Amara West project blog


Investigating life in an Egyptian town

Amara West 2015: Stories, memories and archaeology

Tomomi Fushiya, archaeologist

For our excavations and research in Amara West, local community members’ support is essential. While we chat with workers throughout the working day, often share breakfast and commute by boat between the site and Ernetta island where most workmen are from and the mission house is located, we don’t often hear what they think about their work, the site: What stories they have heard about Amara West? Do they come to visit the site apart from their excavation work? What do they know about our work or archaeology? Are archaeological sites considered a part of Nubian heritage – even a pharaonic town, like Amara West?

This season we began interviews with our workmen, and other local community members in Ernetta island and Abri, to listen to and record their stories, memories and views on the history, archaeology and heritage of Nubia. Here, I would like to share some of their narratives of Amara West – locally called Abkenissa or Birbe – to see the place from their perspectives.

Mohamed Ali Gindi
‘The trip name was rihera ila abkanissa (a trip to Abkenissa)’, Mohamed Ali Gindi, one of our workmen from Ernetta island, recalls. He visited Amara West for the first time in 1967, as a part of a history class in primary school. ‘The teacher took all students and made a trip to Amara West from our school in Amara East. ‘We used an old boat and visited the site… when we reached the site the teacher described the site and told them Christian was there… A king or head of Christian was in this place.’ He smiled and said ‘that is why it’s called Abkenissa’ – kenissa means church. The site was thought to be Christian, its pharaonic history unknown. The education curriculum has changed since and no school trips come to Amara West or other local sites.

We thought local people rarely visit the site, other than to work nearby farms or tend sheep and goats. But workmen, especially the younger ones, say that people from Ernetta come to Abkenissa for festivities such as weddings, the Eid (Islamic festivals) and national holidays, often bringing a sheep or goat to sacrifice, or a simple picnic with tea and biscuits.

Mubashr Salah Mohamed, who likes to listen to old men talking about heritage, told me that Abkenissa was believed to have a healing power. ‘In the past, people came here and they covered themselves … in a warm sand … Some diseases are treated by this … putting on their arms, sometimes their bodies. Dig a hole in sand … to be better from rheumatism or for some other diseases…’

We are not sure where exactly they practised this on the site, but we know now from time to time local people have made a visit to Amara West. More stories will emerge as we continue conversations in Amara West and Ernetta.

*Mohamed and Mubashr agreed to have their thoughts published.

Alongside regular updates on the blog, follow the season on Twitter: @NealSpencer_BM and #amarawest

If you would like to leave a comment click on the title

Filed under: Amara West 2015, anthropology, Modern Amara, Nubian traditions

2 Responses

  1. Zora says:

    Thank you for all the interesting posts–I appreciate learning about the archaeological work being done, the artifacts being preserved, and also how the site and archaeologists interact with the people from the area and hear their stories. Thanks to all who take time out of your busy days to post.

  2. hishamsalih says:

    (Are archaeological sites considered a part of Nubian heritage – even a pharaonic town, like Amara West?)
    Yes its a part of Nubian heritage at least because the site is on the Nubians land

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