Ancient Nubia: New Discoveries in the Middle Nile Valley

Leading Nubiologists present latest discoveries in all-day Symposium at the ROM on September 25

In conjunction with the recent opening of the ROM’s Galleries of Africa: Nubia, a free all-day Symposium focusing on ancient Nubia takes place in the Signy & Cléophée Eaton Theatre on Level 1B at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) on Sunday, September 25 from 9:30 am – 4:00 pm.

From 800 BC to AD 350, the civilization of ancient Nubia flourished on both banks of the Nile between Aswan in Egypt and Khartoum in the Sudan. Today, the ruins of ancient temples, medieval churches and whole buried cities of this far-away and inaccessible land are waiting to be discovered. Over the last decade, archaeological investigations conducted in Nubia, including by the ROM’s Senior Curator Dr. Krzysztof Grzymski, enjoyed new momentum, partly due to the construction of dams along the Nile. The September 25th Symposium at the ROM features some of the world's leading Nubiologists as they present the history of ancient Nubia, as well as the latest archaeological discoveries surrounding the great civilization.

September 25th Event Itinerary

9:30 - 9:45 am

Opening remarks by Janet Carding, ROM Director and CEO, and Hassan Hussein Idris, Director General of Sudan’s National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums.

9:45 - 10:30 am

History of Archaeological Explorations in the Sudan

The Sudan, until recently the largest country in Africa, is also one of the continent’s richest archaeological regions. Human presence in the Middle Nile Region can be traced back almost million years. The country’s archaeological relics have been known since European travelers visited the region in the 19th century. Since the beginning of the 20th century, salvage operations and research projects in many parts of the country have contributed considerably to our knowledge of the history of this part of the Nile Valley.

Speaker Salah eldin Mohamed Ahmed is the Fieldwork Director at Sudan's National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums (NCAM).

10:30 - 11:15 am

Dukki Gel-Kerma: The Nubian Towns and the Egyptian Foundation of Thutmose I

The city of Kerma, the capital of the ancient African Kingdom of Kerma, was abandoned around 1500 BC. Excavation a half mile to the north reveals a Nubian town where Thutmose I established a monumental and religious palatial complex made of mud brick with African and Egyptian architectural origins.

Speaker Charles Bonnet is professor emeritus of the University of Geneva and member of the Institute of France (Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres). He is former president of the International Society of Nubian Studies and has been director during 30 years of the Swiss Mission of Kerma (Sudan).

11:15 am - 12 pm

Nubian Pharaohs on the Upper Nile:

Royal Statues, Temple Offerings and Other Recent Discoveries

Recent excavations at Dangeil, Sudan, just upstream of the 5th Nile cataract, have revealed a previously unknown temple of the 1st century AD dedicated to Amun, the Nubian god of kingship. The surprise discovery of royal statues in the temple, including one of the Nubian King Taharqo who ruled Egypt as a pharaoh, has raised numerous questions.

Speaker Julie Anderson has worked in Sudan and Egypt since 1987 and is co-director, along with Dr. Salah Mohamed Ahmed, of the Sudan National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums' excavations at Dangeil. She is an Assistant Keeper (Curator) in the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan at the British Museum, with responsibility for Sudanese antiquities, and Honorary Secretary of the International Society for Nubian Studies.

12:00 - 12:15 pm

Question period for morning session

12:15 - 1:30 pm

Lunch break

A short film highlighting current ROM curatorial research in Nubia will be screened in the Eaton Theatre on a continuous basis.

1:30 - 2:15 pm

A Common Settlement of Nubians and Egyptians: Philae as a Nubian Holy Place

Philae, the famous temple island in the Nile four kilometres south of Aswan, is well-known as "The Pearl of Egypt”. However, due to its position on the border between Ancient Egypt and Nubia at least part of its glory was Nubian. This lecture gives an overview of the Nubian presence on the island from its origins until Late Antiquity.

Speaker Jitse Dijkstra is Associate Professor and Head of Classics at the University of Ottawa. His research focuses on various aspects of the process of religious transformation in Late Antiquity, in particular in its Egyptian context. He is a member of the archaeological mission of the Swiss Institute of Architectural and Archaeological Research on Ancient Egypt at Aswan. His recent publications include Philae and the End of Ancient Egyptian Religion: A Regional Study of Religious Transformation (298-642 CE) (2008).

2:15 – 3:00 pm

Kings and Pilgrims: Excavating the Holy Sites of Banganarti and Selib

Banganarti and Selib sit on the right bank of the Nile, upriver from Old Dongola where a capital of Christian Nubia was located. Both attracted a flow of pilgrims from all over the Middle Nile. The visitors to the sanctuary of Archangel Raphael in Banganarti, who drank holy water and experienced the benefits of the incubation ( prophetic and healing sleep) in the superbly decorated chapels, left more than one thousand graffiti and inscriptions, revising our perception of Christian Nubia.

Speaker Bogdan Zurawski is the Head of the Department of African Cultures in the Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures of the Polish Academy of Sciences. From 1984 to 1988, he was a staff member of the Dongola Reach Survey and Canadian Expedition to Nubia (both organized by the ROM). Since 1998, he has been the director of the Polish Archaeological Expedition to the Middle Nile and the Polish-Sudanese Mission to Banganarti and Selib. From 2004 to 2009, he directed the Polish Rescue Mission to the Fourth Cataract.

3:00 -3:45 pm

ROM in Nubia: Archaeological Discoveries in the Middle Nile Valley

Meroe, the capital of ancient Sudan, was recently designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been investigated since 1999 by the joint Royal Ontario Museum – University of Khartoum mission. A century ago, the ROM’s founder Charles T. Currelly supported the University of Liverpool excavations at Meroe. In the past, the ROM also supported archaeological research at other Nubian sites such as Buhen, Qasr Ibrim and Hambukol, with many of the finds on display in the ROM’s new Galleries of Africa: Nubia.

Speaker Dr. Krzysztof Grzymski is ROM Senior Curator, Egypt and Nubia, and Associate Professor of Egyptian and Nubian Archaeology at the University of Toronto. From 2004 to 2011, he served as the ROM’s Vice-President, World Cultures. He has been excavating in the Sudan since 1982, most recently at the site of Meroe. He is the curator of the newly opened Galleries of Africa: Nubia.

3:45 – 4:00 pm

Question period for afternoon session

Symposium attendees should enter via the President’s Choice School Entrance, located at the Museum’s south end. The event, open to the public and free of charge, does not include Museum admission.

Pre-registration is highly recommended at

This Symposium is offered with the assistance of the ROM’s Friends of Ancient Egypt