From Napatan Kush to Meroitic Ethiopia, Motherland to Oromos, Sidamas, Arabic-speaking Sudanese

Dr. Muhammad Shamsaddin Megalommatis
In three preliminary articles titled "Fake Sudan (Real Ethiopia) and Fake Ethiopia (Real Abyssinia): what is at stake?" (, "Sudan (Real Ethiopia), Abyssinia (Fake Ethiopia): Evil Progeny of Pan-Arabism and Ethiopianism" (, and "Egypt, Ethiopia - Sudan, Abyssinia, the Freemasonic Orientalist Fallacy of Ethiopianism, and Nubia" (, I focused on the colonially masterminded project against Eastern Africa, which involved the projection of fake identity on both, the Arabic speaking populations of Central Sudan, and the Semitic Amhara and Tigray Abyssinians. This was effectuated by means of two fake ideologies, Pan-Arabism and Ethiopianism.

Pan-Arabism was the fake doctrine fabricated by the colonial Orientalist academia in order to project the fake Arab identity onto the former.

Ethiopianism was the fake doctrine fabricated by the colonial Orientalist academia in order to project the fake Ethiopian identity onto the latter.

I underscored that the evil, colonial diplomacy and academia, in order to better implement Pan-Arabism in Sudan and effectively disorient the Arabic-speaking Sudanese from the search of their true Kushitic ? Ethiopian identity and historical heritage, machinated the renaming of the Kushitic ? Ethiopian Antiquity, monuments, History, and culture as "Nubian". This is a misnomer.

To clarify that the non-Egyptian antiquities of the Egyptian South and the Sudanese North cannot be called "Nubian", I initiated a series of articles, presenting the historical interaction among the Hamitic ? Kushitic Egyptians, the Kushitic Ethiopians (ancestors to today´s Arabic-speaking Sudanese, Oromos, Sidamas, and other Eastern African Kushites), and the Medjay ? Nubians, who are ancestors to the modern Nubians. The latter may now be the exclusive inhabitants of a vast part of the territory of Ancient Kush (Ethiopia), namely from the South of Aswan to Wadi Halfa and further to Debba, but in the Antiquity, they were a minority in the said territory (and in the rest of Egypt); furthermore, the Ancient Nubians never formed a state of their own in the pre-Christian times.

Consequently, the Nubians cannot be considered as the only or the primary heir to either the Egyptian or the Kushitic / Ethiopian Antiquity, History, monuments, and Heritage. The term "Nubian" cannot be given to the kings of Kerma, Napata and Meroe ? the three most important capitals of Pre-Christian Kush / Ethiopia ? because these kings were not Nubians but Kushites / Ethiopians; speaking at both, the ethnic and the linguistic levels, they were as different as the Ancient Greeks from the Ancient Babylonians.

An Outline of the Earlier Parts

To extensively analyze the subject, I expanded in eleven earlier articles, covering

1) the early periods of Prehistory and History (A-Group, C-Group, Kerma kingdom) of Ancient Kush ? Ethiopia (Sudan),

2) the Anti-Egyptian alliance between the Kushitic / Ethiopian kingdom of Kerma and the Asiatic invaders of Egypt, the notorious Hyksos,

3) the liberation of Egypt from the Hyksos rulers,

4) the cooperation of the Egyptian throne with the Kushite / Ethiopian noblesse opposing the Kerma rulers in view of the eradication of the latter,

5) the presence of the Kushite / Ethiopian noblesse in the pharaonic court, notably the high priestess Ahmose Nefertari, a Kushite / Ethiopian noble lady and Queen Mother of the Pharaoh Amenhotep I,

6) the eradication of "evil" kingdom of Kerma by Thutmose I, and the annexation of the entire Kas (Kush / Ethiopia) by Egypt,

7) the rise and the fall of the Egyptian New Kingdom,

8) the permanent clash of the monotheistic and polytheistic priesthoods of Amun of Thebes during the times of New Kingdom,

9) the rise and the fall (14th century BCE) of the religious ? spiritual revolution of Akhenaten of Egypt, who preached the monotheistic system (Atonism ? the system evolving around Aton, the Only God) that pre-modeled the Kushitic / Ethiopian monotheism and the later monotheistic Kushitic religions,

10) the rift caused by Atonism within the Egyptian society,

11) the division and decadence of Egypt into several countries and dynasties after the victory of Ramesses III over the Sea Peoples,

12) the prevalence of the polytheistic Amun Theban priesthood throughout Upper Egypt and Kush / Ethiopia that remained united under the Thebes-based Amun high priests for no less than three centuries after Egypt´s split,

13) the shift of power from Thebes to Napata, whereby a local, Kushitic / Ethiopian dynasty rose to defend not only Kush / Ethiopia but also Thebes, against the monotheistic priesthood of Heliopolis, the Delta Kings of Lower Egypt, and their Libyan allies,

14) the beginning of the Napatan dynasty of Kush / Ethiopia, and the reigns of Alara and Kashta, the early Napatan rulers, who attributed great importance to their interconnection and interaction with the polytheistic Amun Theban priesthood up to the point of consecrating female relatives (like Amenardis (Imen-iirdisi), the Divine (female) Adorer of Amun, and Divine Wife of Amun) to the Theban clergy.

15) the clash between the Kushite Piankhi and the Heliopolitan priesthood backed by the Berbers for prevalence in Lower Egypt,

16) the introduction of a new mortuary architectural style in Kush / Ethiopia with the erection of small, steep pyramids over the Kushitic pharaohs´ tombs in the early Napatan necropolis (late 8th century BCE),

17) the conquest of the Egyptian North by Shabaka, and the search for the Authentic Hamitic ? Kushitic Spirituality that was undertaken by Piankhi´s younger brother,

18) the alliance between Shabaka´s successor Shebitqu with Hezekiah of Judah and the Palestinians against the great monotheist Emperor Sennacherib of Assyria, the then world´s sole superpower, the crushing defeat of all the allies at the battle of Eltekeh, and the subsequent expedition of the Assyrian army up to the gates of Egypt, i.e. Pelusium (Per Amun, i.e. the House of Amun, in Ancient Egyptian, nearby today´s Port Said),

19) the successive attacks of the Assyrian Emperor Assarhaddon, the Assyrian invasion of Memphis, and occupation of Lower Egypt, and the subsequent limitation of the Kushitic / Ethiopian control in Upper Egypt,

20) the two consecutive invasions of Egypt by Assurbanipal, the destruction of Thebes, Taharqa´s last years, and Tanwetamani´s defeat and expulsion from Egypt which had become province of the Assyrian Empire,

21) the massive return of the Thebes / Upper Egypt / North Kush-based Kushites / Ethiopians to central parts of Kush, notably between Kawa (Dunqulah) and Napata (Karima), the subsequent, increased proportion of the Nubian population in Upper Egypt and Kush´s northern confines (namely the region between the first and the second cataracts), and the reigns of Tanwetamani´s successors, e.g. Atlanersa, Senkamanisken, Anlamani, and Aspelta until the destruction of Napata (592 BCE) by Pharaoh Psamtek II, his Egyptian and Berbers soldiers, and his Aramaean, Phoenician, Judean, Carian, and Greek mercenaries, and

23) the ultimate period of Napatan rule (the successive periods of reign of Aspelta, Armantelqo, Malonaqen, Analmaaye and Amaniatabarqa) and the second destruction of Napata, by Kambudjiya (Cambyses) of Iran who invaded Egypt and Kush / Ethiopia in 525 BCE.

