Archaeology and heritage in Middle Egypt - Local Perspectives on Ancient Egypt
Prof. Dr. Richard Bußmann | Egyptology
Funded by the Egypt Exploration Society
Zawyet Sultan is a village near the modern provincial capital of el-Minya, located ca. 300 km upstream of Cairo along the river Nile. The peaceful village seems to have been left untouched by the events of the Arabic Spring in 2011 and the seemingly timeless setting of village life has inspired many Egyptologists to compare present-day Egypt with ancient Egypt. However, Egyptian society and culture have changed fundamentally over the millennia. The aim of this project is to understand how the concept of what is commonly referred to as “ancient Egyptian civilization” has transformed on a local level and how contemporary life today relates to the past.
The project, co-directed by Richard Bussmann (University of Cologne) and Gianluca Miniaci (University of Pisa), is focussing on the archaeological remains of an ancient Egyptian town located South of Zawyet Sultan. The town probably functioned as a regional centre until the end of the Late Antique period when el-Minya took over this role. The earliest remains at the site date to late prehistoric times. In short, four thousand years of local history are buried at this site.
The most prominent feature at the site is a partially preserved pyramid. It was probably built to represent royal authority at a time when the early Egyptian state, ca. 2700 BCE, attempted to colonize the hinterland of Egypt. Remains of an earlier cemetery close to the pyramid demonstrate that the monument was incorporated into an existing social landscape. The inscriptions in the rock tombs of the local governors shed further light on the history of the site between the local milieu and central power. During the Roman period, a town was built on top of the Pharaonic settlement. However, the remains of this and later periods at the site have hardly ever been investigated.
The project is the beginning of a long-term exploration of the site. The first findings give reason to hope that insight into the history of a provincial capital in a complexity that few other Egyptian sites can offer will be gained.
Text: Richard Bußmann