Evil Eye Box and Other Treasures Found in Ancient Tombs on the Shores of the Nile
Archaeologists have discovered a number of elaborate underground tombs containing precious artifacts in a 2,000-year-old cemetery on the shores of the Nile River in Sudan, according to a report in Live Science . The grave goods include a richly decorated faience box with large eyes painted on the front, which researchers believe was designed to protect against the evil eye.
The cemetery was first found by villages near the modern-day town of Dangeil in Sudan, and researchers from the Berber-Abidiya Archaeological Project have been carrying out excavations at the site ever since.
The burial site dates back to a period in which the kingdom of Kush reigned over the region. Established after the Bronze Age collapse and the disintegration of the New Kingdom of Egypt, the Kush kingdom controlled a vast territory, whose northern border stretched to Roman-controlled Egypt. Like the Egyptians, the Kushites had a widespread belief in the afterlife and so buried the deceased with a number of goods that were intended to serve them after death.
A number of such goods have emerged from the excavations including several large jars that originally contained beer made of sorghum, which was to provide sustenance in the afterlife, a ‘party tray’, which consists of seven bowls attached together, and a silver engraved ring that depicts a horned deity. Scholars believe that the deity is the god Amun who, in the kingdom of Kush, was often shown with a ram’s head. The Kushites shared some of the same gods worshiped in Egypt, especially Amun and Isis. With the worshiping of these gods the Kushites began to take some of the names of the gods as their throne names.
The silver ring depicting a horned-deity wearing a crown. Credit: The British Museum
One of the most significant treasures is the faience box decorated with udjat eyes. The Udjat Eye, or Eye of Horus, is an ancient Egyptian symbol of protection, royal power and good health, a tradition that was also adopted by the Kushites. Funerary amulets were often made in the shape of the Eye of Horus in order to protect the deceased in the afterlife and ward off evil. Sailors would frequently paint the symbol on the bow of their vessel to ensure safe sea travel.
The shape and the eyebrow derive from a human eye, while the lines underneath correspond to the markings of a falcon's eye. As the Eye of Horus it was originally the lunar eye, or the left eye of the sky god, but most amulets depict the right eye, originally the solar eye. This was partly due to the Egyptians' association of right with good and positive things. It was less common to depict both eyes together, as seen on the faience box.
The faience box discovered in a 2,000-year-old Kurshite tomb. Credit: Berber-Abidiya Archaeological Project