Here are the titles of, and the links to, the first eleven parts of the series:

"The Common Origins of Egypt, and Ethiopia ? Sudan. Oromos, Arabic Speaking Sudanese, Nubians. I" (

"Hamitic-Kushitic Origins of Egypt and Ethiopia / Sudan. Oromos, Arabic Speaking Sudanese, Nubians II" (,

"Egyptian Rule over Kush-Ethiopia, and Ahmose Nefertari, Foremother of Oromos and Sudanese. Part III" (

"Egypt, Akhenaten, Aton Monotheism: Origins of Oromos´ and Sidamas´ Kushitic / Ethiopian Religions" (

"Napata: Egypt Ruled by the Forefathers of Arabic-speaking Sudanese and Oromos (not Amharas). Part V" (

"From Piankhi to Shabaka: Ancestors to Egyptians, Arabic-speaking Sudanese, Oromos, Sidamas. Part VI" (

"Sennacherib of Assyria Defeats Shebitqu of Egypt and Kush / Ethiopia, Jews, Palestinians Allies" (

"Taharqa Routed by Assarhaddon, Memphis Sacked, Kush / Ethiopia Driven from Lower Egypt. Part VIII" (

"Taharqa, Egypt, Ethiopia (Ancient Sudan), Nubians, Assyria and Assurbanipal, Emperor of the Universe"


"Kush (Ethiopia), Egypt and Nubia from Tanwetamani to Psamtek II. The Destruction of Napata. Part X"


"Cambyses, Iranian Invasion of Ethiopia (Ancient Sudan ? Kush), Second Destruction of Napata. Part XI"


In the present, twelfth and last article of the series, I will focus on the transformation period after Amaniatabarqa´s reign (538 ? 519 BCE), when Napatan Kush was gradually transformed to Meroitic Ethiopia, the motherland of both, the ruling Arabic-speaking Sudanese and the subjugated Kushitic nations of Abyssinia (Oromos, Sidamas, Kaffas, Kambaatas and Hadiyas).

Through the aforementioned, it is evident that today´s Amhara and Tigray Abyssinians, who are the offspring of the Ancient Abyssinians, who had migrated from Yemen to Africa, are totally unrelated to the historicity of the name "Ethiopia" and cannot therefore pretend to have the right to use it.

The present article is the last of the series, and with a forthcoming article, I will focus on the differences between Meroitic Ethiopians (forefathers to Arabic-speaking Sudanese, Oromos, Sidamas, and other Kushites) and the Egyptians, the Nubians, the Abyssinians, and the Azanians (the Ancient Somalis) during the Late Antiquity and Early Christianity.

Chronological Terminology

Kushitic period: Napata (today´s Karima, ca. 800 km south of the present Egyptian ? Sudanese border) as capital of Kush / Ethiopia (ca. 800 ? 315 BCE)

Meroitic period: Meroe (today´s Bagrawiyah, ca. 1300 km south of the present Egyptian ? Sudanese border) as capital of Kush / Ethiopia (315 BCE ? 355 CE)

The two terms are conventional. Either called Kushites or described as Meroites, the bulk of the indigenous population of Ancient Sudan (Ethiopia) was the same people. The use of the two terms depends merely on the Ancient Sudanese (Ethiopian) capital, and designates two different periods of Ancient History.

Consequently, we identify as Meroites the Kushites / Ethiopians of the Meroitic period. The Meroites are not a different people, and there is absolute cultural, religious, and sociopolitical continuity between Napata and Meroe.

Different scholars have actually opted for different historical termini - moments of the Kushitic /Ethiopian past in their efforts to identify the end of the Kushitic period and the start of the Meroitic period. This is due to the scarcity of the material record during the period between Napata´s second destruction (535 BCE) and Meroe´s climax that starts in the beginning of the 3rd century BCE; it is also due to the fact that Meroe was only an administrative capital in the beginning, and for more than two centuries the Qore (kings of Kush / Ethiopia) ruled from Meroe but were buried in the vicinity of the Amun´s holy mountain at Napata (mainly in the Nuri necropolis).

From Amaniastabarqa to Nastasen

The last years of Amaniastabarqa´s reign are one of Ancient Sudan´s darkest periods, and the scarcity of archeological and epigraphic evidence puts obstacles to any efforts of proper historical synthesis. This epoch was obscure even for the Meroites of the later periods and we have found contradictory lists of the earlier Qore, which suggests either scarcity of documentation already in the Antiquity or conflicts of dynastic or religious order that could also be the reason for this scarcity.

Amaniastabarqa was succeeded by his brother Astabarqameni whose name is saved in few lists. Later on, Asasheraq rose to the throne of Meroe to succeed to his father, and then it was Weterik´s turn to rule for a brief period.

Siospiqo ruled for slightly less than 20 years (487 ? 468 BCE). His period is marked by the Iranian expansion in Europe, and the turmoil in Egypt against the Iranian rule. Despite the fact that the Iranian Shah was also a pharaoh of Egypt (27th dynasty), and in spite of the rather harmonious cohabitation of the Iranian administration with the monotheistic Heliopolitan priesthood, it seems that the Egyptians resented the Iranian rule. This situation in and by itself was a reason to revitalize the interest of the Kushite /Ethiopian Qore in Egypt. Siospiqo was buried in Nuri (pyramid Nu 4).

The aforementioned situation certainly justifies Laszlo Torok, the famous Egyptologist and Meroitologist, who described the continued interest of the Kushite / Ethiopian elite in a new involvement in the Egyptian affairs as per below:

"In spite of their incomplete preservation, the iconographic programs of B 700 and the Aspelta Shrine demonstrate quite clearly that the loss of rule over Egypt did not affect negatively the intellectual activity of the Kushite priesthood. It is equally clear that the changed relationship with Egypt did not bring about any disproportionate introversion of Kushite culture. The adoption of Egyptian concepts and expressive means, which enabled the Kushite rulers to build up and maintain for more than six decades an empire extending from Meroe to Memphis, did not stop with the collapse of this empire. And the continuity of Egyptian orientation cannot be interpreted as a lack of cultural initiative, either. The case was just the opposite".

(from: "Space, temple, and society. On the built worldview of the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty in Nubia"

Siospiqo´s and Kandake (Queen) Piankhqweqe´s son, Nasakhma, ruled for a brief period of ca. 5 years (468 ? 463 BCE), along with queen Saka-aye. He then was buried at Nuri (pyramid Nu 19).

Nasakhma´s firstborn was Malowiebamani, and he rose to the throne of Meroe to rule for ca. three decades (463 ? 435 BCE), along with his queen Akhrasan. Two of his three sons, Irike-Amannote and Baska-keren ruled Meroe, succeeding Malowiebamani´s brother in the throne. Malowiebamani´s period was relatively calm in Kush / Ethiopia, but neighboring Egypt was shaken because of Inarus´ rebellion. Ancient Athenians had sent troops and navies in an effort to help Egypt rebel against the Iranians and thus reduce the overwhelming Achaemenid power in Eastern Mediterranean. During Malowiebamani´s reign, the Carian historian Herodotus traveled in Egypt, and as he reached Syene (Aswan) and Elephantine, he collected material pertaining to Kush / Ethiopia that he later incorporated in his History. Malowiebamani was buried at Nuri (pyramid Nu 11).

