UMR 8135 CNRS - INaLCO

Qatar Sudan Archaeological Project (QSAP)

The Qatar-Sudan Archaeological Project (QSAP) is a Qatari initiative with the objective of promoting the rich archaeological heritage in the Republic of theSudan. Claude Rilly, member of LLACAN, is directing three projects of the QSAP-programme.

1. Epigraphic and Linguistic Project on Meroitic

Site: Sudan; Germany (Cologne)

Director: Dr Claude RILLY (CNRS)

Participants : Dr. Angelika JAKOBI, Linguist (U Cologne), Mr. ELNAZIR Mustafa Mohamed Salih, Linguist (U Khartoum), Mr. ELSADIG Omda Ibrahim Elnur, Linguist (U Khartoum), Mr. WALEED Alshareef, Linguist (U Khartoum), Mrs. Gabrielle CHOIMET, Adviser, French Archaeological Unit (SFDAS), Khartoum / French Embassy in Sudan

Institutions: Centre national de la recherche scientifique (French National Research Center) UMR 8135, French Archaeological Unit in Sudan (SFDAS), University of Khartoum (Sudan), University of Cologne (Germany)

Historical Periods covered: From Meroitic kingdom to the present: Meroitic, ancient Nubian languages and contemporary Sudanese languages in the frame of comparative studies.

Project Period: 2013-2017

Budget: 363,700 $ over 5 years

The Meroitic Project is not an archaeological project but a linguistic program on the yet little known language of the kingdom of Meroe. This ancient language of Sudan is known through two thousand texts so far discovered, ranging from the second century BC to the fifth AD. The two scripts, hieroglyphic and cursive, were deciphered in 1911 but the language itself remains in great part unknown since the language disappeared in Sudan some thirteen centuries ago. The situation for modern scholars is a bit the same as for speakers of Arabic who are first faced with pages written in Iranian or Urdu: they can read the letters but cannot understand the meaning of the texts.

Fortunately, this language has recently been demonstrated to be related to several languages from Sudan, Chad and Eritrea by the director of the project, Dr. Claude Rilly. The QSAP Meroitic project consists of several components that will improve our understanding of ancient languages of Sudan, and more specifically the Meroitic language:

  • Linguistic descriptions by three Sudanese specialists in linguistic of three living languages related to Meroitic: Mararit (Darfur and Wadai), Abu Jinuk (Nuba Moutains) and Nara (West Eritrea); They shall be assisted by Dr. Angelika Jakobi (University of Cologne) during training sessions in Germany;
  • Epigraphical studies and publication of Meroitic inscriptions, unpublished or insufficiently documented;
  • Restoration of archives (audio records of Nubian languages stored in Khartoum University).

2. Restoration of Sedeinga site and excavation house (ResSed)

Site: Sedeinga (Sudan, Northern State)

Director: Dr Claude RILLY (CNRS)

Participants : Mr. Franck BURGOS, Research Engineer, CNRS UMR 8167 (Sorbonne), Specialist of stone; Mr. Damien LAISNEY, Research Engineer, CNRS-Lyon2, Surveyor; Mr. Emmanuel LAROZE, Research Engineer, CNRS UMR 8167 (Sorbonne), Architect; Dr. Jean-Pierre PEULVAST, Research Supervisor UMR 8591, Geomorphologist; Dr. Claire SOMAGLINO, Lecturer in Egyptology, Paris IV-Sorbonne, Epigraphist; Dr. Pierre TALLET, Lecturer in Egyptology, Paris IV-Sorbonne, Epigraphist; Mrs. Gabrielle CHOIMET, Adviser, French Archaeological Unit (SFDAS), Khartoum / French Embassy in Sudan

Institutions: Centre national de la recherche scientifique (French National Research Center) UMR 8135 / UMR 8167 / University of Lyon 3-MOM; French Archaeological Unit in Sudan (SFDAS)

Project Period: 2014-2018

Historical Periods covered: 18th Dynasty, New Empire/25th Dynasty (temple); modern (excavation house)

