Moscow University

The Beja of Atbay: the results of the first years of ethnographic studies during archaeological and anthropological expedition in Nubian desert

Tutorskiy A.V., Gordeev F.I.

Lomonosov Moscow State University, Faculty of History,Lomonosov Prospect, 27, Moscow, 119192, Russia

Tutorski Andrei V., PhD; ORCID ID: 0000-0003-4651-4667;; Gordeev Fedor I., student; ORCID ID: 0000-0003-1647-8327;


Introduction. The Atbay region, which we refer to in this article, has been the periphery of large state formations since the time of the Egyptian civilization. The question of the genetic continuity of the ancient population of Atbay and the modern ethnic groups living in this territory – the Beja, still causes debate in the scientific community. In the article we propose to turn to the cultural continuity of the population of the region, mediated by unique geographical and political factors, which, in the case of Atbay, have remained virtually unchanged for centuries. Materials and methods. Different works on history and social anthropology relating to the Atbay region and the ethnic group considered in the article (the Beja) became the main sources for the article. The information available in the research literature is compared with the data that we managed to collect during the first experience of field research among the Beja Bisharin as part of the Nubian archaeological and an-thropological expedition of Moscow State University. Results and discussion. The article provides an overview of the main works and scientific concepts related to Bedja of the Atbay region. In historical monographs, focused mainly on the most ancient and medieval periods, the Bedja are perceived as the Proto-Egyptians or the descendants of the Medajs of the era of the Middle Kingdom. During ethnographic research undertaken as part of the archaeological and anthropological expedition of Moscow State University, it was found that the Atbay region is very different from the regions of the Nile Valley and the Red Sea coast. Based on the studies of 2018-2019 seasons the idea was put forward that the special landscape and climate of the region prevent its incorporation into the existing state formations (Ancient Egypt, Arab Caliphate), and reinforce a local peripheral culture that exists and reproduces itself for several millennia while remaining distinct (in part opposed to) the dominant historical culture. Conclusion. As a result of studying various written sources and comparing them to the field materials, we developed a hypothesis of cultural continuity of the population of the Beja in the region, mediated primarily by its special climatic and historical conditions. This hypothesis, in our opinion, provides a promising theoretical framework for further research on the cultural characteristics of Beja Bisharin of Atbay. The first field experience also confirmed the idea of the closeness of Beja communities given in literature. We intend to use these findings to develop strategies for further research.


Atbay; Beja people; Bisharin; Red Sea Hills; cultural continuity; periphery

DOI: 10.32521/2074-8132.2021.4.146-152

Цит.: Tutorskiy A.V., Gordeev F.I. The Beja of Atbay: the results of the first years of ethnographic studies during archaeological and anthropological expedition in Nubian desert // Moscow University Anthropology Bulletin (Vestnik Moskovskogo Universiteta. Seria XXIII. Antropologia), 2021; 4/2021; с. 146-152 Published: December 22, 2021

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