HISN AL-BAB: LIFE AND DEATH ON THE LATE ANTIQUE FRONTIER OF NUBIA

This volume will present the results of nine years of excavation and research concerning the site of Hisn al-Bab, which lies in southern Upper Egypt, south of the city of Aswan at the long-recognised frontier between Egypt and Nubia. The site consists of a series of fortifications dating from the Late Roman to the early Medieval period, the main role of which was the control of this frontier region. Both archaeological and textual evidence suggest that control of this area changed over time from Egypt to Nubia, and the examination of these changes, and their manifestation in terms of material culture, form one of the main research interests of the project.

The analysis of the remains of the late Antique period (6th–7th centuries), during which period the occupation was at its most extensive, forms the principal focus of the research. Excavations have sampled occupation remains from across the site, consisting of formal housing, as well as more temporary animal-keeping facilities, and industrial areas. The excavations have produced large quantities of ceramics, containing both Egyptian and Nubian types.

The exceptional environmental conditions at Hisn al-Bab have resulted in excellent organic preservation, as a result of which materials that are rarely found in good condition on other sites are preserved in abundance. Thus wooden artefacts, particularly archery equipment, textiles and archaeobotanical remains will make important contributions to the understanding of the use of the site. Furthermore, large numbers of redeposited human bones showing battle traumata, recovered from several areas of the site, give an important insight into the role of Hisn al-Bab as a functioning military base. In-depth architectural studies, investigating the phasing, building techniques, parallels and dating also form a major part of the project, and will particularly concentrate on the well-preserved early Medieval fort.

The results of the excavations, architectural studies and material culture analyses will be put into their wider historical context and used to interpret the nature of activity on and across the Egyptian-Nubian border over time.