November 26, 2008

Eastern Desert academic conference

A conference takes place in Cairo: the main lecture is titled "The History of the Peoples in the Eastern Deserts of Egypt and Sudan."

The region between the Red Sea and the Nile Valley in Egypt and Sudan is referred to as the Eastern Desert. The desertification of this region started with the end of the Holocene pluvial period and continues until today. The mobile hunter-herder-gatherers that left the region to settle in the Nile Valley are regarded as one of the driving forces behind the advent of Pharaonic civilization. Despite environmental degradation and scholarly neglect, the Eastern Desert has native inhabitants and a history of its own.

The mineral wealth in the Eastern Desert has attracted outsiders from early times onward, who in turn have been the focus of the attention of historians and archaeologists. The same is true for the trade routes that connected the Nile Valley with sub-Saharan Africa, Arabia Felix, India and the enigmatic Land of Punt. The study of the Eastern Desert is also hampered by the limitations of the historical sources, by the low archaeological visibility of the remains of the desert dwellers, and by ambiguous ethnographic parallels.

A conference organized by the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology (University of California, Los Angeles) at the NVIC aims to address the problems and possibilities of the study of the dwellers of the Eastern Desert, as well as to provide an overview of the current state of our knowledge. The preliminary conclusions of this conference will be presented in this Cleveringa Lecture. The region and its inhabitants, ancient and modern, also bring into focus some ethical issues, especially appropriate as this lecture was instituted to commemorate the courageous moral stance taken by Professor Cleveringa during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.

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