In northern Sudan, the oasis banks of the Nile River are verdant with palm trees and lush gardens, a slender green ribbon decorating the expansive beauty of the Nubian Desert. In the village of El-Kurru, from a sandscape dotted with the fossilized timbers of a petrified forest, ancient history rises in the form of towering Kush pyramids from the seventh century BCE.

“I grew up right next to these monuments, but I did not know their complete story,” says Anawar Mahagoub Ali Mohamed, a Rackham student in his first year of the Masters in International and Regional Studies, Middle Eastern and North African Studies specialization.

In 2013, when a team of researchers from U-M and the University of Copenhagen were leading the first modern excavation of the archeological sites at El-Kurru, Anawar saw an opportunity to learn more about his village’s pyramids.

“I was studying law at the University of Dongola at the time, but home on break. The research team was hiring, so I started as a laborer, just shoveling. I thought it would be an interesting chance to learn from academics and scientists with so much experience,” Anawar says.

Read the full story at Discover Rackham.