Sesebi and Amara West: Temple towns of Nubia

A guide to the Society's work at the sites of Sesebi and Amara West during the 1930s and 1940s

When the Society ceased excavation at Amarna in 1936, attention shifted to the northern Sudan where an expedition, directed first by Alyward Manley Blackman (1883-1956) and later by Herbert Walter Fairman (1907-1982), excavated the Egyptian temple town at Sesebi which was of the same date as the findings at Amarna. Sesebi was a substantial walled town with a large temple taking up roughly a third of its interior. The settlement was founded on the westbank during the reign of Akhenaten south of his father’s (Amenhotep III) establishment at Soleb in Upper Nubia.


A relief depicting two Nubians found at Sesebi

In 1938 Fairman and the team moved north to another Egyptian site at Amara West. This site was founded during the reign of Seti I and substantially remodelled and expanded during the reign of his son Ramesses II. Again, a significant temple took up a large proportion of the walled town area, though a large extra mural town has since been discovered outside of the town walls.


The epigraphic recording of the temple of Amara West

The Second World War halted the excavations at Amara West and they were not resumed by Fairman until 1947. The final two seasons (1948-50) were directed by Peter Lewis Shinnie (1915-2007) though the excavations remained largely unpublished until 1997 when Patricia Spencer began to work on the archives at the EES.

The sites have since become the focus of further excavation. Sesebi is now explored by a team from the University of Cambridge under the direction of Kate Spence, while Amara West is currently being investigated by a British Museum team under the direction of Neal Spencer.

Further reading

Blackman, A. M. 1937. Preliminary report on the excavations at Sesebi, northern province, Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, 1936-37. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 23 (2), 145-151.

Fairman, H. W. 1938. Preliminary report on the excavations at Sesebi (Sudla) and 'Am?rah West, Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, 1937-8. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 24 (2), 151-156.

Fairman, H. W. 1939. Preliminary report on the excavations at 'Am?rah West, Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, 1938-9. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 25 (2), 139-144.

Fairman, H. W. 1948. Preliminary report on the excavations at Amarah West, Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, 1947-8. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 34, 3-11.

Shinnie, P. L. 1951. Preliminary report on the excavations at 'Am?rah West, 1948-49 and 1949-50. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 37, 5-11.

Spencer, P. 1997. Amara West I: The Architectural Report. London: The Egypt Exploration Society.

Spencer, P. 2002. Amara West II: The Cemetery and Pottery Corpus. London: The Egypt Exploration Society.

Spencer, P. 2016. Amara West III: The Scenes and Texts of the Ramesside Temple. London: The Egypt Exploration Society.