Almost all the royal tombs in the necropoli of Kurru, Gebel Barkal, and Meroe were thoroughly plundered. Those few objects that have survived—forgotten, lost, or thrown aside by the tomb robbers—provide a dull reflection of the original splendor of the tomb furnishings. One exception, however, is Pyramid N 6 of the kandake (ruling queen) Amanishakheto in the northern cemetery of Meroe.
Like many other pyramids there, it was still well-preserved at the beginning of the nineteenth century, as is shown here (left) by Frederic Cailliaud's drawing of 1822.
The Destruction of Pyramid N 6 of the kandake (ruling queen) Amanishakheto
Only twelve years later, it had become a mere pile of stones. The Italian physician Giuseppe Ferlini, who had come to the Sudan with Muhammad All's troops, leveled it, as well as many other pyramids, in the search for treasure. An apparently undisturbed golden treasure came to light, which Ferlini immediately hustled out of the country. In a catalogue published in Italian in Bologna in 1837, followed by a French edition published in Rome in 1838. He introduced his treasure to the world and invited buyers.
In 1839 a portion of the finds was acquired by the royal Bavarian art collections; the remaining portion proved difficult to sell, probably because of the unusual style of the jewelry, which cast doubt on the authenticity of the find. This doubt was only removed a decade after Ferlini's discovery, when Richard Lepsius, who in 1842 had recommended acquisition for the Berlin Egyptian Museum, arrived at Meroe. He reports in his correspondence: "Several pyramids have been completely destroyed, others only partially. None had its top preserved. Our kavass, who was here with Ferlini, showed us the spot beneath a now leveled pyramid where he supposedly found his golden treasure." Lepsius continues: "Osman Bey (who camped with his troops in the vicinity) wanted to make treasure hunters out of his pioneers, and ordered his battalions here in order to rip a number of pyramids apart. Ferlini's discovery sticks in everyone's mind here and has since brought several pyramids to ruin . . . I was able to dissuade him from this idea and so for now at least the few remaining pyramids saved. The soldiers have left, without declaring war on the pyramids" (R. Lepsius, Briefe aus Aegypten Aethiopien und der Halbinsel Sinai, [Berlin, 1852, p. 206). The remaining portion of Ferlini's treasure was purchased for Berlin at Lepsius's recommendation in 1844.
The quality of craftsmanship of the jewelry cannot be compared with the work of Hellenistic goldsmiths. The unique significance of the find lies in the combination of Egyptian, Meroitic, and isolated Hellenistic elements into an original composition. The rich iconography of the shield and seal rings, armlets and necklace significantly expands the repertoire of relief's from Meroitic temples and the offering chapels of Meroitic pyramids. They also provide the original evidence of royal costume as represented in the relief's.