An introduction to Amara West: podcasts
Tomomi Fushiya (University of Leiden) and Neal Spencer (Keeper, Department of Ancient Egypt & Sudan, British Museum)
The ancient town of Amara West is now a windswept place hidden behind dunes along the left bank of the Nile. The last years have seen aspects of the ancient town brought to life through work on the ancient houses, what people ate, what diseases they suffered from, their religious beliefs and even how paint was prepared. But how is this new information conveyed to the local communities?
Alongside a series of lectures, and the distribution of a free Arabic book summarising research on Amara West, we have also installed illustrated panels in a visitor orientation area built beside the ancient town.
We know that people from Abri and Ernetta island occasionally visit the site, for example during the Eid festivals. The visitor orientation area offers a place sheltered from sun (and wind!), where visitors can rest and read – in Arabic or English – about some of the discoveries, and the history of exploration. It is also a space where we plan to host school visits in future seasons.
One of our Sudanese colleagues suggested we make audio versions of the panels. Smartphones are increasingly common, and are used for sharing videos, What’s App messages or music. A few men keep images of saqiya (waterwheel) and old style Nubian houses on their phones. They exchange images of traditional objects and architecture in a ‘Nubian heritage’ group through an app. We’ve now created podcast versions of the panels – in English or Arabic – which can be used by anyone visiting the site, or indeed anyone else interested in ancient Amara West!
These short films (between 2 and 3 minutes each) can be watched in high resolution (for desktop or tablets) or in a mobile version.
There’s more to do. The local language in Ernetta and Abri is Nubian, though nearly everyone speaks Arabic. Nubian is mainly a spoken language today. As few people write and read it, neither in Arabic characters nor Old Nubian characters, we hope to create a Nubian-language podcast soon, in collaboration with the owner of a ‘heritage café’ in Abri, Fekry Hassan Taha.
The podcasts were made possible through the support of the Qatar-Sudan Archaeological Project.