Sudan’s Kush sites of Meroe provide a glimpse of the life and culture of the Nubian people who inhabited some parts of Sudan and Egypt in the early years of civilization in Africa. Though depleted, the sites are still informative and captivating.
Before we get into details about the pyramids of Sudan, we have to look into the events that brought about the pyramids to that part of Africa, in the first place.
In the history dated about 800 BC to about 320 AD, the Nubian community, which is basically a mixture of diverse cultures, lived along the renowned Nile River. It is said that the Nubian community was important in the civilization of Africa. They were strategically located along a trade route between Sub-Saharan Africa and the rest of the world.
At one point, the Nubians of Kush assumed rule over all of Nubia which included some regions of Sudan and Ethiopia. Nubia is divided into three regions: Lower Nubia, Upper Nubia, and Southern Nubia. In the modern day, Lower Nubia is Southern Egypt, lying between the first and second cataract of the Nile River. Upper Nubia and Southern Nubia, on the other hand, are in modern northern Sudan.
The ancient Kush inhabited the site of Meroe Island in Sudan. The Archeological Sites hold the best preserved relics of the Kingdom of Kush during its reign. Their culture, language and religious practices are inscribed on the archeological works discovered on the site.
The archeological site consists of three separate components. Meroe, which was the central residence for rulers, included the town and cemetery site. Musawwarat es-Sufra and Naqa areas were set aside for settlement and religious centers. The three are located in a semi-desert, with a backdrop of reddish-brown hills which contrast with the green bushes that cover them. The Meroe town is set on a riverine landscape, giving it exquisite backdrop.
On these sites, you will find the best preserved of what’s left of the Kingdom of Kush. The sites hold the architectural forms that shaped the political, social, artistic, religious, cultural and technical scene of inhabitants. They include pyramids, palaces, temples and industrial areas.
From the remnants, archeologists have learned the value the Kushite State placed on wealth and power. They also discovered water reservoirs, which indicate the need for water and their concerns over the resource at the time.
The first explorers in the early nineteenth century identified the remains of more than 200 royal pyramids in Sudan. These pyramids were similar to those found among nobles in Egypt. Although the pyramids were reserved for nobles, over time, the rules were relaxed. The practice of building miniature pyramids trickled down from royals to the wealthy elite as seen at Sedeinga site some 450 miles from Meroe.
Pyramids meant for pharaohs were symbols of the sun, massive with steep sides representing the angle of the sun’s rays reaching earth. The Meroitic pyramids were smaller in size and were adorned with capstones shaped in classic Egyptian forms, such as birds among others.
To understand the life of the Meroitic people, below are some photos which show artifacts and sites containing the remnants of the ancient residents.
In a bid to preserve the Kush Sites of Meroe, they were declared United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site in 2011.
Other than the Kush sites of Meroe, Sudan is a potential tourist destination. It boasts vast landscapes, including the rolling desert dunes of the north, and lush rainforests on the southern part of the country. However, due to political instability, internal conflicts and negative image of Sudan at large, governments have issued advises against all non-essential travel to Sudan and some certain regions like areas bordering Eritrea, Darfur, Abyei, and Southern Kordofan.
All in all, Sudan has a wide range of activities and sites that could interest tourists from tours of the Nile, to wildlife safaris, and big game parks. For those who want to test their adrenaline, diving in the Red Sea, would be ideal. For a cultural experience, Sudan has more than 500 different ethnic groups each with own dialect, traditions, and cultural practices.
Cover Image- the Lion Temple in Musawwarat Es Sufra is one of the most well preserved sites in Sudan. Other images- Sedeinga’s necropolis lies next to a modern-day caravan route (top) that follows the same path to Egypt as an ancient Meroitic trade road.Most graves at Sedeinga were looted in antiquity, but excavations have still yielded a number of artifacts, including (clockwise from top left) two pyramid capstones in the shape of a lotus emerging from a solar disc, an inscribed funerary stela depicting a winged sun-disc, a glazed faience figurine in the shape of the fertility god Bes, and a shell-and-clay-bead necklace. French archaeologists have exposed the remains of 35 small, eroded pyramids at the Sudanese site of Sedeinga, shown in this aerial view. The remainder of the site is mostly undug, and contains thousands of burials.
Image: Cover photo- crystalinks.com. Other images- (Courtesy Vincent Francigny/SEDAU)