Professor William Y Adams

1997 – present

The current President of the Society, Bill Adams, began his career in 1949, excavating in northern Arizona for the Museum of Northern Arizona. Following extensive surveys in northern Arizona and southern Utah for the Smithsonian Institute in 1953, he assumed the direction of the Museum of Northern Arizona Glen Canyon salvage operations, between 1957 and 1959, work necessitated by the construction of a dam. It was this experience which first brought him into the Nile Valley.

Bill AdamsIn 1959 he was appointed by UNESCO as organiser and director of the Nubian salvage program in Sudan for UNESCO and the Sudan government, a post he held until 1966. During those years he personally excavated over 40 sites, including settlements (one very large), churches, pottery factories, a quarry, sentinel posts, cemeteries and rock art sites. At the same time, he oversaw excavations by assistants in more than 100 other sites. With his experience of working in the difficult conditions along the Glen Canyon, he was able to apply his administrative and logistic talents to the organisation of the Sudan component of the High Dam Campaign.

It is largely through his activities that the UNESCO High Dam campaign in Sudan was such a success. As the UNESCO Representative he was responsible for coordinating the activities of the foreign missions that took part in the salvage campaign and established most of their concession boundaries.

Bill AdamsMany of the 13 foreign missions accepted concessions for the more ‘glamorous’ sites, while Bill and his team, working directly with the Sudan Antiquities Service, were left with much of the remainder, many of which proved to be of the greatest interest. Noteworthy amongst these were the pottery workshop at Faras and the settlement on the island of Meinarti. It is he who developed the basic strategy and plan of operations for salvage operations in Sudanese Nubia, created the master file and map of the sites reported by all expeditions in Sudanese Nubia and devised the system of site numbering and recording now employed throughout Sudan.

In 1969, Bill continued fieldwork in Sudan, directing the University of Kentucky excavations at Kulubnarti during a long season, resulting in the excavation and recording in full of four major settlements, two churches and 15 other sites. A decade later he was director of the Kentucky-Colorado excavations at Kulubnarti during which over 350 graves were excavated or documented.

Bill AdamsMeanwhile, he was heavily involved with excavations to the north of the Sudan-Egypt border, initially as Excavation Supervisor and eventually Field Director of the Egypt Exploration Society’s (UK) excavations at Qasr Ibrim between 1972-1984. This two-hectare fortified citadel was occupied from at least the Egyptian New Kingdom until AD 1811. At Qasr Ibrim he brought order out of the chaos of previous excavations, defining directions, goals and a publication plan.

Amongst his immense contribution to our understanding of Sudan and Nubia in the past is his magisterial volume Nubia, Corridor to Africa, which on its publication in 1977 for the first time provided a coherent, lucid and well researched overview of all periods, interweaving the archaeological and historical data as appropriate. Although now out of date in certain sections, it is still of immense value, with its extensive footnotes referencing a vast literature. More specialised but equally important in its own way is his Ceramic Industries of Medieval Nubia. To these must be added many excavation reports, a number published by the Society along with innumerable articles.