The Archaeology of the First Nile Cataract Region in Egypt, a talk by Maria Carmela Gatto (University of Leicester) - Harvard Archaeology Seminar (HAS)


Thursday, October 29, 2020, 12:00pm to 1:30pm


Virtual Zoom Event


The region of the First Nile Cataract has been a crossroads of people since deep prehistory. Its landscape, characterized by a narrow floodplain surrounded by deserts and by rocky barrages breaking the river flow, marked from the beginning of the third millennium BCE the southern Egyptian border with Nubia, and continued to be a borderscape also in post-pharaonic times. Archaeological investigation has a long history in the region, starting more than a hundred years ago with the First Archaeological Survey of Nubia, directed by George Reisner south of the cataract. Most of the research, however, has mainly focused on major sites, such as the regional capital Elephantine, the elite necropolis of Qubbet el-Hawa, or the temple of Philae. Investigations have also concerned prehistoric sites, particularly those from the Late Palaeolithic found in Wadi Kubbaniya. The Aswan-Kom Ombo Archaeological Project-AKAP works since 2005 in selected areas north of the cataract, to include a section of the Nile west bank, two major wadis intersecting the valley from both sides, one of which is Wadi Kubbaniya, and a part of the desert south-east of the Kom Ombo plain. With a bottom-up and periphery-core approach the project aims at filling major gaps in current scholarship, providing new interdisciplinary data through survey and excavation. The project is particularly interested in reconstructing the long history of the region, focusing on the Nubian presence and its interplay with Egyptians. Different datasets, including rock art, are recovered, documented, and analyzed with an extensive use of digital technologies. Results show how complex was the nature of cultural interaction at this borderscape, how it changed through times and how a regional scale, non-elite approach enriches our understanding of the ancient societies of Egypt and Nubia.


Dr Gatto is an Honorary Visiting Fellow at the School of Archaeology and Ancient History of University of Leicester. Previously she held teaching, research and curatorial positions at Yale University, University of Leicester, University of Birmingham, and the British Museum. She has been the Simpson Visiting Professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo, Visiting Professor of Archaeology at the University of Bologna, and Guest Lecturer at Sapienza University of Rome. She holds a PhD in African Archaeology from University of Naples L’Orientale and a MA in Archaeology from Sapienza University of Rome. Dr Gatto’s research interests focus on the archaeology of the Nile Valley and the Sahara. She has extensively worked on the prehistory of Ancient Nubia and Upper Egypt, on third and second millennia BCE Nubia, and on the Garamantian period in the Central Sahara. More recently she has been working also in the Moroccan pre-desert. She is a specialist of Egyptian rock art and Nubian pottery. Dr Gatto has published widely in those fields, including a co-edited volume on ‘Burials, Migration and Identity in the Ancient Sahara and Beyond, published by the Cambridge University Press in 2019. She has extensive fieldwork experience in North Africa and since 2005 she is the PI of the Aswan-Kom Ombo archaeological project, in Egypt