Thanks very much to Chris Townsend for sending me details of a lecture by John Coleman Darnell at the Benjamin T. Rome Auditorium of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC.. Chris says that it was an excellent lecture focusing on the southern oases during Pharaonic times. The lecture was delivered to the Washington DC Chapter of the American Research Center in Egypt on 23rd January 2009.
John Coleman Darnell: The Girga Road: Abu Ziyâr, Tundaba, and the Integration of the Southern Oases into the Pharaonic State
“The primary and shortest artery of pharaonic expansion into Kharga Oasis was the Girga Road, linking the Thebaid and northern Kharga Oasis. Archaeological and epigraphic material from several sites on the high plateau portion of the route reveal a development of pharaonic interest in Kharga, and evince changes in the Nilotic government's approach to the administrative and economic integration of Kharga Oasis into the pharaonic realm. Although Old Kingdom campsites along the route attest to the visits of small numbers of self-sufficient travellers, the first outposts of the Nilotic administration appear during the Middle Kingdom. The site of Abu Ziyâr, east of the mid-point of the high plateau portion of the Girga Road, represents a change in the pharaonic approach to the route, and to the development of Kharga Oasis.
“Already Monthuhotep II advocated the incorporation of the Oasian and Lower Nubian economies into a greater pharaonic ‘commonwealth’, and archaeological and epigraphic evidence from the Abu Ziyâr site reveal a concerted effort during the early Twelfth Dynasty to expend government resources – both in men and material – on the southern oases. A major object of these exertions was the development of Gebel Ghueita and its environs within Kharga Oasis, where several sites reveal a considerable population copying Nilotic ceramic forms and fabrics. The rise of Gebel Ghueita, and perhaps other pharaonic bases, within Kharga Oasis corresponds to the abandonment of the Abu Ziyâr outpost by the late Twelfth Dynasty.
“The expeditions sent to develop the Khargan infrastructure allowed Kharga to begin to pay for herself by the early New Kingdom. Both archaeological and epigraphic material from the late Seventeenth Dynasty/early Eighteenth Dynasty site of Tundaba – at the midpoint of the Girga Road – reveal the success of Theban military and economic control of the Western Desert during the late Second Intermediate Period. The Abu Ziyâr outpost, near the Nilotic centre of the economic and military interests in the Girga Road, gave way to the more centrally located Tundaba outpost at the dawn of the New Kingdom, reflecting the growing exports and more self-sufficient nature of the Khargan economy.”
John Coleman Darnell is Professor of Egyptology, Director of the Yale Egyptological Institute in Egypt (including the Yale Theban Desert Road Survey and the Yale Toshka Desert Survey), and Chairman of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Yale University. He studied Egyptology at the Johns Hopkins University, the University of Cologne, and the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. He has worked in Egypt for over twenty years, as epigrapher and senior epigrapher with the Epigraphic Survey of the Oriental Institute from 1988-1998, and as director of his own expeditions since 1992. His Egyptological interests have focused on Egyptian religion, cryptographic texts, rock inscriptions, and the archaeology and epigraphy of the Western Desert roads.