The number of pyramids in ancient Nubia (aka Kush & today Sudan) were a total of 223, (Kerma, Napata, Nuri, Naga, and Meroe), double the pyramids of its neighbor Egypt. The underground graves of the Nubian pyramids were richly decorated. All pyramids were not monuments of kings is evinced by their great number. Other grandees of the empire, especially priests of high rank, or such as had obtained the sacerdotal dignity, might have found in them their final resting place. The well-known British writer Basil Davidson described Meroe as one of the largest archeological sites in the world.
Around 1000 BC, following the collapse of the New Kingdom in Egypt, the Nubian kingdom of Kush re-emerged as a great power in the Middle Nile. Between 712-657 BC, Sudanese kings conquered and ruled Egypt, as the XXVth Dynasty. By about 300 BC the center of the kingdom had shifted south to the Meroe region in central Sudan, where the pyramids and tombs were built to house the bodies of their kings and queens.
All the tombs at Meroë have been plundered, most infamously by Italian explorer Giuseppe Ferlini (1800-1870) who smashed the tops off 40 pyramids in a quest for treasure in the 1820s. Ferlini found only one cache of gold. His finds were later sold, and remain at the museums in Munich and Berlin. His aim was not to study the pyramids.
The Pyramids at Nuri. Located west of the Nile in Upper Nubia. This cemetery contained 21 kings, together with 52 queens and princes. Taharqa, the king of the 25th Dynasty was the first king to build his tomb at Nuri (Tomb no. 1), and it is the biggest pyramid ever built at the site. Queen Amanishakheto was buried in Nuri. View the Lion Temples. King Senkamanisken (Tomb no. 3). Treasures of King Aspelta (Tomb no. 8).
The Pyramids of Meroe. Between the 5th and 6th cataracts. During the Meroitic Period over forty kings and queens were buried at Meroe. Forty generations of Nubian royalty are buried in Meroe, and every royal Nubian tomb is housed within a pyramid. The Meroitic South cemetery contained the tombs of three kings, Arikakaman, Yesruwaman, and Kaltaly, as well as six queens. Several hundred yards to the north, the Meroitic North cemetery held an additional 30 kings and 6 queens, successors of the South cemetery group. Their tombs, built under steep pyramids, were all badly plundered in ancient times, but pictures preserved in the tomb chapels tell us that the rulers were mummified and covered with jewelry and laid in wooden mummy cases. The larger tombs still contained remains of weapons, bows, quivers of arrows, archer's thumb rings, horse harnesses, wooden boxes and furniture, pottery, colored glass and metal vessels, and other things, many of them imported from Egypt and the Greek and Roman worlds. Meroe belongs to the most important monuments of the beginning of civilization on the African continent.
Queen Bartare (260-250 B.C.) was the last monarch to be buried in Meroe. Tomb of Amanikhabale, and Queen Amanitore were also buried in Meroe.
The Pyramids of el-Kurru. The first Nubian pyramids were built at the site of el-Kurru. The site at el-Kurru contains the tombs of King Kashta and his son Piye (Piankhi), five earlier generations, together with Piye's successors Shabaka, Shebitqo and Tanwetamani and 14 pyramids of the queens.
Archaeological excavation of sites in Nubia (Sudan) confirmed human habitation in the river valley during the Paleolithic period that spanned more than 60,000 years of Sudanese history. Most of Sudan remains unexcavated, and archaeologists have little idea of its layout of ancient times.
To date we know of three successive kingdoms of Nubia (aka Kush), each with its own capital: the Kingdom of Kerma (2400-1500 BC), that of Napata (1000-300 BC) and finally that of Meroe (300 BC-300 AD). This is not including the elusive A-Group (3800-2800 BC) which little is known, but there is ongoing excavations. What is known as the A-group cemeteries found in Nubia represent its Neolithic culture, and extended along the whole length of Lower Nubia and even beyond the Second Cataract about 200 kilometers south of Aswan. Archaeologists found thousands of graves containing a wide variety of pottery, leather garments, ostrich-feather fans, copper weapons and palettes of quartz, all of which indicated the level of civilization reached by the Nubians. (Latest Findings)
The largest site of Nubian civilization burial pyramids lies north of Khartoum, along the Nile River in ancient Meroe. These pyramids were built by the Kushite people of ancient Sudan to house the bodies of departed kings. They were located in Meroe, the last significant Kushite state.
Eventually the old cultures of Nubia and Egypt changed radically due to the immigration of foreigners into the Nile Valley. Egypt was overpowered by Rome in 30 BC, falls to Persia in 619 AD, and taken over by Arabs in 640 AD.
