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Belgian Middle Egypt Prehistoric Project

This research project of the Catholic University of Leuven was created in 1976 by Professor Dr Pierre Vermeersch, who assumed its direction until 2003. The present director is Professor Dr Philip Van Peer.


The project was founded in 1976 by Pierre M. Vermeersch and Etienne Paulissen, both from the University of Leuven.  It was a fieldwork project  aiming at understanding both the occupational and geomorphological history of the Lower Nile Valley in prehistoric  times, starting out from the underresearched area of Middle Egypt.  Over the years  the surveys were extended upstream into Upper Egypt and  the thematic focus was centered on Palaeolithic hunters and gatherers.  From the early 1990’s on the project started working in the Eastern Desert where caves and shelters occur in the Eocene limestones. These were expected to deliver the residential sites that were missing in the Valley. Sodmein Cave site in the Jebel Duwi formation, the southernmost occurrence of  the limestone, was the first focus of attention. Three seasons were spent excavating at Sodmein Cave. This work was complemented with surveys for other sites, both open-air and sheltered, and it continued until 2003 when a final survey campaign was carried out in the desert to the west of Hurghada. 


After an interruption of 6 years, the project was resumed in 2009 under the direction of Philip Van Peer who, in the intermediate period, had excavated the site of Sai 8-B-11 in the Middle Nile Valley of northern Sudan. A collaboration was initiated with the German Collaborative Research Centre 806 of which the University of Cologne is the managing institution. This interdisciplinary project seeks to investigate the migration routes of early Homo sapiens through which they became established in the northern Old World. Subproject A1, directed by geographer Olaf Bubenzer,  is concerned with Egypt and the Red Sea coast as a possible early migration route. Under this CRC 806 aegis, the Universities of Leuven and Cologne are jointly pursuing  further excavation of Sodmein Cave. Three campaigns have been spent since our initial re-visit of the site in 2009.

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