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1/11/13: The Language of the Street

“Language of the Street” is a term for a dialect of Sudanese Arabic that I have only briefly encountered. But it also alludes to the difficulty we can have reading the cues that direct natives where they want to go. We all know what a coffee shop or restaurant looks like in our home town or country…but in Sudan things look quite different.

I’ve been thinking about this as I move further toward understanding Sudan, but also understanding the language of its archaeological sites. I’ve previously worked on ancient settlements in Mesopotamia, which are built of mudbrick and which over time usually form mounds called “tells.” Many of these sites are easy to identify, and while excavating them can be technically challenging, it’s a well-understood language of walls, rebuilding, layers, and garbage pits.

There has been relatively little work on settlements in Sudan, and while some are well known, it’s clear that we have not located all of them. So will the scatter of modern garbage mixed with ancient pot sherds on the surface of El Kurru be a signature of a buried settlement? Stay tuned!