Talakhamani, Malowiebamani´s younger brother, ruled for a brief period (435-431 BC) after a successful military career. He got married with his brother´s widow, queen Akhrasan, and with her he had a daughter, Atasamale. During his reign, Cambyses II invaded Egypt, eliminated the rebels and their Athenian allies, and annexed Egypt again. Talakhamani had to fight against the Nubians who apparently had become more numerous than the Egyptians and the Kushites / Ethiopians in both countries´ border provinces. His reign is the first period in which Meroe becomes the undisputed center of political and administrative power in Kush / Ethiopia. Talakhamani was buried at Nuri (pyramid Nu 16). A long stairway of 47 steps leads to his burial chamber which is one of the most impressive in Nuri.

He was succeeded by Qore Irike-Amannote who ruled for more than a quarter century, along with his Kandake (queen) Atasamale (431-405 BCR). Modern historians believe that during his reign, an increased Kushitic / Ethiopian interest in Egypt was manifested under the form of a support to the Egyptian rebels who fought twice (414 and 405 ? 404 BCE) to remove the Iranian garrisons. The royal names of Irike-Amannote suggest also an increased interest in the Egyptian affairs and in Amun Theban polytheistic theology.

Irike-Amannote had also to fight against the Nubians; furthermore, he had to defend his country from several desert tribes, and subdue a group of Kushite / Ethiopian rebels whose motives seem to have been religious of character. He also had several temples and buildings restored, notably Taharqa´s temple at Kawa. Bas-reliefs and inscriptions portray him as a strong warrior who receives the military insignia from God, which certainly gives to his reign an innovative and militaristic aspect. He was buried at Nuri (pyramid Nu 12).

Baskakeren´s brief reign (404 BCE) preceded the long reign of Harsiyotef one of the most powerful Kushite / Ethiopian Qore of the period. Baskakeren was buried at Nuri (pyramid Nu 17).

Harsiyotef´s reign (404-369 BCE) marks a period of reconstruction, reorganization and renovation. Along with his queen, Kandake Batahaliye, he undertook a vast project of rebuilding temples and palaces (particularly in Napata), necropolises (Nuri) and fortifications.

The famous inscription of Harsiyotef offers an insightful, as it extensively describes the holy site of Gebel Barkal as it was in his day. In it, Harsiyotef speaks of covering temples partly with gold, of laying out gardens and cattle pens, and of rebuilding the old royal palace, which had sixty rooms, according to the text.

We have found archeological evidence and monuments from his reign in several sites, notably Soniyas Abkur (on the Nile´s right bank), Usli (left bank), Hujeir, Hillat al Arab (near Jebel Barkal), the Argi cemetery (to the west of Abkur), and the sandstone quarries at Khor Marazaween. Important centers of the times of his reign have been unearthed in the area of Letti Basin, Kerma and Wadi al Khowi.

The area of Dorginarti (2nd cataract) seems to have been the border between Kush / Ethiopia and Egypt at those days, and there we have unearthed Egyptian fortifications dating back in the Persian times.

Harsiyotef had also to fight against the Nubians in the said area and e also campaigned against various local chieftains. He was buried at Nuri (pyramid Nu 13).

During his reign, we attest a certain rise of Osiris in the faith, the cults and the beliefs of the Kushites / Ethiopians. Osiris did not seem to have held a place in the first rank in the Meroitic empire. As in Egypt itself and especially in the cults which spread all around the Mediterranean, Isis prevailed over her consort Osiris, at the times of the Late Antiquity. Inscriptions on Meroitic offering tables and steles consistently open with the double invocation "O Isis, O Osiris". The role of the god is not however insignificant. In the stele of Harsiyotef, ten of the thirteen sites mentioned between Meroe and the Third Cataract have a local Osiris for their god. The same monument mentions also a rather unique case, namely a temple of Isis, Horus and Osiris (typically Heliopolitan of theology) in Kush / Ethiopia.

However, Harsiyotef´s reign terminated in confusion, and controversial succession. An unknown ruler reigned over Meroe for ca. 15 years (369 ? 353 BCE) only to be succeeded by Qore Akhratan (or Akh-Aritene, 350 - 335 BCE), who was buried at Nuri (pyramid Nu 14).

Nastasen, Akhratan´s successor, reigned at the times of Alexander the Great. During his reign (335 - 315 BCE), the Meroitic Hireoglyphic writing system was introduced for the first time. This is considered as the real beginning of the Meroitic period, and that´s why with a forthcoming article, I will start a new series with focus on the differences between Meroitic Ethiopians (forefathers to Arabic-speaking Sudanese, Oromos, Sidamas, and other Kushites) and the Egyptians, the Nubians, the Abyssinians, and the Azanians (the Ancient Somalis) during the Late Antiquity and Early Christianity.

Further Readings:

1. Stela of Harsiyotef [Harsiotef] (404-369 BCE)

From the Great Temple of Amun at Gebel Barkal (Cairo JE 48864).

In the year 342 B.C., Egypt was reconquered by the Persians, but by 332 B.C. it was in the hands of Alexander the Great.

On the other hand, reports of conflicts with nomadic peoples run like a red thread through the historical inscriptions of the kings of Kush. These peoples lived in the immediate and surrounding areas of the Nile Valley and even controlled stretches of the river itself. The most important of them were the multi-branched tribes of the Blemmyes, whose homeland was the Eastern Desert. We first encounter them in an inscription of King Anlamani (623-593 B.C.), which records a campaign against them resulting in a booty rich in women, children, and cattle; that only four men could be captured is typical of battles with nomads.

At the time of King Harsiyotef, the same nomad tribes attempted to establish themselves in Lower Nubia. In the third, fifth, and sixth years of his reign, campaigns against the Blemmyes probably involved the possession of Derr and perhaps also of Qasr Ibrim. The enemy's cattle and people ("male and female slaves") were captured and the nomad chieftain finally submitted to the Kushite king: "You are my god! I am your slave! I am a woman! Do not take the field against me!" As a token of submission, he sent earth (?) "in the hands of a man" (Stela -- Cairo JE 48864; above).


Africa in Antiquity: The Arts of Ancient Nubia and the Sudan, Steffen Wenig, Brooklyn Museum, p. 163 (1978)

2. Stela of Queen Batahaliye (404-369 BC)

Material: Granite;

Provenance: Nuri, Pyramid Nu. 44,

Boston (Massachusetts), Museum of Fine Arts; No. 21.3231

Description: In the upper part of the round-topped funerary stela, the queen is shown in bold raised relief in front of the enthroned Osiris and Isis standing behind him. A food-laden altar stands before Osiris. The queen wears a long, ample robe, a crown with two tall feathers, and a uraeus. She has a collar, bracelets on her raised arms, and sandals. Over the scene is a winged sun disk with two uraei. The inscriptions above the figures give the names of the queen and the deities in Egyptian hieroglyphs. Below the scene is another Egyptian inscription, consisting of eight lines with an offering formula containing an invocation to the gods Osiris and Isis. The surface of the stela is only slightly polished.