In addition Meroe lost its advantageous trade position. Its trade was closely tied to the wealth of Roman Egypt, through it connections down the Nile or along the Red Sea. As Roman wealth declined, there was less demand for Meroe's luxury goods. At the same time Meroe's Red Sea trade to the Indian Ocean was lost to her better placed neighbor the Ethiopian kingdom of Aksum. In about 350 AD the army of the Aksumite King Ezana invaded the island of Meroe. By then the capital had already been abandoned and the region was in the hands of a people whom the Aksumites referred to as the Noba. It is not known exactly who the Noba were. They may have been an invading group of pastorlists from the south or southwest. On the other hand they may have been a subject Nubian people who regained control of the region when the power of their Meroite rulers collapsed.
The end of Aksum as a capital was in 619 AD. For the people of Ethiopia, it is regarded as the ancient residence and capital city of the queen of Sheba, the second Jerusalem, and the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.
Note: Aswan High Dam:
With the finished construction of the Aswan High Dam in 1968, and the flooding of the Nubian homeland, the last of the Nubian people were forced to leave the area that extended south along the banks of the Nile from Aswan in the north to the Sudanese border 290 miles south.
Unfortunately, the likelihood of further archaeological study at any sites in Nubia, is all but impossible became many of the primary areas of investigation now lie under 250 feet of water, at the bottom of Lake Nasser. Over 150,000 Nubians and Sudanese were forced to relocate off the land their ancestors had called home for over 5,000 years. Over 45 Nubian villages were washed away along the banks of the Nile south of Aswan.
They were relocated between the cities of Esna and Kom Ombo. Across the border in Sudan, Nubians were relocated to the banks of the Arbara River, more than 600 miles from where their lived.
There is no way to estimate the total number of temples and tombs which now lie at the bottom of Lake Nasser, nor is there any way of knowing the many secrets these structures currently hold. Because of the creation of the Aswan Dam, the world will never have an opportunity to study the full impact Africans from the southern Nile Valley had on the development of ancient Egypt and subsequent civilizations.
The Amun Temple served as a principle Kushite religious center near Shendi in what is now northern Sudan. This monumental statue is part of a group of twelve identical statues which form the alley leading to the Temple of Amon at Naga. The restoration of the ram's fleece, in spiral curls, is also found on the even larger statues which border the access to the Temple of Amon at Meroe.
King Arnekhamani, Horus, and wife at the "Lion Temple" at Musawwarat es-Sufra.
Pyramids at Meroe, Sudan
The largest site of Kush civilization burial pyramids lies north of Khartoum, along the Nile River in ancient Meroe, Sudan.
Meroe: northern cemetery; perspective drawing of the restored pyramid field (F.W. Hinkel)
About 1450 BCE, the Egyptian pharaoh Thutmose III extended his conquests to Gebel Barkal and established it as the southern border of his empire. The city he founded there was called Napata. The Egyptians remained only about 300 years. Later Napata became the seat of royal authority of an independent Nubian kingdom called Kush, and from about 720 to 660 BCE its kings conquered and ruled Egypt as the 25th Dynasty. Napata was the political capital of Upper Egypt (northward to Memphis) during the late-8th-century reign of Piyankhy (or Piye). After the Kushites were driven out of Egypt, Napata continued as an important royal residence and religious center until about 350 BCE, when the kingdom finally collapsed.
The temple was first excavated between February and April 1916 by George Reisner and his Boston team and again between March and April 1987 by the new Boston team led by Timothy Kendall. In 1989 Kendall and his staff resurveyed the monument.
Mut, Hathor, Bes are all represented in this unique temple. All can be identified in some regard with the myth of the "Eye of Re." It is possible that the colossal Bes images and the sistrum-headed Hathor images were included to soothe the anger of the goddess in the story, since Bes is a god of dance and the sistra makes rhythmic music.
Further, the goddesses represented here have important maternal roles in the myth of the divine origin of the king. According to Timothy Kendall, the pinnacle of the gebel (rising prominently above the Temple of Mut) was seen by the Kushites as phallic and a symbol of Amun's regenerative power. Thus, it is possible that this temple of Mut (mother) with its apotropaic symbolism (the line of Bes statues and the systra) could have been conceived of and constructed as a symbolic womb; a female counterpart to the pinnacle.
The temple could represent a birthing house or mythological passage of birth, playing a role in both royal birth rituals and coronation ceremonies (also a kind of rebirth). The king then may have come to the temple to perform ritual acts of rebirth.
