For Kids

Currently this page is to show Mrs. DeMello’s 3rd grade class some of the 2019 season. We will make it a resource for interested kids more broadly, soon!

All of the photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Life on Uronarti:

This is our dining room and also one of our workspaces. You can see breakfast on the mat, and you can tell it is a Friday – our one day in the week on which we do not dig – because we are all at camp for breakfast instead of on site.
We have one little tin hut that we use to store our food in, and in which we can work on computers when there are sandstorms. This is our kitchen, outside the hut. You can see above the hut a wind-speed measurer. We hope to build a wind turbine in the future to supply our electricity, which currently comes from a generator.
Sometimes we run out of cooking gas, and then we cannot use our stove. Even just making tea and coffee on the fire takes ages. It makes us think about how hard it would have been to cook for the ancient people who lived on Uronarti.
Inside the hut things become a bit of a mess!
One day this season we had a sandstorm. It blew up very suddenly. It was not the thickest sandstorm I have ever been in – that was in Egypt – but it was much too windy and there was much too much dirt in our faces for us to work. We were able to flag down a fisherman on the river who took us back to camp, where the sand even managed to get inside our tents. It was a pretty miserable day.
While the days are warm, nights are cold, and we often appreciate a camp fire. As there is very little wood nearby, we mostly burn bushes. They burn fast and hot and we have to collect many in order to have a fire even for half an hour – another thing that makes us think about how hard life was here anciently.

Getting to Site:

The water of the Nile is sometimes high and sometimes low. This year it was very high, and so the place where we camp was on a different island than the site. A fisherman, Abderabo, took us to site and home again every day. We have a lovely commute!
Looking from the base of the fortress south towards camp. You can just see one yellow tent in the middle distance. In seasons when the water is low we can walk, which takes about 20 minutes.

On site:

The 2019 team. We are American, German, Australian, and Sudanese – a very international project.
Just outside the fortress were three kilns, one of which we dug this season. Kilns are rare finds in Egyptology, and this will help us understand what types of pottery were made how for the fort. Here Christian uses a hoe to move sand into a bucket. Once we got to the bottom of the kiln we used trowels and brushes to move sand more slowly.
The kiln once excavated. Burning has turned some of the mud bricks red.
Excavating a big room in the fortress. This is the room where grain and gold weights have been found. You can see the bricks used in construction, and how high the walls are preserved. In this photograph you can see one of the things we look for when we try to understand the architects’ plans. In the foreground, two walls meet to form a corner. You can see from the straight line that they were not built at the same time, but that the long wall on the right was built first and the wall that meets it from the left of the picture was built against it later.
Archaeologists sometimes destroy things to understand them better. Here we dug through the floor of the room, keeping very careful (and neat!) notes, and collecting objects from different layers. This helps us see what was happening here at the time the room was first built and even earlier.
Even the floor itself is useful to us! This is a piece of the floor. It is made out of mud, like the walls themselves. Embedded in it you can see the remains of grain that was used as a kind of currency for trade (and that also attracted the many mice who left us stinky remains in this room).
We make careful records of everything we find. Here Evan is surveying – you sometimes see construction workers on the streets of Providence using similar equipment – to make a very accurate map of the room.
In addition to surveying for maps, we also hand-draw each brick. Our architect, Abi, can draw both accurately and fast, having been trained at RISD and having worked on a number of archaeological projects. Here you can see the brick pattern of the big room at the front of the fortress. Abi’s drawing makes it easy to see what order the walls were built in.

Objects from excavation:

Sometimes the smallest objects are the most lovely! These are two tiny stone blades – the scale on the right is in millimeters. These microliths (tiny blades) were once arrow heads, set in wooden hafts with the flat edge the striking edge. This is very different from arrow heads in many cultures, which have points for penetration. We did not know that was what our microliths were for when we found them, but by talking to experts who study stone tools when we returned from the field we were able to learn more about our own finds.
A piece of mud with the impression of a scarab seal on it. As we discussed in class, sealing letters, pots, or bags full of stuff was an important way of keeping track of what was where and who was responsible for it. Thousands of seal impressions from hundreds of seals have been found at Uronarti.
The type of artifact we find most of – and the most important thing for us – is pottery. It is almost always broken. Pottery is important because it tells us a lot about what people were doing here, when they were doing it, and even who they were. These sherds are all from cooking pots. They are also all decorated with patterns that are only found on Nubian pottery. The Nubians were the people living in this area before the Egyptians came and built the fortress. To find this pottery at the fortress suggests to us that the relationship between Egyptians and Nubians here was not just one of domination and trade, but included cultural interaction. Nubian cooking pots mean Nubian food, too. Even today, food is one of the most important ways we both maintain our own cultures and interact with other cultures. If we excavated the place you live, could we tell what you eat? Would it tell us anything about your own culture?
Some objects are mysterious to us and make us ask more questions instead of giving us answers. These small cylinders of mud were clearly formed by twisting mud around hair – some of the hair is still in there. At first we thought they might be hair weights, much as beads are put on the end of braided hair today. But that does not make sense with their context: they were found in the kiln. In talking to other archaeologists, we have learned that similar objects have been found in other sites where pottery was being produced. It seems likely that these are related to production, but in what way?

Looking around:

This was a particularly good year for animal spotting at Uronarti. We did not see any crocodiles. This little lizard was smaller than my hand, and very fast – I felt fortunate to get a photograph of him.
A heron had a nest on the river right beside where we commuted. At the beginning of the season we scared her when we went by, and she would fly from her nest as the boat got close. By the end of the season she realized we were no threat and she would watch us each day, going and coming from work.
We are on a migration track for birds. This year we saw flamingoes…
…and cormorants…
…and pelicans, as well as many other species.
There is no village or city near Uronarti. No one lives in the region permanently. But some fishermen do camp nearby seasonally, and they help us and are part of our world while we are on the island. In addition to ferrying us, they bring us our food, which a friend in the nearest town arranges to send by truck down to the riverbank a few times a week. Feeding 10 people for a month in the middle of nowhere takes a lot of coordination and the help of many people. We are grateful to those who make us able to work in such a beautiful and interesting place.

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