The stela of Queen Batahaliye, a wife of King Harsiyotef, belongs to a group of gray granite funerary stelae, all with bold raised relief in the pediment and inscriptions in faulty Egyptian, which were made in the fourth century B.C. This relief has a crisp effect, since the edges are sharply cut. The scenes on the stela of King Harsiyotef (Cairo JE 48864), which was erected in the Great Temple of Amun at Gebel Barkal, show quite a different style, relating to that of the older stelae of Aspelta or the more recent one of Nastasen, proving that two stylistic trends existed side by side.


Africa in Antiquity: The Arts of Ancient Nubia and the Sudan, Steffen Wenig, Brooklyn Museum, p. 165 (1978)

3. The Economic and Political Organization of Meroe, Nubia

Kevin Shillington, History of Africa, 1995, pp. 43-43:

Economically and politically the kingdom of Meroe was quite distinct from Egypt. The economy was not based primarily upon the kind of irrigated floodplain agriculture practiced in Egypt. The extent of floodplain south of the second cataract was too narrow to support a large population. But living just within the northern boundary of the summer rainfall zone, the Meroites could grow their tropical cereals in extensive fields away from the river's edge. This pattern of agricultural production influenced the social and political organization of Meroitic society.

The cattle-herders and peasant cultivators, who made up the vast majority of Meroe's population, were spread out over a wide area. They lived in mud and reed houses, clustered in small rural villages and ruled over by minor chiefs and heads of family clans. As such they appear to have been under less direct political control than their counterparts in the floodplain regions of the Egyptian Nile. They probably paid their taxes in the form of annual tribute to the king rather than the kind of detailed pre-assessed taxation demanded by Egyptian government officials. Cattle were grazed over a wide extent of savannah grassland to the east and west of Meroe. Herdsmen were semi-nomadic, moving their animals between summer and winter pastures. They probably had a fair degree of political freedom from central government control, provided they paid in annual tribute in livestock.

The rulers, their government officials and full-time craftsmen, lived in the towns, of which the principal one was Meroe itself. Politically the king ruled as an all-powerful, absolute monarch, but there appears to have been a greater element of consent by the people than ever existed in Ancient Egypt. Through the choice of monarch came from within a single royal family, succession was not automatic. It required the agreement of the nobility and the final approval of the priesthood. An unpopular monarch was occasionally removed. The mother of the king was also an important figure in the government, which may have helped maintain stability and continuity from one reign to the next.

The personal wealth of the Meroitic kings came from their control of trade. The main exports from the kingdom were the products of mining and hunting. Both of these activities came under the direct control of the king. Hunting expeditions, armed with iron weapons, penetrated deep into the grasslands and woodlands to the south in search of elephants, ostriches and leopards. The hunters formed the basis of a standing army, and elephants were used in war. Indeed trained elephants from Meroe were exported to Egypt for use in the Egyptian army.

The principal industrial craft in Meroe was smelting of iron and the making of iron tools. To this day the huge mounds of waste slag from their smelting furnaces rise up alongside the modern railway to bear witness to the enormous iron output of the ancient kingdom of Meroe. Iron provided the farmers and hunters of Meroe with superior tools and weapons. The development and use of iron was thus partly responsible for the very success, growth and wealth of the Meroite kingdom.

G. Mokhtar, Ancient Civilizations of Africa, 1990, pp. 179-180:

Kush (Nubia) Mineral Resources:

During antiquity the Kingdom of Kush, it is said, was one of the richest countries of the known world. This was due more to the mineral wealth of the border lands to the east of the Nile than to the core of the kingdom itself.

Kush was one of the main gold-producing areas in the ancient world. Gold was mined between the Nile and the Red Sea, mostly in the part to the north of the eighteenth parallel, where traces of ancient mining are to be found. Excavations at Meroe and Musawwarat es-Sufra have revealed temples with walls and statues covered by gold leaf. Gold and its export not only were one of the main sources of the wealth and greatness of the kingdom, but greatly influenced foreign relations with Egypt and Rome. It has been computed that during antiquity Kush produced about 51,440,000 ounces of pure gold, worth about $22 billion at todays value.

The eastern desert was rich in various precious and semi-precious stones such as amethyst, carbuncle, hyacinth, chrysolith, beryl and others. Even if these mines were not all controlled by the Meroitic kingdom, in the last resort all their products went through Meroitic trade channels, and so increased the fame of Meroe as one of the richest countries in the ancient world.

Crafts and Trade

The Meroitic towns were also important centers of craft and trade. The existing evidence indicates a high technological and artistic level of crafts. Although in the earlier period Egyptian influence is unmistakable, from the third century before the Christian era, Meroitic craftsmen and artists created a highly original and independent artistic tradition.

Pottery is the best-known of all the products of the Meroitic civilization and owes its fame to its quality both of texture and of decoration. There are two distinct traditions: the hand-made pottery made by women which shows a remarkable continuity of form and style and reflects a deep-rooted African tradition, and the wheel-turned ware made by men which is more varied and responsive to stylistic changes.

Jewellery was another highly developed craft. It has been found in considerable quantities, mostly in royal tombs. As with other artifacts, the earlier jewellery was closely modeled on Egyptian styles and only later examples are characteristically Meroitic in style and ornamentation. The main materials were gold, silver and semi-precious stones, and the range of artifacts goes from plaques to necklaces, bracelets, ear-rings and finger-rings.

Cabinet-makers produced various kinds of furniture, especially beds, but also wooden caskets, strong-boxes and even musical instruments. Weavers made cotton and linen textiles. Tanners processed hides and leather.

All this indicates that in Meroe there existed a comparatively large class of craftsmen to which belonged also artists, architects and sculptors. How these crafts were organized is so far unknown, as the names of crafts in Meroitic inscriptions remain undeciphered.

The Kingdom of Kush formed an ideal extrepot for the caravan routes between the Red Sea, the Upper Nile and the Nile-Chad savannah. It is therefore not surprising that foreign trade played an important role in the Meroitic economy as well as in its politics. Foreign trade was directed mainly to Egypt and the Mediterranean world and later perhaps to southern Arabia. The chief trade route went along the Nile, although in some parts it crossed the savannah, for instance, between Meroe and Napata, and Napata and Lower Nubia. The Island of Meroe must have been crisscrossed by many caravan routes and it was also the starting-point for caravans to the Red Sea region, northern Ethiopia, Kordofan and Darfur. The control of this large network of routes was a constant worry to the Meroitic kings, for the nomadic peoples very often raided the caravans. The rulers built fortresses at strategic points in the Bajude steppe - between Meroe and Napata, for instance - to protect the trade routes and also dug wells along them.

4. Stela of King Nastasen (335-315 B.C.) (Gen. 27).

335-315 BC. Detail of the stela of King Nastasen, showing the king and his chief wife, Sakhmakh. Granite. Berlin/DDR, Agyptisches Museum 2268

Description: On the front of a large, polished, round-topped stela is a double scene with several figures above the first twenty-six lines of a sixty-eight-line text in Egyptian hieroglyphs, which is continued on the back of the stela. Over the scene is a winged sun disk from which extend two uraei, wearing the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt and enclosing a cartouche with the name of the king. The scene below is divided by two columns of hieroglyphs. On each side is a figure of the god Amun, shown on the left with a human head and on the right with a ram's head. Both figures hold a was-scepter in one outstretched hand and an ankh-sign in the other. On each side. King Nastasen approaches the god and offers a ball-bead necklace and a pectoral hanging from a long band. The king wears a pointed Egyptian kilt, a diadem with uraeus and streamers, a broad collar, and wide armlets and bracelets. An animal's tail hangs from his belt. On the left, he is accompanied by his mother, Pelekh; on the right, his wife, Sakhmakh, follows him. Both women wear ankle-length garments that come to a point in back, and each has a diadem with a uraeus. They both hold a sistrum in one hand and pour a libation with the other. The hieroglyphic captions give the names and titles of the figures and describe their action.

