Archaeological Survey of Nubia

When it began in 1907, the Archaeological Survey of Nubia (ASN) represented one of the earliest surveys into the demographics of health and disease in an archaeological population.

Under the guidance of Sir Grafton Elliot Smith, the project’s anatomical advisor, around 8,000 bodies were carefully excavated, studied and preserved for future generations.

The human remains discovered during this survey have been the subject of research at the KNH Centre for over 15 years.

The Executioner Trenches

Our current focus is the enigmatically named Executioner Trenches which were found at Shellal, Egypt, during the first season of the survey.

Two trenches were discovered cut into the walls of an abandoned Roman period fort. They contained the remains of over a hundred bodies, many of which showed signs of death by hanging.

The original excavators identified the bodies as members of a nomadic Nubian tribe who had been killed while raiding territory on the Nubian-Egyptian border.

Mass burials are relatively rare in this area, as are bodies that show evidence of judicial execution. In conjunction with Professor Andrew Chamberlain, we are re-evaluating these trenches to determine whether the original assessment was accurate or whether another interpretation of these graves can be found.