and hot climate was inhabited by a hardy people, famous in ancient Egypt for their resilience, their expertise in the use of the bow and arrow and their contacts with more southerly regions of Africa. Wawat , the Egyptian name for the region between the First Cataract at Aswan and the Second Cataract at Wadi Halfa, was often considered part of Egypt. To the south lay the Kingdom of Kush , whose cul- tural center was located at Kerma, Napata, or Meroe during different periods. Known today as Nubia, our knowledge of the region is filtered through the eyes of the Egyptians. It is hard to find traces of what this region meant to its inhab- itants, the people south of this Nile corridor, or those who lived in the desert and approached the life-giving river from the arid regions to its East or West. We can get a glimpse of some of their stories through the meticulous work of the scholars and scientists who spent their time recording whatever they could, working as fast as possible and salvaging the smallest items that bore witness to the land claimed by the pharaohs. In the 1960s the temples were considered of such exceptional impor- tance that they were moved to higher ground. Not only do these houses of re- ligion and knowledge convey who was in charge (the pharaoh) and who was venerated (the gods). They also reveal some of the stories of ordinary people in the graffiti they painted or scratched in the temples. The graffiti is an aspect of the monumental buildings that may not have been considered of great importance fifty years ago, but it has survived inside the majestic temples. The preservation of the Nubian temples, ensured by the wis- dom of conservators and engineers together, thus continues to provide new information now that we are turning our attention to the informal inscriptions scratched on the walls during different periods. As an Egyptologist, I am in awe of the placement of the temples of Abu Simbel and how successfully they dominate the landscape. Imagine sailing down the Nile and passing the four giant rock-hewn statues of the Egyptian king. They either signal to those who pass: “You are home, back in the country of gods” or to others: “Beware, do not even think of challenging this divine power.” The rock-hewn temple looks similar to the even grander temples of Karnak and Luxor: an enormous gateway with giant statues of the king placed in front, leading to courtyard upon courtyard, gate upon gate, until one reaches the holiest part of the temple. In Abu Simbel, this was not near the back wall of the temple, but hewn deep inside the rock. If an Egyptologist is filled with admiration, I wonder what the engineers felt as they planned the movement of the temples block by block. This was no ordinary job. Gazing at the face of a great pharaoh and determining how to put him back into the monument he had built for himself is one thing. Marveling at this incredible feat of engineering past and present is quite another. NUBIANA RIGHT Cover of “!e UNESCO Courier”. October 1961. !e illustration represents one of the plans presented by the engineer Piero Gazzola to cut the temple as a single block, although it was later discarded. Medal struck to celebrate the rescue of the Abu Simbel temples. Willeke Wendr ich JOAN SILSBEE CHAIR OF AFRICAN CULTURAL ARCHAEOLOGY – PROFESSOR OF EGYPTIAN ARCHAEOLOGY AND DIGITAL HUMANITIES AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES (UCLA)

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