02 Jan 2024

Uncovering Abydos

A report on the Uncovering Abydos conference held 5-7 December 2023.

The Uncovering Abydos conference was held at the British Council in Cairo between December 5-7, 2023. The conference served as a venue for discussion and reflection upon the past, present, and future of archaeological work at Abydos, which dates back over 125 years. Sessions focused upon a broad range of topics, including Abydos in museum collections, how Abydos is experienced as a heritage site, and how work at Abydos has shaped archaeological knowledge practices. Over the three days, more than 120 people attended the conference in-person, with a further 60 attending online.

There were also five keynote speakers across the three days. Campbell Price, Chair of the Board of Trustees at the EES, opened the conference with a keynote address which explored the history of EES involvement at Abydos. E. Christiana Kohler’s keynote addressed the history of archaeological work at Umm el Qaab with a focus on the contributions of the German Archaeological Institute. Sameh Iskander shared details of the NYU-ISAW excavations at the Ramses II temple in Abydos which made international news earlier this year. Dawn McCormack presented her reflection upon the work done by University of Pennsylvania at 13th Dynasty sites in southern Abydos. Finally, Hisham el Leithy highlighted the work of the Center for Documentation of Egyptian Antiquities, it’s emergence during the Nubia Campaign, and how documentation and publication efforts relate to work at Abydos.

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Abdullah Ibrahim, son of the late el Re’is Ibrahim, elucidates his father's archaeological contributions at Abydos. The session serves as a poignant commemoration of the Quftis' legacy, fostering unity and intellectual reflection within the archaeological community.

One of the goals of the conference was to shine a light on Egyptian contributions to the work conducted at Abydos. Over the three days of the conference there were 15 papers presented by Egyptian archaeologists, scholars, and students. We were honored to receive papers from Ahmed Aziz and his colleagues discussing the conservation of the Osireion, Abd el Ghafour Motawee and his team’s work restoration work at the Osiris Chapel in the Seti I temple, and Tarek el Waly who has led sustainable development projects at Abydos since 2005. Further, one of the highlights of the conference was the Qufti roundtable held in memory of the recently deceased el Re’is Ibrahim, who was the long-time leader of the Qufti workmen at Abydos. El Re’is Ibrahim’s son Abdallah reflected upon his father’s unique contribution to the archaeological work at Abydos, as well as a broader history of Qufti’s at the site; their relationship with excavators and how their labour has shaped the site we encounter today. Finally, the conference organizers held a workshop for 12 local school children titled “An Adventure in the Temple”, where they engaged with the site of Abydos through art, producing a mosaic of Seti I temple, and learning more about the site.

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Adventure in the Temple" Workshop - Participants aged 6 to 12 engage in an educational workshop inspired by the Seti I Temple at Abydos. The workshop aimed at nurturing early interest in historical and archaeological endeavors while emphasizing collaborative learning.

Whilst there was a focus upon the Egyptian contribution to Abydos, there was also recognition of the international community which have contributed so much to the archaeological work at the site. Papers were given by scholars from Belgium, France, Germany, the UK, and the USA. Further, we were honoured to have in-person and online attendees from Australia, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. Many of the papers focused upon the work conducted by EES-sponsored archaeologists such as William Matthew Flinders Petrie, Edouard Naville, and Thomas Eric Peet, whose work is still relevant over 100 years later.

We extend our gratitude to the organising committee, with special appreciation for the valuable contributions of individuals: Dr Ibraheem Badawy, Hossem Abd el Azeem, Prof Dr Rasha Zenhom, and Abdallah Ibraheem.

Press Releases:
The Uncovering Abydos Conference garnered substantial media coverage, reflecting its international significance and scholarly contributions. Independent Arabia, Gomhouria journal, Athar Masr, Sohag Government's official website and Nile TV are among the platforms that highlighted the conference's achievements and diverse participation.

"The Legacy of the Quftis” session provided a nuanced exploration of archaeological history, accentuating the unsung contributions of the Quftis. It was a scholarly homage that resonated deeply within our academic community.", Prof Dr Ghaylan Hamoud (San'aa University - Yemen)

"The Adventure in the Temple” workshop seamlessly combined educational rigor with interactive engagement. It is a commendable initiative, inspiring the next generation of scholars and fostering collaborative learning.", Prof Dr Rasha Zenhom (Helwan University - Egypt)

"The Archives Roundtable" illuminated the indispensable role of archival data in archaeology. The collaboration discussed by Dr Elliethy, Rashed, and Wagdy is foundational for advancing our understanding of Abydos in the archives and, consequently, ancient civilizations.", Dr Mohamed Saleh (King Abd El Aziz Foundation for the Research and Archives - Saudi Arabia)

In summary, the Uncovering Abydos Conference 2023 is a manifestation of the global scholarly community's commitment to unraveling the enigmatic mysteries of Abydos while advancing the fields of archaeology and Egyptology. Its success, characterized by meticulous academic standards, widespread international cooperation, and engaging sessions, has indelibly influenced not only seasoned professionals but also the emerging generation of archaeologists, leaving an enduring impact on the trajectory of these disciplines.