Although it was found at Dongola, the stela of King Nastasen probably comes from the Great Temple of Amun at Gebel Barkal (Schafer 1901,1-6), where five similar stelae, now in Cairo, were found. The present stela is not only an important artistic monument of the later Napatan Period, it is a major historical document as well. Reisner's (1923d) chronology of the kings of the late fourth century B.C., based on the architectural history of the pyramids of Nuri and Meroe, was confirmed, above all, by Hintze (1959.17-20), who established that the hostile Prince Khambes-wten who is named in the inscription of this stela is the same as the King Khababash who ruled Egypt for a short time, 31st Dynasty 338-335 B.C.

The inscription is dated in the eighth regnal year of the king and contains the annals of his reign. It begins with a list of the king's titles. The text then describes how Nastasen learned that he had been called to the throne by the god Amun of Napata and how he traveled to Napata to be crowned in the Amun Temple there. A huge feast in the coronation city was followed by a royal progress to Gematon (Kawa), Pnubs (Tebo), back to Napata, and finally to a place called Tar. Then follows a list of offerings made by the king to Amun. Most of the inscription consists of a detailed description of the king's wars and campaigns against numerous enemies; in the first of these wars is mentioned a battle against Khababash. It must have been a difficult one for Nastasen, for after his victory he made offerings to the gods. Other enemies were nomads from the surrounding deserts, who had often caused trouble to the inhabitants of the Nile Valley and against whose incursions Nastasen had to protect his land. The inscription ends with praise for Amun, to whom the king owes his victories.


Africa in Antiquity: The Arts of Ancient Nubia and the Sudan, Steffen Wenig, Brooklyn Museum, p. 163 (1978)

5. Stela of Queen Sakhmakh (335-315 BC)

Material: Granite; Gebel Barkal, Great Temple of Amun (B 551)

Collection: Khartoum, Sudan National Museum 1853

Description: On the pediment of this round-topped stela is a winged sun disk over a five-column inscription containing an offering formula. The main body of the stela is designed as a chapel; a polished strip imitates the torus molding, and slightly sunk horizontal strips represent pilasters. A winged sun disk takes the place of the cavetto cornice below the upper "torus" and is repeated above it. The whole is crowned by a frieze of uraei, as in divine shrines. A cult scene is incised in the more deeply sunk central panel. On the right stands a queen wearing a long robe and two tall feathers on her head. She holds a sistrum, apparently lion-headed, in one raised hand and pours a libation with the other. In front of her is enthroned the god Osiris, an atef-crown on his head and crook and flail in his hands. Behind him stands the goddess Isis with an ankh-sign in her left hand and her right hand raised in salutation. The scene is surmounted by incised captions similar to those on the"pilasters." Beneath the scene, on a polished raised panel, is a five-line inscription with an offering formula.

The stela has the usual form, with rounded top and winged sun disk, but the design of the surface as a chapel, imitating the back wall of a Meroitic funerary chapel, is without parallel and betrays a lively artistic imagination.

Sakhmakh was a wife of King Nastasen. He was buried in Pyramid Nuri 15, and a large stela for him was erected in the Great Temple of Amun at Gebel Barkal. Since it would be unreasonable to imagine that Sakhmakh's stela, which, considering the subject represented, must have belonged to her tomb, was hauled from Nuri across the river to Gebel Barkal about ten miles away merely to be reused as building material, we must assume that Sakhmakh, unlike her spouse, was buried not at Nuri but in one of the pyramids of the period at Gebel Barkal. The form of the hieroglyphs is so similar on both stelae that one suspects they were carved by the same stonemason.


Africa in Antiquity: The Arts of Ancient Nubia and the Sudan, Steffen Wenig, Brooklyn Museum, p. 73 (1978)

6. The NCAM Mission at Jebel Barkal

By Timothy Kendall

A. Site Description and Historical Overview.

Jebel Barkal (18º32´N, 31º49´E) is a small sandstone table-mountain on the western edge of Karima, about 350 km N of Khartoum and 22 km downstream from the new Merowe Dam at the fourth cataract (fig. 1). Situated about 1 1/2 km from the right bank of the Nile, it rises abruptly from a desert plain to a height of 104 m and confronts the river with a sheer cliff 80 to 95 m high and approximately 200 m long. The mountain´s unusual appearance ? its isolation, sharp profile, and its 75 m high pinnacle ? in ancient times seems to have made it the subject of intense theological speculation. Probably as early as Year 2 of Thutmose I (ca. 1504-1492 BC), the Egyptians, during their conquest of Kush, identified Jebel Barkal as the residence of a southern form of their state god Amun of Karnak. They called it variously "Pure Mountain" and "Thrones of the Two Lands," and gave its sanctuary the same name as Karnak: Ipet-Sut. The mountain came to mark the official southern border of the Egyptian empire, and its Amun sanctuary thus became the most distant from Thebes, 1150 km downstream. At least as early as the reign of Amenhotep II (ca. 1427-1401 BC), the surrounding town was called Napata (map). For about four centuries (ca. 1500-1100 BC), the Egyptians occupied Napata and operated the Barkal sanctuary as an outpost and Nubian counterpart of Karnak.

Traditionally in Egypt, Creation was thought to have taken place - and the gods given existence - by the ancient sun god Re-Atum, who appeared on a mound at Heliopolis (near Memphis). A major feature of this site was a stone pillar, called the benben. By the early New Kingdom, Re-Atum had been conceptually merged with Amun, so that Amun´s great shrine at Karnak came to be called "Southern Heliopolis." Almost simultaneously, Jebel Barkal had been discovered and proclaimed a southern Karnak ? thus a Nubian manifestation of the Mound of Heliopolis and birthplace of the gods. The pinnacle on its cliff suggested the sacred stone of Heliopolis and gave Jebel Barkal another name: "House of the benben." Since the Egyptians equated Creation with a mound as well as with the life-giving waters of the Nile, since Jebel Barkal gave tangible form to the mythical Mound, and since the inundation came from the distant south, it is little wonder that this Nubian mountain should have come to be seen as the original home of the Creator god, Amun(-Re-Atum), who at the beginning of time brought life to the land and renewed it annually with the inundation.
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In Dynasty 20, as the Egyptian central government weakened and as Lower Egypt was threatened by invasions of Libyans and Sea Peoples, the Egyptians gradually withdrew from Kush, leaving Napata and Jebel Barkal politically adrift and militarily unsecured. During the ensuing two to three centuries, the Barkal sanctuary and its cult, cut off from Egypt, apparently ceased to be maintained. But during the early eighth century BC a family of powerful local chiefs emerged, whose tombs (and presumed capital) lay at nearby el-Kurru (13 km downstream from Jebel Barkal). The earliest members of this dynasty, judging by their sequence of tombs (dating probably from the early or mid-ninth century BC), were buried according to Nubian custom, proving their Nubian origin. Rather quickly, however, their successors adopted Egyptian funerary customs. Why and how this process of Egyptianization occurred among them remains unclear, but external influences ? perhaps the appearance on the scene of émigré Egyptian theologians or missionaries - may be suspected. By the early eighth century BC, the Kurru chiefs had clearly adopted Amun as their dynastic god and began to restore his temples at Jebel Barkal and the other old Egyptian centers in Upper Nubia (eg. Kawa [Gem-pa-aten] and Kerma [Pnubs]). By mid-century, they had also adopted Egyptian writing and language for their formal inscriptions, had proclaimed themselves the sons of Amun and heirs of the New Kingdom pharaohs, and had begun to assume Egyptian royal titles.

