Over the last couple of days Luke Lovelock and I have been filming interviews with contributors to our Ancient Worlds displays which open on 30th October this year. We are putting short audio-visual presentations in the galleries.
In the first gallery a number of guides or characters introduce the various archaeological themes, topics and material. The guides aren’t people who show you round but contributors to the displays who talk about their work and the exhibits illustrate what they say.
This morning Luke and I went across to Geography and recorded an interview with Prof. Jamie Woodward. Jamie has been working in the Nile Valley in northern Sudan. Together with a team from the British Museum, Jamie has been exploring how human settlement of the landscape changed in response to the changing environment.
His work shows that in the Neolithic period about 5-6000 years ago communities were quite widely distributed but in the thousand year period in which the city Kerma flourished, about 4-5000 years ago, settlements were located along the channels of the River Nile further to the east than the present course of the river Nile.
Jamies’s work involves taking samples with relatively low-tech equipment like short lengths of scaffolding poles and square containers. Jamie can tell whether the samples were wind-blown or deposited by water in the laboratory. Using a technique called Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) he can date the samples.
This provides a fascinating picture of changing human settlement in the Nile Valley over thousands of years. The settlement pattern shifted over time depending on whether water ran in the channels.
Thanks to Jamie we’ll be able to show this and explain it in a filmed interview and a series of diagrams in the Ancient Worlds displays. It is very interesting that Kerma did well when water was flowing in the eastern channels but the Egyptian civilisation further north entered a period of decline. The annual Nile floods that irrigated that part of northern Sudan seems to have done so at the expense of the Egyptians. Deprived of Nile floods of sufficient height the Old Kingdom entered a period of decline. When the river channels shifted Egypt recovered and Kerma declined. The picture that is emerging is only possible because of inter-disciplinary work involving archaeologists, geographers and other specialists.
Luke captured a lot of material this morning and it will be a challenge to edit it down to 2 minutes. However, people will be able to download longer pieces from the web. We’re very grateful to Jamie and the laboratory technician, John, for allowing us to film an interview over in Geography.