Brown at Abydos

Carrie and Ramadan's tomb2The Brown University Abydos Project (BUAP) was founded in 2008 to explore parts of the North Cemetery. We are committed in particular to understanding the development of this sacred landscape over time. This multi-period focus is crucial because of the length of time represented by remains here – approximately 5000 years – and because the earliest uses of the site seem to have conditioned later understanding of this place, up to the present. We see this in the incorporation of Early Dynastic graves into Ptolemaic graves, in the remodeling of a Ptolemaic ibis mummy vault into a Coptic chapel in the Late Roman Period (4th-7th centuries AD). As such, while our work has been key for understanding important developments in discrete periods, we are always interested in considering the larger context and the apparent dialog between very different areas.

Brown’s excavation seasons occur during the winter, typically lasting five weeks in December and January. Brown graduate students from the Department of Egyptology, the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Department of Engineering take part in the project, serving as excavation supervisors, registrars, surveyors, and ceramicists. In addition to this core staff of students, specialists such as conservators and osteologists contribute to the project. We are fortunate to work closely with a large local team as well. Supervised by our Reis, Ibrahim Muhammad, and including trained excavators from the town of Quft as well as men hired from the local villages, this workforce allows us to excavate efficiently and sensitively.

Because Abydos is so large and so complex, there are several projects from different countries and universities that are active at different parts of the site. Brown’s work in the North Cemetery is part of the larger University of Pennsylvania-Yale University-New York University, Institute of Fine Arts Expedition to Abydos (PYIFA). This umbrella project is directed by David O’Connor, with Matthew Adams serving as Associate Director and Laurel Bestock as Assistant Director; it operates in cooperation with the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities. The concession of the PYIFA covers all of North Abydos. Active projects by New York University, Brown, and the University of Toronto all work within this area, and collaboration between these projects is fundamental to our ability to understand this complex site. The BUAP is currently the only project at Abydos to have an explicitly multi-period focus.