From about 780 to 716 BC, these Kurru chiefs extended their political control northward, first uniting Kush (Upper and Lower Nubia), then incorporating Upper Egypt - and reuniting Karnak with Jebel Barkal as in the New Kingdom. After about 716, they asserted military control of Lower Egypt, again uniting Upper and Lower Egypt and establishing their place in history as Egypt´s 25th Dynasty. During their Egyptian hegemony (ca. 716-661 BC), the kings considered Jebel Barkal their premiere cult center, for its oracle continued to send them advisories, which they were bound to obey. Following their expulsion from Egypt by the Assyrians during the 660´s BC, the rulers, re-establishing their court in Kush, continued, for nearly another millennium, to use Jebel Barkal as their primary coronation center. The old sanctuary probably did not cease as a focus of the Amun cult until the decline of the Meroitic kingdom in the fourth century AD.

B. Religious Significance of Jebel Barkal.

It is clear from a complex surviving iconography and textual record that from the early 18th Dynasty Jebel Barkal derived its pre-eminent sacred and political importance from its peculiar shape - especially the shape of its pinnacle, a natural wonder. Viewed from different angles at different times of the day, this towering rock shaft appeared to the ancient onlooker to evoke aspects of many different gods or symbols, all of which, combined in the one rock, suggested the equally multifaceted and "hidden" (=amun) essence of the great god Amun himself, who incorporated all gods and both sexes within himself.

Publicly in art the pinnacle on the cliff face was depicted as a great rearing uraeus. The mountain was shown in cross-section as a kind of shrine in which the great god stood or sat enthroned, hidden from mortal view, sometimes accompanied by a goddess. From the southwest (i.e. downstream = "north") side, the "uraeus" appeared to be crowned with a sun disk, suggesting the form of the sun god´s uraeus, known as the "Eye of Re." From the northeast (i.e. upstream = "south"), it appeared to be crowned with a white crown, suggesting the form of the king´s uraeus (symbolic especially of Upper Egyptian kingship) (fig. 2a-b). Since the uraeus was the unique emblem of Egyptian kingship, worn on the crown of both the king and the great god ("king of the gods"), it is at once obvious why the pharaohs, probably as early as Thutmose I, identified the mountain as a source of Egyptian kingship, why they made Jebel Barkal a venue for their coronations in the distant south, and why they believed their authority to rule Upper Egypt (symbolized by their assumption of the white crown) extended to the upper limits of Upper Nubia.

The uraeus, apart from being a badge of kingship, was also the serpent form of any and all of the most powerful goddesses, considered to be at once the protectors both of the king and the god, his divine father. Common to all of them was the epithet "Eye of Re," the name of a great goddess in legend who for a time exiled herself in Nubia. Since the pinnacle took the form of the "Eye of Re" (as a uraeus crowned with sun disk), Jebel Barkal could be presumed to be the place where the great goddess ? in her many identities - resided. However, since Amun himself, in his procreative or ithyphallic form (Atum/Kamutef), was occasionally represented as a uraeus, it is evident from this iconography that the rock, too, embodied the god as a phallic symbol (figs. 3, 4). The pinnacle, as uraeus, thus combined within it both male and female aspects, just like the god Amun himself, who is once described as "father of fathers and mother of mothers," or his Heliopolitan double Re-Atum, who is called "the great He-She" in the Pyramid Texts.

Ironically, when the kings of Kush restored the Barkal temples and cult, they used all these old Egyptian traditions to justify a Nubiocentric political agenda. Since Jebel Barkal (by virtue of its "uraeus with white crown") had proven to the New Kingdom pharaohs that they had the divine authority to rule all of Nubia as an extension of Upper Egypt, it now gave the emerging Nubian dynasty the authority to rule Upper Egypt as part of Kush. This was, of course, the political situation at the start of Piankhy´s campaign, as recorded in his Victory Stele in Cairo.

A body of newly discovered textual evidence suggests that the pinnacle had yet another identity. It was considered a colossal, if "hidden," image of Osiris, god of original kingship and fertility, wearing the white crown (fig. 5a-b). This interpretation is supported by still another discovery: that Taharqa´s pyramid at Nuri (9.7 km northeast of Jebel Barkal) was built where it was because it was the point on the horizon where the sun rose on ancient New Year´s Day (modernly July 30; anciently August 7), when viewed from the summit of Jebel Barkal,. Since New Year´s Day was considered the birthday or resurrection day of Osiris, and since the subterranean tomb of the pyramid was modeled after the "Osireion" (the false tomb of Osiris) at Abydos, it appears that Nuri I was intended by its form and placement to allow the deceased Taharqa to be reborn annually as the god Osiris, original king and bearer of fertility (i.e. the Nile Flood). Taharqa´s efforts to ensure his posthumous union with Osiris through his tomb´s architecture may explain why he also attempted to unite himself to the summit of the pinnacle, near the top of which he placed a small statue (probably of himself) and created a panel of inscription, covered with gold sheet. Both the pyramid and the pinnacle apparently worked together as an enormous calendar circle. If the pyramid, when viewed from the mountain top, marked the sunrise of the supposed birthday of Osiris, the pinnacle, when viewed from the pyramid three and half months later, marked the sunset of the supposed death-day of Osiris ? when the Nile fell and fertility declined. At that time, in mid-November the sun sets directly behind the pinnacle, momentarily silhouetting the rock as a "dying god" (fig. 6).

The text of the Napatan king Nastasen (late 4th century BC) provides yet another iconographic insight into the meaning of Jebel Barkal. It describes the mountain as the "ka (divine image/essence) of the crown of Re-Horakhty." This makes sense when the mountain is viewed from the northeast in the late afternoon, for it then resembles a great head with uraeus emerging from the earth ? the form of the Kushite "cap crown" (fig. 7a-b). This suggests that the form of the Kushite crown must have been derived from the profile of Jebel Barkal, which was believed (locally at least) to be the shape of the crown of the primeval sun god. The "cap crown," thus, was probably intended to remind the Egyptians that their Kushite overlords possessed the original kingship that had appeared at the beginning of time ? at Jebel Barkal.

The 25th Dynasty belief in the primacy of its kingship, given by Amun of Jebel Barkal, was probably a root cause of the war in 593 BC between Psamtik II (ca. 595-589 BC) of Dynasty 26 and his Kushite counterpart (Aspelta?). The fact of the extensive destruction of the contemporary Barkal temples and palace suggests that Jebel Barkal may have been the main objective of Psamtik´s campaign. One may suspect that the Egyptian king´s goal was to put an end, once and for all, to Kushite claims on Egyptian kingship and to eradicate the Barkal cult, which was believed (at least by Kushite supporters) to confer it.