Budget: 702,770 $ over 5 years

The site of Sedeinga is known for archaeological remains which encompass five millennia of Sudanese history, from Neolithic to the Islamic period. The project sponsored by the Qatar Sudan cooperation is focused mainly on the Egyptian temple of Queen Tiyi (ca. 1350 BC), great royal wife of king Amenhotep III who built the magnificent temple of Soleb. The temple of Sedeinga was scheduled as the small feminine counterpart of Soleb and built 14 km north. A first archaeological mission was conducted by an Italian lady, Michela Schiff Giorgini, at the time also director of the neighbouring site of Soleb. It led to the discovery of a huge Napatan and Meroitic cemetery, west of the temple. This part of the site is still upon excavations.

Built under king Amenhotep III (ca. 1350 BC) for his great royal wife and later extended to the east by a columned hall under the Kushite king Taharqo (ca. 700 BC), the temple of Queen Tiyi is thoroughly ruined. It is the only Egyptian temple in Sudan which was never excavated. Nowadays, nothing remains of the building apart from a unique standing column and a heap of some 250 blocks. The sandstone blocks of the temple have suffered from dry winter season, wind erosion, dust storms and heavy rains in the summer, and are in a poor state of preservation. This is worrying especially concerning the engraved blocks, which are rapidly deteriorating. However, no excavation or restoration whatsoever can be conducted prior to thorough treatment of the decorated blocks by professional restorers.

The aim of the Qatar-Sudan project for this site is therefore:

  • to survey the totality of the blocks and produced a 3D image of the current state of the ruins,
  • to take apart the blocks and restore those that are decorated or inscribed,
  • to excavate the area once it is cleared,
  • to create on the site an exhibition area where the decorated blocks can be viewed by the visitors and accompanied by explanation panels.

A second objective of the project is to extend the present excavation house where new rooms are to be built as much for the use of the touristic police as for the archaeologists.

3. Restoration of Soleb excavation house (ResSol)

Site: Soleb (Sudan, Northern State)

Director: Dr Claude RILLY (CNRS)

Participants : Mr Abdallah M. SABBAR, architect, director of Al Takamul Al Handasi, Dubaï, U.A.E.; Mrs. Gabrielle CHOIMET, Adviser, French Archaeological Unit (SFDAS), Khartoum / French Embassy in Sudan

Institutions: Centre national de la recherche scientifique (French National Research Center) UMR 8135, French Archaeological Unit in Sudan (SFDAS)

Project Period: 2014-2018

Historical Periods covered: 18th Dynasty, New Empire (temple); modern (excavation house and store)

Budget: 113,160 $ over 5 years

The site of Soleb is renowned for the temple of Pharaoh Amenhotep III (ca. 1350 BC), the finest example of classical Egyptian religious architecture outside Egypt. It was dedicated to God Amun and to the own divinity of the king. Excavations started in 1957, conducted by Mrs Michela Schiff Giorgini for the University of Pisa (Italia) in association with the French archaeologists Clement Robichon and Prof. Jean Leclant. An excavation house and a store were built in the late 1950’s near the temple. The archaeological fieldwork was closed after Michela Schiff Giorgini’s ultimely death in 1977. The results of the work were published in 5 volumes in France.

No further archaeological work is therefore scheduled at Soleb. The main work planned in the QSAP project for Soleb is the renovation of the excavation house. This building, which was once a beautiful construction, will harbor a center for tourism information. Soleb is the most visited site in Middle Nubia and will attract many tourist once the tarred road joining Dongola to the Egyptian border is opened. The architectural project and its implementation has been entrusted to Mr. Abdallah M. Sabbar.

The house will include a presentation room with illustrated panels explaining the temple and the progress of excavations and a selection of decorated blocks put on display after restoration. Some elements from the temple of Sedeinga, which was associated with the Soleb temple and has been excavated by the same team, shall join the collection.

An extension with a rest-room and toilets for the use of tourism police will be built on the back of the house.