The Egyptian kings of the 12th Dynasty, starting in c. 2000 BCE, began an unprecedented campaign of expansion up the Nile into Lower Nubia, the land directly south of Egypt. The gold-bearing hills of this region were exploited by the Egyptian state, and the trade corridor of the river was heavily defended by a series of massive fortifications. Garrisons of soldiers staffed the forts until the Second Intermediate Period, when political fragmentation in Egypt and the growth of a rival power in Kerma to the south meant that Egypt could no longer control this stretch of the river.
Nubia remained within the sphere of Egyptian influence and control, but the relationship required frequent military incursions. The forts were recovered in the early New Kingdom, but as the frontier moved farther to the south they ceased to be actively garrisoned.
All of Lower Nubia was flooded by the construction of the Aswan High Dam half a century ago. The Egyptian fortresses, built of mud-brick, were lost beneath the rising waters. It is only within the past decade that archaeologists learned that two forts, those of Uronarti and Shalfak, were in fact above the high-water mark and had been spared. In 2012, Brown University and the University of Vienna began a project to systematically explore and record the remains at Uronarti and its surrounds.
Already it is clear that archaeological techniques and questions that did not exist in the 1960s will allow new insights into the system of fortifications and the interactions between Egyptians and Nubians in this area. Dr. Laurel Bestock, Assistant Professor of Egyptology and Archaeology in Brown University's Department of Egyptology and Ancient Western Asian Studies, discusses the finds of the first season of the Brown/Vienna project and outlines avenues of future research in this rich and forgotten archaeological landscape.