Despite the ruination of the Barkal sanctuary in the early sixth century BC, it was rebuilt and continued to be used for centuries as a place of the Kushite royal coronations. Excavated in 1996-97, temple B 1100, which lay directly in front of the pinnacle/"uraeus", was probably the temple called the "Great House" (of the crown goddess Weret-Kekau), into which the king went to receive his crown. The earliest level, built of white sandstone talatat blocks, was associated with Horemheb (ca. 1319-1307 BC). Over this lay a secondary foundation of Dynasty 25 or Napatan blocks. Over this lay still more loose blocks bearing reliefs and inscriptions of the Meroitic couple Natakamani and Amantore of the first century AD. The stratigraphy suggests that the Kushite kings for over eight centuries knowingly re-enacted coronations here that had been conducted on the same spot by the Egyptian pharaohs many centuries earlier - apparently believing that the crown they received from Amun of Jebel Barkal was the same granted to the Egyptian kings since the beginning of time.


T. Kendall, "Why did Taharqa Build his Tomb at Nuri?" in W. Godlewski, A. Lajtar (eds), Between the Cataracts. Proceedings of the 11th International Conference for Nubian Studies, Warsaw University, August 27-September 2, 2006, Part one: Main Papers [=PAM Supplement Series 2.1], Warsaw University Publishers: Warsaw 2007, pp. 117-147.

T. Kendall, "Hatshepsut in Kush?" in SSEA Newsletter: Winter 2007.

C. The Archaeology of the Site.

Although the urban remains of Napata have not yet been significantly probed, the rolling rubble heaps extending from the front of the temples to the line of palms bordering the riverbank probably indicate the area of major ancient settlement. The town probably also continued the remaining ½ km under the palms, down to the Nile and probably occupied approximately the district now called Barkal Village. Vestiges of large Napatan and Meroitic houses have also been found northeast of the mountain, among the modern houses of Karima.

The Barkal temples extend around the south and southeast faces of the mountain. These prominent ruins have been known to the outside world and periodically probed by excavators since the 1820´s. The first scientific excavations were undertaken by George A. Reisner, directing the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston-Harvard University Expedition between 1916 and 1920. No further work was undertaken there until 1973, when an Italian expedition of the University of Rome (La Sapienza), under the direction of F. Sergio Donadoni, recommenced work at the site. While Reisner had concentrated his efforts exclusively to the area of the visible temples (from B 500 to the southwest), Donadoni began exploring the desert plain to the east and southeast, where building remains were less obvious. In 1977 he discovered two previously unknown Meroitic temples (B 1300-1400) and Meroitic house remains about 600 m southeast of the mountain at the edge of the palm line. He next discovered the remains of an enormous square palace (B 1500), belonging to the joint Meroitic rulers Natakamani and Amanitore. When Donadoni retired in 1992, he turned the Italian Mission over to his colleague Alessandro Roccati, and in 2006, the mission received a new institutional sponsor in the University of Torino. Widening the excavations around B 1500, Roccati´s team has recently discovered more palatial structures to the north and east of B 1500 (B 1900-2200, 2400).

In 1986, the Italian Mission was joined at Jebel Barkal by a small team from the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston, led by Timothy Kendall, whose research area was restricted to Reisner´s former concession (250 x 300 m, from B 500 to B 200 [E to W], and from the Barkal cliff to the road in front of B 500 [N to S]) (fig. 8). Under MFA sponsorship this team worked five short seasons - 1986, 87, 89, 96, and 97. In 1999, with Kendall´s departure from the MFA, the expedition temporarily merged, at Dr. Roccati´s invitation, with the Italian Mission. Then in 2000, at the behest of Hassan Hussein Idriss, Director General of NCAM, Kendall´s mission was designated an official NCAM Mission, with new US sponsorship from Northeastern University, Boston. This expedition has worked seven more seasons: 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005(x2), 2006, 2007.

The field objectives of the NCAM (former MFA) Mission at Jebel Barkal have been: 1) To re-examine and fully record all of the structures excavated by Reisner and to prepare final descriptions, measurements, plans, drawings, reconstructions and photographs of each, 2) to survey and map the entire temple area, as well as each structure, both topographically and block-by-block, 3) to survey the concession area by magnetometry to try to identify structures not visible from the surface, 4) to collaborate with the Italian Mission to share data and to map the entire site, including the excavation areas of both teams, 5) to seek stratified archaeological evidence of pre-Egyptian and early Egyptian occupation of the site to determine when the mountain might first have acquired cultic importance, 6) to explore the cliff face and to record the ancient evidence for construction and human workmanship on the pinnacle, and 7) to examine the textual and iconographic record of Jebel Barkal to better understand the nature of its cult, its religious meaning, and its place in history.

The most recent survey and magnetic data suggests that the Barkal sanctuary included at least twenty-four important structures (temples and palaces), of which eleven have been partly or wholly excavated. Neolithic and rare Kerma sherds have been recovered on the site, out of context, and two pre-Egyptian graves were found by Reisner in the embankment in front of B 600, revealing that the site indeed had a pre-Egyptian past, but no architectural traces of any pre-Egyptian settlement have yet been identified. The earliest known buildings on the site date to the mid Eighteenth Dynasty. Most of the major sacred buildings, in fact, have Egyptian foundations, which were overbuilt repeatedly throughout Napatan and Meroitic times.

Taharqa´s construction of his pyramid at Nuri (9.7 km northeast of Jebel Barkal and on the opposite bank) established Nuri as the major royal cemetery throughout the Napatan Period (ca. 664-300 BC), just as the kings and queens prior to his reign were all buried downstream at el-Kurru. Small pyramids on the west side of Jebel Barkal (fig. 8), however, indicate that the western flank of the mountain was the site of an important royal cemetery from the late Napatan to early Meroitic periods (ca. 300 ? 50 BC). Between 1995 and 1997, a team from the Fundacio Clos of Barcelona, Spain, under the direction of Francesca Berenguer renewed excavations in the Barkal cemetery and discovered two previously unknown royal tombs of the later Napatan Period. These are now thought to be cenotaphs (symbolic tombs) for the kings and queens buried at Nuri.

Although the Barkal pyramids are the best preserved royal funerary monuments in the Sudan, the temples and palaces are in very poor condition owing, first, to the soft nature of the building stone, second, to the severity of the local environment (floods and sandstorms), and, third, to the long-term looting of the site by people seeking cut stone blocks for use in the lining of graves of the modern Islamic cemetery, immediately west of the temples.

D. Brief Guide to the Excavated Buildings of the Jebel Barkal Sanctuary

Reisner devised the numbering system which is now used by all archaeologists to designate the structures in the Jebel Barkal sanctuary. In this system, each building´s number, prefaced by "B" (for "Barkal"), increases by one hundred (i.e. B 100, B 200, B 300, etc.) as each building is discovered. In this way, its interior rooms can be assigned unique numbers ascending by ones (i.e. B 101, 102, etc. as rooms in B 100). In exceptional cases Reisner gave small structures within or near a major structure (such as the small kiosk in front of B 500), a number rather like a room designation ("B 551") but much higher than the number of recorded rooms in the temple (i.e. B 521). The following list provides a brief description of all the known structures (not including the pyramids) in the concession area of the NCAM Mission (fig. 9):

B 100: an early Meroitic palace, nearly square in plan (about 37 m x 32 m), some 100 m west of the entrance of B 500.

