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Durham University

Department of Archaeology

All Research Projects

Agriculture at Qasr Ibrim, Nubia, 1000 BC - AD 1800

A research project of the Department of Archaeology.


This project, undertaken by Dr. Peter Rowley-Conwy and ably assisted by Dr. Alan Clapham (Worcester University) and supported by the Natural Environmental Research Council, has analysed the huge sample of botanical remains from Qasr Ibrim in Nubia, dating from 1000 BC to AD 1800. Three main phases of agricultural plants are identified. First, in the 1st millennium BC the crop plants were those characteristic of ancient Egyptian cultivation in the receding Nile floods: barley, emmer wheat, linseed and lentils. Second, in the period AD 0-350, many new crop plants appear: sorghum, pearl millet, termis and lablab beans, sesame, cotton, and a hexaploid wheat. These are summer crops, and their presence indicates the use of irrigation – the saqia ox-driven water wheel. Third, after AD 350 the pace of change slows, and agriculture continued largely unchanged until abandonment in AD 1800. The major agricultural change, the ‘Nubian agricultural revolution’, occurs several centuries earlier than previously thought.

Preserved sorghum from Qasr Ibrim


From the Department of Archaeology

Scottish Soldiers Project

Cooperating with the Palace Museum in China