Gebel Barkal, the Mythological Nubian Origin of Egyptian Kingship, and the Formation of the Napatan State
by Timothy Kendall
Excavations at many Napatan sanctuaries, especially at Gebel Barkal, reveal that the Napatan temples were generally built directly over the foundations of ruined New Kingdom temples. This indicates that the Napatan rulers of the eighth century BC deliberately restored cults and cult places that had been abandoned by the pharaohs when they evacuated Nubia some three centuries earlier. Other than the Barkal Temples, the best known Napatan temples with New Kingdom antecedents are those of Kawa, Tabo, and Doukki Gel/Kerma, to which we must now add Usli and Hugeir. New Kingdom remains have not yet actually been found at Sanam temple, but Taharqa's inscriptions there allude to its foundation by the "ancestors", by which he seems always to have meant the pharaohs (Griffith 1922, p. 102). Such data reveal that the Kushites, in the early Napatan Period, undertook a program of reviving long dormant Egyptian cults throughout Nubia. Somehow they had acquired a passionate belief in the Amun cult, where previously they had possessed none. Somehow they had recovered - or learned - a memory of the cults of these old Egyptian centers in order to restore them, even though within Nubia the cult had apparently been absent for three centuries and the temples had fallen to ruin. Somehow, by restoring the old Egyptian cult places, especially Gebel Barkal, they were able to present themselves both within Nubia and especially at Thebes, as the true successors of the pharaohs of the New Kingdom and the direct heirs to their throne. What exactly happened here? How did an obscure dynasty of Nubian chiefs from a village near ancient Napata rise within two or three generations to become the Twenty-fifth Dynasty of Egypt? This would seem to be one of the major unsolved issues of our discipline as well as of Egyptology.
With his massive constructions at Napata, his epic literary chronicles, and his exquisite bas-reliefs, Piye set a high standard for his successors to follow. Although Shabaqo and Shebitqo were too preoccupied with events in Egypt to expend their energies in their homeland, Piye was even outdone by his son Taharqa, who put the ultimate stamp on the Gebel Barkal site. Exhibiting a rich knowledge of mythology and a bold imagination, he erected monuments here that complemented one another as well as the natural setting in ingenious ways and seemed to create a vivid fusion of the real world and the mythological. Under Taharqa's care the Barkal site became an elaborate stage set for the celebration of past, present, and eternal monarchy, and the perpetual recreation of the world.
Taharqa seems to have felt that the mountain, which was inhabited by all the great goddesses, required more explicit female expression, so he undertook the construction or complete renewal of the temples of the goddesses Hathor and Mut, B200 and 300. He was probably also the sponsor of the temples of the royal uraeus goddesses Nekhbet and Wadjet, Pr-wr and Pr-nsr (B1100 and 1150), which appear to have been part of the same series. Today the only well-preserved temple among these is B 300, which was built just west (left) of the base of the pinnacle. In the New Kingdom, this temple had been free-standing, but in his reign Taharqa rebuilt it as a deep rock cut shrine with a built outer structure and pylon. The columns along its axis took the form of sistra and colossal Bes images. These were apotropaic and obviously had the purpose of pacifying the goddess in her form as the leonine “Eye of Re” before she emerged from the sanctuary (Robisek 1989, p. 77). On the unpublished rear wall the goddess is shown lion-headed on the right ("south") together with the ram-headed Amun of Napata, while on the left ("north") she is human-headed as she stands with the anthropomorphic Amun of Karnak. The Bes columns, however, can also be understood as the amuletic symbols of childbirth (Malaise 2001, p. 180).
In his building inscription, Taharqa says that he found the temple built by the "ancestors" in "humble work" (k3t nds), and that he rebuilt it as "splendid work" (k3t mnh). Here again there seems to be a word-play, for k3t also means "vagina, birth passage" (the feminine of k3=ka="phallus") (Faulkner 1964, p. 283). Taharqa, in other words, rebuilt this temple "for his mother Mut . . . as a splendid birth passage".
Due to the reverse direction of the Nile here, Taharqa's tomb [Nuri], still on the "west" bank, paradoxically lay to the east, the place of sunrise and rebirth. Gebel Barkal, on the "east" bank, lay paradoxically to the west, the place of sunset and death. The tomb and the mountain, thus, symbolized Creation, death and rebirth simultaneously. They were opposites, yet they were also the same. All of the opposites, in fact, were perceived to be united in Gebel Barkal and its pinnacle and became synonyms: present and past, upperworld and underworld, living and dead, east and west, north and south, male and female, god and goddess, father and mother, parent and child, god and king, etc. It was the spectacular realization of Egyptian theological speculation. It also created a perfect convergence of another pair of opposites (at least to our way of thinking): mythology and reality.
Gebel Barkal, under Taharqa, was designed - with obvious optimism - to be the ultimate and permanent center of kingship in the Nile Valley. It was to be the eternal link between the Creator god and mankind, and between the eternal king and the living king.
These pyramids in northern Sudan were built from the 4th century BC to 3d century AD. They belong to Nubian kings.
In 2003, a Swiss archaeological team working in northern Sudan uncovered one of the most remarkable Egyptological finds in recent years. At the site known as Kerma, near the third cataract of the Nile, archaeologist Charles Bonnet and his team discovered a ditch within a temple from the ancient city of Pnoubs, which contained seven monumental black granite statues. Magnificently sculpted, and in an excellent state of preservation, they portrayed five pharaonic rulers, including Taharqa and Tanoutamon, the last two pharaohs of the 'Nubian' Dynasty, when Egypt was ruled by kings from the lands of modern-day Sudan. For over half a century, the Nubian pharaohs governed a combined kingdom of Egypt and Nubia, with an empire stretching from the Delta to the upper reaches of the Nile.