All  
Two examples of Meroitic Hieroglyphs (not found at Abu Erteila)

Archaeologists Find Hieroglyphics That Shed New Light on the Golden Age of the Meroitic Civilization

A team of Italian and Russian archeologists says that they have made one of the most important discoveries connected with the history of Nubia. According to the Sudan Antiquities Service, the hieroglyphic inscription uncovered at Abu Erteila, may be the most important discovery in the last decade.

AGI reports that the excavations conducted from November to December 2015 by the international team were led by Eugenio Fantusati from Sapienza University of Rome, his deputy Marco Baldi, and by Eleonora Kormysheva, the Director of the Golenishev center for Egyptology, Russian State University for the Humanities, and a Principal Researcher in the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Excavating the site of Abu Erteila, Sudan in 2015.

Excavating the site of Abu Erteila, Sudan in 2015. ( CEEMO)

Around 200 km (124.3 miles) north of Khartoum they discovered the most impressive artifacts, which include a basalt ritual altar, a hieroglyphic inscription, and a sacred boat. This discovery, which is a fruit of eight rounds of excavations, is shedding new light on the Nubian civilization that existed between the 1st century BC and 1st century AC. The temple where the findings were made, was thought to have been most likely destroyed by a fire. The ruins are currently being carbon-dated to ascertain the exact date of the event.

“We're still studying the text of the hieroglyphic inscriptions in Egyptian, but we've already identified the cartouches with the names of the royal couple they mention. They are King Natakamani and Queen Amanitore, who ruled during the Golden Age of the Meroitic civilization that developed in the Nile. It played an important role on the international stage: consider the fact that it had commercial and diplomatic ties with the Roman Empire, up to its decline owed to the rise of the Ethiopian Kingdom of Axum.” Professor Fantusati told AGI.

King Natakamani and Queen Amanitore honoring the god Apedemak.

King Natakamani and Queen Amanitore honoring the god Apedemak. ( Saint Louis University )

According to the researchers, the base for a sacred boat was located in the "naos" or central hall of the building. It harbored a Nubian deity periodically placed on a boat for a ritualistic procession. Regarding to the words by professor Fantusati, the artifact is extremely important for a better understanding of the relations between the Meroitic world with the nearby Egyptian civilization.  "It lends further prestige to the Abu Erteila site, whose official vestiges now certainly rank among the most interesting findings in contemporary Nubian archeology." - he said.

The Kingdom of Kush was an ancient African kingdom which existed from 1070 BC to 350 AD. Established after the collapse of the Bronze Age and the disintegration of the New Kingdom of Egypt, it was centered at Napata. The Kushite kings ruled as pharaohs in Egypt during the Third Intermediate Period, especially during the reign of the Twenty-fifth dynasty. However, they were expelled from Egypt by the Assyrians under the rule of Esarhaddon. The kingdom survived until the Roman Empire expanded onto their territory. The fade of Kush started by the 1st or 2nd century AD when it was sapped by the war with the Roman province of Egypt. Later, Christianity began to gain hold over the old religion.

The environment of the temple also allowed the team to form a clearer image of the building and integrate the new information with what they have found in previous digs . The mission's first campaign was launched in 2008 with the support of Sudanese authorities. The archeological mission in 2015 was funded by the International Association of Mediterranean and Oriental Studies and the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The mission was also officially recognized by the Italian foreign ministry.

Two of artifacts recently uncovered at Abu Erteila: a crown amulet and a lion statuette.

Two of artifacts recently uncovered at Abu Erteila: a crown amulet and a lion statuette. ( Fantusati/Lebedev)

The King and Queen of the Golden Age and Their Palace

Natakamani ruled the kingdom of Kush (Nubia, nowadays Sudan) from around 1 BC to 20 AD. He was one of the most important rulers of the Meroitic period. He was preceded by his mother, queen Amanishakheto. His wife, queen Amanitore, was also a co-regent and probably a successor. Nubian pharaoh Natakamani and Queen Amanitore were the last great builders in Kush. They are known for restoring the temples and building a pyramid in Meroe. Their buildings were raised in Keraba, an area between the Nile and the Atbara Rivers. Nearby they built the city Naqua where the Temple of Apedemak is located. This temple is one of the best known monuments and still is in a good state of preservation.

The royal palace of Natakamani and Queen Amanitore was in Gebel (Jebel) Barkal . It became one of the greatest discoveries connected with the king and queen. Excavated for many years, it still brings much new information about this period. In order to fill the gap in the knowledge about the royal couple, in 2001 an excavation was undertaken by the Archeological Mission of the Sapienza University of Rome. During the work, archeologists discovered the rooms which belonged to the royal family, the storage which was full of precious artifacts, and many other structures.

Photo and plan of Building B3200 in Gebel Barkal.

 Photo and plan of Building B3200 in Gebel Barkal.

Photo and plan of Building B3200 in Gebel Barkal. (Sapienza University )

There are a few monuments which have been found where Natakamani and Amanitore appear together, proving the strong relationship between them. Several temple sculptures depict that they had almost equal rights and standing. Unfortunately, many of the buildings built by the couple were destroyed by the Romans. The remains of the ancient kingdom of Kush is like a puzzle, and when more pieces are added it is hoped that there will be a better understanding of the history of Natakamani and his times.

Featured Image: Two examples of Meroitic Hieroglyphs (not found at Abu Erteila) - Votive Plaque of King Tanyidamani ( Public Domain ) and a Meroitic stela. ( British Museum )

By: Natalia Klimczak

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.

Next article