Photographic archive of John Garstang excavations in Nubia, 1906

Scope and Content

The photographic record of John Garstang’s excavations in Nubia in 1906, taken at sites near Dakke, Fortress of Qubban and Ikkur fortress near Kostamneh, including photograph albums and prints (Ref: JG/K/1); small negatives series (Ref: JG/K/2), including images of excavation of sites between 1-31 K06 at Kostamneh (Ref: JG/K/2/1), excavation of sites between 32-152 K06 and 204-206 KII 06 at Kostamneh (Ref: JG/K/2/2), excavation at Dakke (Ref: JG/K/2/3); medium negatives series (Ref: JG/K/3), including images of excavation of sites between 1-172 K06 at Kostamneh (Ref: JG/K/3/1), excavation of sites between 36-37, 173-179 K06 and 200-206 KII 06 at Kostamneh (Ref: JG/K/3/2); general views of Kostamneh and excavation of sites at Dakke (Ref: JG/K/3/3), general view of the grave site at Dakke (Ref: JG/K/3/5); and views of the Temple of Dakke and nearby village (Ref JG/K/3/6); and large negative series, including image of the Fortress of Qubban and the excavation of the Fortress of Ikkur at Kostamneh (Ref: JG/K/4/1) and excavation of sites 13, 27-28 K06 and objects discovered at Kostamneh (Ref: JG/K/4/2). The majority of the negatives appear in the photograph albums and are accompanied by a handwritten note stating which album they appear in and previous references.

Administrative / Biographical History

During the second season of excavations at Esna in the winter of 1905-1906, Garstang was convinced by a draft of a report on the antiquities of Lower Nubia by Arthur Weigall, the chief inspector of Antiquities for Upper Egypt, to examine sites in Nubia. With permission of the Service des Antiquités, Garstang carried out an experimental excavation of a few sites in Nubia where he hoped to find sites ‘beyond the reach of the plunders’ destruction'.

In January 1906, Garstang left Harold Jones supervising the excavation of Esna, and travelled down the Nile to Nubia, to carry out a short preliminary survey of possible sites for excavation. His base was the Temple of Dakka (spelt Dakke or Dakkeh). The 3rd century BC Greco-Roman Temple dedicated to Thoth, was Garstang’s base during the preliminary survey. Though the Temple had been damaged due to flooding, Garstang’s set up his ‘camp’ in the Temple’s pylon which was still standing. Garstang also visited various other Temples in the region including the Temple of Kalabsheh (Kalabsha, also known as the Temple of Mandulis); the Temple of Dendur; and Qubban Fortress (also known as Kuban).

Garstang also excavated several small interments in the desert about 1km west of the Dakka. They discovered largely intact stone-lined burial chambers covered with large slabs of stones. Garstang believed construction of the chambers were similar to stone cists found in Europe and the burials resembled those found in pre-dynastic Egypt, the grave goods suggested that the burials belonged to the New Kingdom. They also discovered many fragments pottery on the sandy ridge below the burials, including examples of black-topped pottery, pottery with incised decorations, and a ‘ruder class’ of pottery with exaggerated incisions.

Garstang returned to Nubia the following month, beginning at the Fortress of Qubban. The team found examples of dark red pottery and a few small but elaborate rock tombs which Garstang believed belongs to Egyptian officials at the fortress during the Middle Kingdom.

After briefly stopping at Dakke, Garstang move 9km north to another mud brick fortress (locally known as Ikkur) which sat on west bank of the Nile opposite the settlement of Kostamneh (also known as Kostamna and Kushtemna). Garstang excavated the fortress and believed he had found the remains of the Roman fortress within its walls. To the north-west of the fortress, Garstang discovered a burial site containing graves, covered by a stone slab or smaller stones, often containing the bodies in a ‘doubled-up’ posture, generally on their left side, with pottery and other various grave goods. Garstang believed the burials were pre-dynastic in style, but contained pottery from a later period. As well as pottery, the team also discovered various other grave goods, including stoneware, ivory jewellery, beads, copper implements, an ivory model of a boat, and a decorated ivory comb. Further north, Garstang discovered another burial site (designated KII) containing burials he dated to the New Empire, possibly of Egyptian officials based in the area. At this site the discovered an undisturbed rock tomb containing a mummy inscribed to ‘Anti’. In the same area, they also discovered stone heaps, similar to the grave markers discovered at Dakka, which contained or enclosed a burial chamber. Garstang then returned to complete the excavation at Esna before moving to Abydos.

