Napatan Period, Reign of Aspelta, about 593-568 B.C.
Sudan, Nubia, (Nuri)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: Harvard University - Museum of Fine Arts Expedition
Beads and pendants. Gold, carnelian, green beryl, and white faience beads, various shapes. Eighteen gold pendants, one in form of lotus flower, six with beaded decoration; two carnelian pendants; one green beryl pendant. Some fragments of these beads and pendants
From Nuri, Tomb of Aspelta (Pyramid 8). April, 1916: excavated by the Harvard University-Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; 1920: assigned to the MFA by the government of the Sudan.
Cylinder sheath of King Aspelta
Napatan Period, Reign of Aspelta, about 593-568 B.C.
Height x diameter: 12.2 x 3 cm (4 13/16 x 1 3/16 in.)
A rosette appears on the bottom. The lower cylinder shows the winged goddess Isis between crouching figures of the gods Montu of Thebes (falcon-headed) and Chnum-Re of Elephantine (ram-headed). On the upper cylinder, ram's heads occur, along with a crouching figure of the god Chons (falcon-headed, with crescent moon and lunar disk), and a uraeus frieze above. (Sudan catalogue) Gold cylinder sheath in two parts, originally mounted on silver, now mounted on modern silver cylinders, top part with repoussé decorations, lower part with engraved decorations including cartouches of Aspelta. Few fragments missing; bottom with rosette pattern complete.
From Nuri, Pyramid Nu 8, Chamber A. April, 1916: excavated by the Harvard University-Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; assigned to the MFA by the government of Sudan; 1921: received by the MFA.
Colossal statue of King Aspelta
593-568 BC, Nubia
"King Aspalta mother is the king's sister, king's mother, Kandake of Kush, and Daughter of Re, Nensela, living forever, He is your lord."
THE NUBIAN NAPATAN DYNASTY (ABOUT 656-300 B.C.)
The retreat of Tantamani and the subsequent reaffirmation of Napata as its political center witnessed the establishment of the Napatan Dynasty in about 656 B.C.E. The early kings of this dynasty, Atlanersa, Senkamenisken, and Anlamani, continued to perpetuate Egyptian cultural norms, including the erection of royal stelae inscribed in hieroglyphs, the sculpting of their statuary in traditional Egyptian types modified by the presence of typical Nubian regalia, and interments with such traditional Egyptian articles as shabtis, or funerary figurines. Nubian elite women continued to play significant roles in society and one, Queen Mother Nasalsa, succeeded Anlamani as ruler in her own right.
The rules of succession during the Napatan Dynasty are imperfectly understood and may not necessarily have been uniformly codified. According to the Election Stela of Aspelta and other documents, this Napatan ruler was elected king. The army convened at the death of the incumbent ruler so that a committee might be formed from their officers and other high-ranking members of the community with a view toward selecting a successor. In Aspelta's case the committee apparently nominated a slate of possible successors, referring to the candidates collectively as "the king's brothers," but that designation may have been honorific rather than familial. An inability of the committee to select a successor from among the group forced the matter to be submitted to the god Amun, who ultimately and via an oracle, proclaimed Aspelta the new king. Amun proclaims, on the stela,
He [Aspelta] is your king. . . His father is my son, the son of the Sun. . . the holy . . . his mother is the king's sister and king's mother, Mistress of Kush, daughter of the Sun, Nasalsa, living forever.
The priesthood via the oracle of Amun establishes Aspelta as the legitimate successor and associates his legitimacy with his mother, Nasalsa, his immediate predecessor. It is doubtless for this reason that Aspelta celebrates his mother's pedigree on another of his monuments in which Nasalsa is described as descendent from Amenirdis II. Such a suggestion would then imply that this God's Wife of Amun abandoned Thebes to return to Nubia, where she apparently married and gave birth to children.
The election of Aspelta by this extraordinarily unusual measure is remarkable because a similar committee was convened by which Irike-Amanote (about 425-400 B.C.E.), his successor, was immediately named and accept by the military commanders and civil authorities as the next king. One suspects that the oracle of Amun was being manipulated by the priesthood, that the events accompanying the succession of Aspelta may be regarded as harbingers of the progressively more authoritative posture of the Napatan clergy in matters of succession, which ultimately caused the eclipse of their power and relegation of their authority at the end of Napatan Period.
Due to the collapse of the roof in the first two chambers of Aspelta's tomb, George Reisner, in 1917, found many precious objects under the rubble; these had been protected from the tomb robbers who plundered all the other tombs on the site. Reisner found twenty-two magnificent calcite perfume jars, fifteen gold or silver-gilt cylinders, numerous loose beads of gold and semi-precious stones, and hundreds of pieces of gold foil. In the second chamber he found several gold and silver vessels, a decayed wooden box containing three silver and three gold tweezers, and an elaborate bead collar of gold and amethyst. Lying in the third chamber was the king's fully carved and inscribed granite sarcophagus, over twelve tons in weight. A pair of large inlay eyes and many inlays of semi-precious cut stone for a wooden coffin, suggested that thieves had removed the king's coffins and mummy and had stripped them for precious objects. The floors of the burial chamber were strewn with about 300 faience magical servant figures, called shawabtis.
The statue of Aspelta reconstructed in the field prior to shipment to Boston; Karima, Sudan, April 25, 1920 (MFA expedition photograph A 2990).