Key project information
16 March 2016 – 22 May 2020
Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, Egypt
Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale, Cairo
Free University of Berlin
University of Cambridge
Arts and Humanities Research Council
British Council Newton-Mosharafa Fund
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.
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
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.
Asyut: Guardian City – available in Arabic and English
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
- The Last Layer 1: Reconnecting local communities with their heritage, 2017
- The Last Layer 2: Reconnecting local communities with their heritage, 2019
- Have you heard about Shutb? 2019
- Behind the Scenes of the Shutb Dig, 2020
Produced from 2017–2020
Shashotep-Shutb: An Ancient City Rediscovered
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
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
- 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.
- A workshop run with children from the village of Bani Mor using the 'Let the stones speak!' card game (see below).
- Architectural heritage workshops at Shutb, Asyut.
- 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
A card game designed to help interact with children in the Asyut region during a heritage outreach workshop.
Published in 2018
Archaeological mission reports
- Report 1, March 2016 – Arabic, English
- Report 2, October 2016 – Arabic, English
- Report 3, March 2017 – Arabic, English
- Report 4, October 2017 – Arabic, English
- Report 5, March 2018 – Arabic, English
- Report 6, May 2021 – Arabic and English
Published from 2016–2021