Hisn al-Bab: The early Medieval border between Egypt and Nubia

The project deals with the activities on the border of Egypt and Nubia during the early Middle Ages and is focused on the find site of Hisn el-Bab and the fortress, which was used over several periods, located in this border area. The aim is to characterize the inhabitants across time on the basis of excavations and an in-depth analysis of the architectural inventory.

This project is the continuation of a previous project funded by the FWF (P24589-G21) which was focused on the relationship along the border during late antiquity.

Archaeology


Excavations will be carried out in the area of Hisn el-Bab which were connected with the early Middle Ages during previous analyses as well as on areas which are likely of specific interest for the construction history of the buildings. This mainly includes entryways through the fortress walls as well as access and connection paths between them.

Study of the material culture


As a result of the role of Hisn el-Bab as a border fortification it may be assumed that based on the excavations and the study of the material culture typical there it might be possible to shed light on the nature of the inhabitants and their way of life, in particular in comparison on similarly dated archaeological contexts in other places of Egypt and Nubia. The scientific examination of the pottery of the site is particularly important because it provides information on the origin of the vessels and the composition of the inhabitants of the fortress and also the trade and exchange of goods in the border region. Furthermore, the study of the diet of the inhabitants based on plant remains and animal bones as well as the consideration of other find groups, such as weapons, textiles and other organic materials, complete the spectrum of analyses.

Analysis of the architecture


The analysis of the preserved architecture, the chronology of individual building phases as well as the building technique are important aspects of the project. The comparison of the fortress with other similarly dated find sites is intended to illustrate possible connections with buildings at other sites in Egypt and/or Nubia. Similar buildings of the early Middle Ages in Lower Nubia – no longer visible today through the construction of Lake Nasser – are particularly significant.

Summary


The results of the fieldwork will be summarized and analyzed taking into account the existing information of Egyptian-Nubian relations during the early Middle Ages. Medieval Arab historians report that a site called el-Qasr, which very likely refers to Hisn el-Bab, is of great importance for the political relations and interactions between Egypt and Nubia. The project should also be a way of characterizing the settlement of Hisn el-Bab as well as the relations between Egypt and Nubia.