The Nubian pyramids in Sudan, built in the 700s BC, are not as famous as the pyramids of Egypt, but they are equally stunning ancient structures.
A large complex of pyramids (about 200 buildings) is located in the ancient city of Meroe on the territory of modern Sudan. This place is called the "Nubian Pyramids" or "Tombs of the Black Pharaohs."
Meroe was once the capital of the Kingdom of Kush (Meroite Kingdom), which was ruled by the Nubian kings from 300 BC. before 300 AD
As in Egypt, these pyramids are the tombs of local rulers.
Many pyramids have no tops here. For this we must "thank" the Italian tomb robber Giuseppe Ferlini, who wanted to get to the treasures inside as quickly as possible and ordered to blow up the tops of the pyramids.
The Kushite kingdom in Nubia (today - on the territory of Sudan) was not only a neighbor of Egypt during the time of the pharaohs, but also their enemy and ally. The first developed communities are found in Nubia during the 1st dynasty of Egyptian kings ~ 3100 BC. NS.). Around 2500 BC NS. The Egyptians began to move south (conquests and campaigns for Nubian gold), and from them comes most of our knowledge about Kush. This expansion was halted by the decline of the Middle Kingdom and the invasion of the Hyksos, who became allies of the Kushites. In the New Kingdom (~ 1550 BC), Egyptian expansion resumed, but this time it met with organized opposition. But, despite this, the Egyptian pharaohs subjugated the Kushite regions. After the fall of the New Kingdom, Kush became an independent state with the capital in the city of Napata.
The desire of the Nubians by all means to be more powerful than Egypt led to the fact that the king of Kashta in 770 BC. conquered most of the territory of Egypt. This period in the history of Nubia and Egypt is known as the reign of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty. And it was during the period of independent rule in Kush that its kings became like the Egyptian pharaohs, and began to build pyramids and temples on their own land. Even if not so large, but, nevertheless, the Egyptian influence is clearly visible in the buildings of Kush. The first Nubian pyramids were built in the necropolis of El-Kurru, and King Kashta became the first ruler buried inside the pyramid in the last eight hundred years. From his tomb, the construction of more than 200 Nubian pyramids began, stretching over several centuries. The Kushite kingdom had ups and downs, several periods of history and different capitals, until in 350 AD it was captured by the state of Aksum, an ancient Ethiopian state that existed in the II-XI centuries on the territory of modern Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Yemen and Arabia.
The number of Nubian pyramids exceeds two hundred. According to some sources, there are about 255, and according to others, more than 300, which is more than the pyramids in Egypt. Given that research activities in Sudan are difficult for various reasons, it is likely that there are many pyramids and other monuments hidden under the sands.
The necropolises of the Kushite kings who ruled Egypt (for example, Taharqa, the necropolis of El-Kuru) are located about ~ 1000 km from Thebes along the river. Other necropolises are located even further ~ 500 km. The necropolis of Meroe, where the largest number of Nubian pyramids is concentrated, and which is considered one of the largest archaeological sites in Africa, is located ~ 1000 km from the southernmost and most significant Egyptian monument of the New Kingdom - Abu Simbel.
The main necropolises of the pyramids of Nubia: Gebel-Barkal, El-Kurru, Dongola, Nuri, Meroe. The necropolises of Gebel Barkal, El Kurru and Sedeinga are on the west bank of the Nile, while Meroe, Nuri and Dongola are on the east.All Egyptian pyramids are only on the west bank of the Nile.
The size of the tombs varies. The width of the smallest, supposedly intended for a child: 75 centimeters. On average, the width of the base of the pyramids fluctuates about 7 meters, and the height - from 6 to 30 meters. Tilt angle ~ 70 °.
If in the Egyptian pyramids there are passages, corridors and rooms, everything intended for the preservation of the royal mummies, then in the Nubian there are no halls, no corridors, no treasures, no mummies. The Nubian pyramids are solid, there are no burials in it. The burial bed was nearby, carved into the rock. The Egyptian pharaohs had a wide variety of sarcophagus stones, and carefully crafted wooden coffins were placed inside the sarcophagi. However, in Nubia, noble wood and stone were negligible, so the mummies were placed simply on the burial bed.
Most of the pyramids have temple extensions adjacent to the base in which offerings were made. These annexes were decorated with bas-reliefs, and there was a low fence around the pyramids.
The pyramids of Nubia are a kind of synthesis of the Egyptian pyramids and the local way of erecting tumuli - tumulus.
As for the external decorative decoration of the pyramids, it has practically not survived. The tombs were covered with facing stone, and the tops were decorated with images of the sun ball, birds and lotus flowers.
The most extensive cluster of pyramids is located in the Meroe necropolis, between the fifth and sixth rapids of the Nile. During the entire Meroitic period, more than forty kings and queens were buried in these places. The territory of the city of Meroe was called "the island of Meroe", which had the shape of a shield. On the maps it was depicted as a round piece of land, surrounded on all sides by the tributaries of the Nile.
