Pyramids of Meroë - Sudan

Pyramids of Meroë stand as Last Remnants of a Powerful Civilization

(Read the article on one page)

The Great Pyramids of Giza are among the most recognizable structures in the world today. Yet just south of the Egyptian border is a set of equally impressive pyramids that stand beautifully maintained in the barren landscape of Sudan. Unlike the pyramids of Egypt, however, they are deserted and rarely spoken of or visited, despite their recognition of great historical importance as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, the pyramids of Meroë stand as the last remnants of the great Kingdom of Kush, one of the earliest known civilizations in the Nile region.

Meroë was an important city in the ancient Kush Kingdom. According to the archaeological evidence, the city was settled as early as the beginning of the 9 th century BC. By around 300 BC, Meroë became the capital of the Kingdom of Kush, and remained so until the middle of the 4 th century AD, when it was invaded and conquered by the Kingdom of Aksum.  

Photographs of the Pyramids at Meroe in Sudan, 2005.

Photographs of the Pyramids at Meroe in Sudan, 2005. Photos taken by: Fabrizio Demartis ( Wikimedia Commons )

Due to the contacts between the Kingdom of Kush and Pharaonic Egypt (the Kushites even managed to control Egypt for about a century), it was only natural for cultural practices to move between the two entities. One of the Egyptian practices adopted by the Kushites was the building of pyramids. Unlike the pyramids built by their northern neighbours, the pyramids of the Kushites were constructed using large blocks of sandstone, and have a steeper angle. Additionally, these pyramids are smaller in size when compared with the Egyptian ones. What these pyramids lack in size, however, they make up for in numbers.

At present, archaeologists have discovered more than 200 pyramids in Meroë. The pyramids are divided between three areas, the South Cemetery, the North Cemetery, and the West Cemetery. Incidentally, recent excavations at Sedeinga, a contemporary site about 700 km from Meroë, uncovered a dense field of miniature pyramids. This has been regarded as evidence that the practice of building pyramids trickled down from the royals at Meroë to provincial elites such as those living in Sedeinga.

An aerial view of some of the pyramids at Meroë.

An aerial view of some of the pyramids at Meroë. Photo source: Wikimedia.

Like the Egyptians, the Kushites also believed that the afterlife was a more perfect version of life on earth, and that the dead ought to be buried with the things they need in the netherworld. Unfortunately, most of the tombs at Meroë were plundered in ancient times. Some of the pyramids were further damaged in the 19 th century by the Italian explorer and treasure hunter, Giuseppe Ferlini. In his quest for the treasures of the Kushites, Ferlini is reported to have demolished the tops of more than 40 pyramids. As a result of ancient looting, however, only one pyramid was found to contain treasure, and Ferlini sold the priceless artifacts to European museums.

Despite the destruction caused over the centuries, archaeologists are still able to piece together a rough idea of the way the Kushite elites treated their dead based on the reliefs found in the tombs. According to these images, the dead were mummified, covered with jewellery, and then laid to rest in wooden coffins. In addition, later archaeological excavations have unearthed some pretty interesting artifacts. For instance, the American expedition led by George Reisner at the beginning of the 20 th century found a 5 th century BC wine vessel from Athens and a 1 st century A.D. silver wine cup from Italy, indicating that the Kushites were in contact and trading with the Mediterranean world.

The archaeological importance of the pyramids of Meroë has earned them a place in UNESCO’s World Heritage List, as part of the ‘Archaeological Sites of the Island of Meroë’. Despite this prestigious status, the pyramids of Meroë do not receive even a fraction of the tourists that visit Giza each year. According to one reporter, a ticket seller at Meroë mentioned that the site usually receives just 10 visitors a day. The fact that Meroë is much less crowded than Giza, plus the lack of merchants and ‘guides’ pestering tourists, would certainly make Meroë an attractive destination for those who wish to travel off the beaten track.


I'd think all the unrest in the Sudan would be the reason why so few people visit this site.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

Temple at Ceibal site, Guatemala
With the help of airborne laser mapping technology, a team of archaeologists, led by University of Arizona professor Takeshi Inomata, is exploring on a larger scale than ever before the history and spread of settlement at the ancient Maya site of Ceibal in Guatemala.

Myths & Legends

An illustration of Vasilisa the Beautiful, by Ivan Bilibin.
[…] In the evening the girl laid the table and began waiting for Baba-Yaga. It grew dark. The black horseman swept by and it was night. The skulls’ eyes began to shine. The trees creaked, the dead leaves crunched, the earth trembled, and there was Baba-Yaga…

Human Origins

Silhouettes (Public Domain) in front of blood cells (Public Domain) and a gene.
Most people who have the Rh blood type are Rh-positive. There are also instances, however, where people are Rh-Negative. Health problems may occur for the unborn child of a mother with Rh-Negative blood when the baby is Rh-Positive.

Ancient Technology

Mammoth in the Royal BC Museum in Victoria (Canada). The display is from 1979, and the fur is musk ox hair.
In Sivershchina, close to the village of Mizyn in Ukraine is one of the oldest and most unique settlements of humans – and it was discovered in a parking lot. The now well-known archaeological site, known plainly as the Mizyn parking lot, dates back 18-20 thousand years.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article