Garstang never fully published his excavations but the sites were examined by archaeologists carrying out surveys to document sites which would be lost due to the heightening of the Aswan Dam, built in 1902 and heightened between 1907-1912 and 1929-1933. Cecil Firth excavated the fortress of Ikkur as part of the first Survey of Archaeological sites of Nubia, financed by the Egyptian Survey Department. He also examined the burial ground excavated by Garstang at Kostamneh and designated them Ikkur cemeteries 90 and 91 (Garstang’s K and KII respectively). He examined burial sites near Dakke (cemeteries 93-103), but it unclear if any of these were the sites excavated by Garstang. The Temple of Dakke collapsed in 1909 and was surveyed and rebuilt by Alessandro Barsanti. The Fortress of Kubban was excavated by Walter Bryan Emery as part of the Second Archaeological Survey of Nubia, funded by the Service Des Antiquités, in reaction to the second expansion of the Dam in 1929-1933. The building of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s was to flood the entire region and cover the sites excavated by Garstang. As part of a UNESCO rescue campaign, the Temple of Dakke was transported to its new home at Wadi es-Sebua.


At some point the negatives were split into 3 collections by site (Kostamneh, Qubban and Dakke) and the Kostamneh negatives were arranged by dig site reference. The negatives and album prints also have a secondary reference which may reflect the order in which they were originally taken. This followed the format of size ('S' for small, 'M' for medium, and 'L' for large) followed by a 2 digits (possibly the day the image was created and the order it was taken). Many of the larger negatives also have a numerical reference (400-424) which corresponds with the order of the secondary references. The negatives were rearranged to reflect this original order and the old references were noted in the other number field.

Conditions Governing Access

The digital images are accessible to the public for personal research.

Archivist's Note

This collection was catalogued as part of the Pilgrim Trust funded 'Focus on Egypt: the photographic archive of John Garstang' project in October 2015.

Conditions Governing Use

As Garstang left his photographer, Harold Jones, at Esna, it is likely that the majority of the images were created by Garstang himself. Garstang's copyright expires in 2026 (70 years after his death). The copyright of the digital images lie with the University of Liverpool.

Related Material

Papers regarding Garstang's excavations in Nubia can be found within the records of the excavation of Esna (JG/4)


Garstang never fully published this work in Nubia in 1906 and his fullest account and some of the images can be found in: Garstang (1906) ‘Excavations at Hierakonpolis, at Esna and in Nubia’, Annales du Service Des Antiquités, Vol. VIII, pp132-148.

Other publications used in the creation of this catalogue include:

  • Somers Clarke, (1904), 'A brief account certain sites and temples which will be more or less affected by raising the level of the water in the Assuan Reservoir from R.L 106 to RL 112' taken from Maspero, G (1911), Rapports relatifs à la consolidation des temples;
  • Maspero, G,(1911), Rapports relatifs à la consolidation des temples, (Imprimerie de l'Institut français d'archéologie orientale, Cario);
  • Firth, CM, (1912), The Archaeological Survey of Nubia, report for 1908-1909, (Ministry of Finance, Egypt, Survey Department, Cairo);
  • Somers Clarke (1916) 'Ancient Egyptian Frontier Fortresses', The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 3, No. 2/3, pp. 155-179;
  • Roy, J (2011), The politics of Trade: Egypt and lower Nubia in the 4th millennium BC, (Leiden, Boston).