For a millennium and a half, the yellow sands of the desert hid the ruins and pyramids of the city of Meroe, the capital of the Nubian "kingdom of Meroe". The Greeks and Romans learned about this city in the 1st millennium BC, when Meroe became the capital of Nubia instead of Napata, located north of it. Only scraps of information about Meroe have been brought to us by the works of Roman and Greek writers.
Embassies were sent from Meroe to Rome several times, but envoys and merchants reported to the Romans only fragmentary information about their distant homeland. It is also known that the emperor Nero in the 1st century sent his officers to Nubia, who managed to penetrate "further than Meroe".
The geographer and naturalist Pliny the Elder in his work "Natural History" reports on the mysterious queens who ruled Nubia with the "hereditary name" of Kandaka; about the temple located in the city of Meroe, dedicated to the Egyptian sun god Amun and marks the small size of the city. “However, this island, when the Ethiopians achieved the state, enjoyed great fame; it is said that he could exhibit 250,000 warriors and gave shelter to four thousand artists."
In the necropolis of Nuri, there are about sixty pyramids (burials of 21 rulers, 52 queens and princesses, including the rulers of Anlamani and Aspelta). The core of the Nuri pyramids is made of carefully hewn sandstone slabs. These slabs are stacked in neat rows. Some of them are stepped, while others have a glazed lining. The largest and oldest of them belongs to the ruler Taharka, the one mentioned in the Bible. A corridor with steps leads to the underground part of the Taharki pyramid. He leads to the burial chamber. The chamber itself is divided into three sections. This division is created by six rectangular columns that support the roof. In the central part of the chamber, a stone slab was cut down, on which a sarcophagus was installed. For example, the weight of Aspelta's sarcophagus reaches 15 tons, 4 of which only the lid weighs. In the corner of the burial chamber of the Taharka pyramid, there is a staircase that leads to a corridor around the chamber. The chapel at all the pyramids of Nuri is located in the southeast.
Many pyramids of the El Kurru necropolis are built according to the same scheme: the above-ground part was erected from clay, sand and rough stones. This core was externally trimmed with smooth sandstone slabs. The above-ground part of the El Kurru pyramids had no interior spaces. The burial chamber was carved into the rock. The entrance to it led through the stairs. Some of the burial premises had vaulted ceilings. Inside the chamber itself, a pedestal was carved out of the rock - a hearse. A sarcophagus was installed on it. A chapel was located in the southeast of the pyramid. It was erected with tall and gracefully decorated pylons. The fourteen pyramids of the El Kurru necropolis were built for the royal wives, some of whom were renowned warrior queens.
The necropolis, discovered at a place called Sedeinga, is a group of small pyramid tombs located unusually close to each other. In an area of 500 square meters, 13 stone buildings were found.
The density of the location of the pyramids is explained by the long existence of the cemetery: the construction process lasted hundreds of years and, when there was very little space left, burials began to be made in the voids between the structures.
By the time archaeologists reached the pyramids in the 19th and 20th centuries, many burial chambers were plundered, leaving the only treasure to this day - human remains. Only in some pyramids were the remains of bows, quivers for arrows, rings of archers, horse harnesses, wooden boxes, furniture, pots, stained glass, metal vessels and much more found, which testified to the intensive trade between Meroe, Egypt and Greece. In the 1830s, many pyramids were seriously damaged by the Italian doctor-researcher, treasure hunter D. Ferlini, who, not wanting to dig an entrance deep in the sand, blew up the tops of the pyramids to get inside. In this barbaric way, he destroyed about 40 pyramids. In addition, he gave false information to his fellow vandals about treasures that he allegedly found in one pyramid in order to confuse them, after which they followed his barbaric example. Many pyramids were destroyed to the ground. The pyramid of Queen Amanishakete escaped plundering until 1834, when Ferlini practically razed it to the ground, trying to get to the treasury.
Items from the tomb, which Giuseppe Ferlini managed to get, are now in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin and the Egyptian Museum in Munich.
Amanikatashan, Queen of Kusa, who ruled from about 62-85. She is the last person on the throne of the Kushite kingdom, whose personal name is written in Egyptian hieroglyphs. Subsequent Nubian kings wrote only their throne name in Egyptian script, while the Meroite script was used in writing personal names.
Nubian culture and its monuments did not exist independently of other cultures: they constitute a chain of continuous and consistent development. Egyptian structures in Nubia and the peculiarities of their purpose testify to more than just architectural or artistic perfection.
The ancient Egyptians, conquering the Kushite lands and exporting the Nubian gold, often called the Kushites a despicable people, barbarians with pigtails, dressing in animal skins, curly strangers with burnt faces. But through some despicable people of Kush, when the Egyptian kingdom was on the verge of collapse, he saved the arrogant neighbors. Having seized power in the land of pyramids, the "Nubian pharaohs" - albeit for a short time, less than a century - put things in order in the ancient state, providing Egypt with its last "golden age".
And they continued not only religious traditions. Although the pyramids were different from the Egyptian ones, it was the pyramids of Nubia that became the last in the history of North Africa.It was here in Nubia, despite the eternal confrontation with Egypt, that the very last pyramid (pictured in the foreground) was built in the Egyptian style. Many pyramids have now been restored.