SFDAS excavations


Directed by Vincent Francigny.

A few kilometres south of Dal cataract and of the lake which now covers Lower Nubia lies Sai island, an archaeological conservation area that has naturally been protected from the ravages of development that are reaching the banks of the Nubian valley. It is one of the biggest islands on the Nile and it displays remains from the Palaeolithic Age to modern days. It is regularly subject to excavations led by the University Lille 3.


Sai has been a major territorial issue between the Nubian and Egyptian empires and has notably preserved traces of a Pharaonic city of which a third has been buried under the walls of an Ottoman fortress. The northern part of the island is covered by huge post-Meroitic tumuli fields but it also has cemeteries from the New Kingdom as well as from Kerma, Napatan, Meroitic and Christian periods.

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Workers on the excavation site.

Dominated by the Gebel Adu, the island provides a territory of about 50 km² that archaeologists haven’t explored completely. Research started in 1954 with Jean Vercoutter and is now continued under the direction of Professor Didier Devauchelle, replaced in the field by Florence Doyen. The team has expanded to many international specialists over the past years and is now focusing on the issue of settlement on the island during the prehistoric period (under the direction of Elena Garcea), the Egyptian occupation and the foundation of the fortress city (under the direction of Florence Doyen), the local funerary tradition during the Meroitic period (under the direction of Vincent Francigny) and the Christianization period (under the direction of Alexandros Tsakos).

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Fragment of a painted Meroitic shroud.

article published on 29 March 2021

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