Ancient Nubia has long been divided into cultural ›boxes‹, but why? And what are the problems with those divisions? The ›InBetween‹ project challenged these old assumptions of cultural boundedness and encouraged more nuanced approaches to Nubian cultural diversity.

The ›InBetween‹ project identified and addressed the difficulties and limitations of the culture-historical framework that was imposed upon ancient Nubia. According to old frameworks, the Nubian Nile Valley was populated by the so-called Middle Nubian cultures, currently known as C-Group, Pan-Grave, and Kerma cultures. These modern labels create a false sense of cultural boundedness and homogeneity that does not fit the complex archaeological reality.

The overall objectives of the project were to contribute an updated understanding of the Middle Nubian Cultures, to identify the key problems with them, and to begin moving towards new perspectives. The starting hypothesis was that the ancient Nubian cultural landscape was more interconnected than previously thought and that this needs to be expressed in any ontologies and interpretations relating to these ancient communities. The key research questions were:

  • What socio-cultural mechanisms underpin the cultural mixing seen at some Middle Nubian sites?
  • How appropriate is it to divide the Middle Nubian cultures based on material culture?
  • Should the Middle Nubian cultures even be considered cultures in a culture-historical sense at all?

Through archival work, museum-based research in Sweden and the United Kingdom, fieldwork in Egypt, and collaborative scientific analyses, the project assessed the value of material technologies for understanding cultural complexity. Previously unseen technological connections were identified through ceramic petrography and reflectance transformation imaging, which support the need to break down existing boundaries and to seek relationships through practice rather than typologies.

The project encouraged greater recognition of the diversity not only in ancient Nubia, but of human culture more generally in both ancient and modern times, and broke down the traditional dichotomy between ancient Egypt and Nubia. This shift in perspective became increasingly relevant as the project progressed in light of the ›Black Lives Matter‹ movement, which saw nations around the world grappling with their colonial histories. Through its Nubia-centric, post-colonial lens, the project highlighted the many drawbacks of interpretive models of the past, which are imbalanced and heavily biased toward societies perceived as culturally and politically dominant (i.e. ancient Egypt).

Marie Curie Fellow

Aaron M. de Souza

Supervisor

Bettina Bader

Duration

01/2019–01/2021

Funding

Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions – Research Fellowship Programme

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 796050.