Shutb village in Asyut, Egypt, showing intact and dilapidated buildings.

Research project

Regional Identities in Middle Egypt

Supported by

Newton-Mosharafa Fund

Key project information

Duration

16 March 2016 – 22 May 2020

Partners

Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, Egypt
Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale, Cairo
Free University of Berlin
University of Cambridge

Supported by

Arts and Humanities Research Council
British Council Newton-Mosharafa Fund

Grant numbers

AHRC Development Grant AH/N009193/1
AHRC Care for Future Innovation Award AH/P007724/1
British Council Newton Mosharafa Fund Institutional Links Grant 274662441

A holistic approach to map, preserve and present Egypt’s heritage by looking at the broad spectrum of history – from 3000 BC up until the present day – at multi-layered sites.

This project, Urban Development and Regional Identities in Middle Egypt: A Deep History of the Asyut Region, aspires to provide a model for innovative and sustainable fieldwork by including the varied responses of local communities who live atop the layers of history below. It also aims to recontextualise objects in the British Museum collection that were excavated in Asyut in 1906-7. 

Asyut is now one of Egypt’s largest cities. It was once a thriving cultural hub where works of art were copied and re-copied for thousands of years. Textual sources and material culture have confirmed the importance of Asyut in the shaping of Egypt’s cultural memory. But because of rapid urban expansion, much of the city’s ancient heritage is buried under layers of earth and history. This project aims to explore the history of what is still accessible.

About the project

The village of Shutb, 5km south of Asyut city, is an important window into the history of a rural community living above an ancient site. The village is built on the remains of ancient Shashotep, a regional centre and capital of the 11th Upper Egyptian province from 2000 BC onwards. It provides an ideal archaeological and anthropological context rarely preserved in the Egyptian Nile valley – a middle-sized provincial town combined with its hinterland in a continuous historical setting that is accessible for research. 

Fieldwork has traditionally been physically and intellectually separated from the surrounding environment and communities. But in this project, an interdisciplinary team of Egyptian and UK-based consultants have collaborated with local stakeholders to develop a set of protection measures to:

  • Research and uphold the site’s archaeological value
  • Prevent further decay of the historic fabric
  • Enhance the socio-economic conditions of the inhabitants. 

Some artefacts from Asyut – including sculpture, ceramics, funerary equipment, textiles and papyri – were taken to the British Museum following excavations by David George Hogarth in 1906–7. This project aims to recontextualise these finds by cross-referencing information from old field notes with tomb numbers marked on the objects, and by matching the artefacts with similar items from other museums as well as from more recent fieldwork.

Aims

This project aims to research and document Asyut's threatened cultural heritage and to plan further conservation work to prevent permanent loss of the historic fabric. The project’s success is dependent on collaboration and coordination with local communities and heritage professionals, which will be achieved by:

  • Providing training in archaeological documentation
  • Implementing policies to protect Asyut's threatened cultural heritage
  • Exchanging experience in areas of archaeological fieldwork, urban planning and policy making, to build capacity with local stakeholders.

The project also aims to develop a new method for integrating archaeological fieldwork with museum collections and archives to produce a more holistic approach to researching and understanding the cultural heritage of regional Egypt.

Research results have and continue to be shared through a variety of platforms including books, journal articles and videos. In addition to the scholarly community, the general public and the people of Asyut are kept up-to-date with the outcomes of the project through mission reports published in English and Arabic. 

Outputs also include reports on:

  • Vernacular architecture
  • Heritage outreach workshops with young people
  • The social dynamics and perceptions of the village.

Conclusion

The project has successfully tested a holistic approach for innovative and sustainable fieldwork initiatives, promoting increased empowerment of, and participation by, local communities. Such an all-inclusive approach has rarely been tested in Egypt, where most projects are physically and intellectually separated from present-day inhabitants of rural areas with large numbers of low-profile sites and unlisted historic buildings. 

Our outputs (surveys, documentation, excavation, training, publications) have provided important information on:

  • The history of the Asyut region represented within the British Museum collection
  • Perceptions on local tangible and intangible heritage and the social dynamics of the villages. 

Designed to provide a better understanding of people’s perceptions of their ancient heritage, our outreach activities have been a medium for local people to give voice to the stories and memories that shape their understanding of the village and themselves. The aim is to build on these experiences in order to explore future collaboration and inform the redisplay of objects from Asyut at the British Museum.

Meet the team

Headshot of Illona Regulski

Ilona Regulski

Principal Investigator
Department of Egypt and Sudan
British Museum

Project team

Project supporters

Project supporters

Supported by

Newton-Mosharafa Fund logo
AHRC logo

Outputs

Asyut: Guardian City – available in Arabic and English

BOOK

Presenting fieldwork findings and insights gained from the study of Asyut's material culture preserved in museums and institutions. 

Ilona Regulski; Maria Golia

Published in 2018 

A series of videos showing how this project reconnected the people of Shutb with their heritage

VIDEO

Produced from 2017 – 2020

Shashotep-Shutb: An Ancient City Rediscovered

JOURNAL ARTICLE

Ilona Regulski; Judith Bunbury; Sylvie Marchand; Ann-Cathrin Gabel; Barbara Chauvet

The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 104.1: pages 81-91

Published in 2019

A Tale of Shutb

BOOK

A Tale of Shutb is a fictional story for children that includes accurate historical facts and reveals discoveries from this project's work in Shutb – available in Arabic and English. 

Published in 2019

Four reports about Heritage Outreach Workshops run with young people in the Asyut region

REPORT

  1. About the Heritage Outreach Workshop ‘How to make a flyer for the heritage of your village?’ run with young people from the village of Shutb.
  2. A workshop run with children from the village of Bani Mor using the ‘Let the stones speak!’ card game (see below). 
  3. Architectural heritage workshops at Shutb, Asyut. 
  4. Heritage-related art workshop with young people from the village of Shutb. 

Published in 2018 and 2019

'Let the stones speak!' card game – a History of Asyut through objects

EDUCATIONAL RESOURCE

A card game designed to help interact with children in the Asyut region during a heritage outreach workshop.

Published in 2018

Four reports on assessments of the vernacular architecture of Shutb village

Published from 2016 – 2018

Archaeological mission reports

REPORT

Published from 2016 – 2021