B 200: a partly built, partly rock-cut temple on the south corner of the mountain, commissioned by Taharqa (690-664 BC), elevated on a natural outcrop, having three parallel sanctuaries dedicated to Hathor, Tefnut, and a third, whose name is lost ? all goddesses identified with the "Eye of Re."

B 300: a partly built, partly rock-cut temple, 25 m to the right (northeast) of B 200, commissioned by Taharqa and dedicated to the goddess Mut, merged with forms of Hathor and Sekhmet ? all forms of the "Eye of Re." This temple is 30 m left (west) of B 1100, dedicated to the royal uraeus goddesses, which seems to be part of the same series of temples associated with the uraeus and placed directly in front or around the base of the pinnacle.

B 350: the monument of Taharqa erected on the summit of the pinnacle, about 30 m NE of B 300 and directly behind and above the rear of B 1100.

B 500, the Great Temple of Amun of Napata. The earliest part of the visible building dates to the post-Amarna period (Tutankhamun or Horemheb, ca. 1333-1307 BC); it was next enlarged by Seti I (ca. 1306-1290 BC) and then by Ramses II (ca. 1290-1224 BC). This New Kingdom structure (complete to the second court 502) was then restored by Piankhy (ca. 750-716 BC), who added court 501. It was then embellished by Taharqa (ca. 690-664 BC), who added the bark stand in 503, and by Tanwetamani (ca. 664-657 BC), who added the kiosk in 502. The temple was severely damaged by fire (ca. 593 BC) and restored. Its last complete renovation was undertaken by the Meroitic royal couple Natakamani and Amanitore (first century AD).

Kiosk 501: erected in the middle of court 501 by Natakamani and Amanitore.

Kiosk 502: erected in the middle of hypostyle hall 502 by Tanwetamani..

Kiosk 551: erected just outside the entrance of B 500 by Amanishakheto (?).

B 560/570/580: Tentative names for three newly-discovered small Meroitic chapels, located by magnetometry, that flank and lie perpendicular to the causeway leading to the entrance of B 500. These have not yet been excavated.

B 600: a small temple, first erected by Thutmose IV (ca. 1401-1391 BC), later partially destroyed by a cliff collapse and restored in the late Napatan or early Meroitic period with larger plan and columned portico; thought to be a shrine to the living king.

B 700: a larger temple beside and to the left (west) of B 600, which seems to have been dedicated to the Osirian forms of Amun and to Dedwen and served (apparently) as a shrine to deceased kings. The temple was founded by Atlanersa (ca. 650-640 BC), completed by Senkamanisken (ca. 640-620 BC), and was restored in early Meroitic times (probably contemporaneously with B 600), after a catastrophic rock fall, which destroyed the rear chambers.

B 800/900: temple of Amun of Karnak at Thebes, parallel with and west (downstream = "north") of B 500 but smaller, founded by Alara (ca. 780-760 BC) or Kashta (ca. 760-740 BC), restored by Piankhy (ca. 740-716 BC), then again by Anlamani (ca. 620-600 BC) and finally by Harsiotef (ca. 400-370 BC). The temple appears to have fallen out of use in the early Meroitic period.

B 1100: remains of a temple directly in front of the pinnacle (between B 300 and B 700), assumed to be the "Great House" (i.e. sanctuary of the royal uraeus goddesses, Nekhbet and Wadjet, and of Weret-Hekau, goddess of the crowns) and presumed to be temple which the king entered to receive his crown during coronations. The temple was built and restored at least three times, In the New Kingdom, in Dynasty 25, and in the reign of Natakamani. Subsequently it was destroyed in a rock fall.

B 1150: a temple of stone and red bricks, now destroyed, that seems to have been built in front of B 1100. Test excavations in 2002 failed to find a single stone in situ, so at present the temple remains hypothetical.

B 1200: a Napatan Palace, probably built over an Egyptian original, that has at least five, possibly six, superimposed levels: 1) Ramses II, 2) Dynasty 25, 3) Anlamani and Aspelta [destroyed by fire], 4) later Napatan rebuilding (ca. 500 BC), 5) Harsiotef, and 6) Amanislo. In early Meroitic times the site of B 1200 ceased to be used and a new palace (B 100) was built in front of it.

E. Activities and Staff of the NCAM (ex-MFA) Mission, by season.

Season 1: March 18 - April 3, 1986: T. Kendall and Cynthia Shartzer, with Babiker Mohamed El-Amin (for the Sudan Antiquities Service [now NCAM]) a) exposed and recorded the surviving fragments of the Piankhy reliefs in B 500 (courts 501 and 502), b) photographed all preserved relief fragments of B 800/900 visible on ground, c) examined and mapped the cliff edge on top of Jebel Barkal, directly opposite the pinnacle peak, in order to record the line of large chiseled holes and traces of stone-cutting, which suggested the means by which ancient sculptors were able to cross the 11 m gorge from cliff top and pinnacle to carve the panel of inscription on its S side, which then could only be indistinctly observed with binoculars from the ground.


T. Kendall, Gebel Barkal Epigraphic Survey: 1986. Preliminary Report on First Season´s Activity (Report to the Visiting Committee of the Department of Egyptian Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, May 23, 1986), 36 pages.

Jean Leclant and Gisèle Clerc, "Fouilles et travaux en Égypte et au Soudan, 1985-1986," Orientalia 56 (1987), pp. 368-369.

T. Kendall, "The Monument of Taharqa on Gebel Barkal" in Steffen Wenig, ed. Meroitica 21: Feldforschungen im Sudan und in Eritrea, Akten des Symposiums Berlin, 13-14.10.1999. Berlin: 2004.

Season 2: Feb. 14 -March 30, 1987: T. Kendall (dir.), C. Shartzer (proj. mgr.), Paul Duval (alpinist), Nathalie Beaux and Lynn Holden (Egyptologists), with Babiker Mohamed El-Amin (for the Sudan Antiquities Service [now NCAM]): a) mapped floors and made elevation drawings of B 700, b) photographed and made drawings of the fragmentary reliefs and columns in B 700; c) climbed the pinnacle to observe and photograph the inscribed panel (which proved to be part of a monument of Taharqa, restored by Nastasen), and other construction details on the pinnacle summit, d) discovered and recorded the many cut holes between the cliff and pinnacle shaft, revealing that a complex framework of wooden beams had been built between the opposing rock walls (fig. 10), e) discovered a number of graffiti scratched in grottoes on the western side of Jebel Barkal, f) excavated one of the flag niches in the second pylon of B 500, exposing a bronze disk, approximately 1 m diam, made of overlapping bands of heavy bronze, that had been nailed to the bottom of the flag mast. On this bronze plate, lying face down, were two small bronze plaques in the form of bound enemy figures, each inscribed in Meroitic, both with nails driven through them,.


T. Kendall, "Gebel Barkal Epigraphic Survey: 1987. Summary of Second Season´s Activities of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts Sudan Mission," Nubian Letters 9 (1987), pp. 7-10.

T. Kendall, "Gebel Barkal Temples, Karima, Sudan. 1987 Season, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston," in Newsletter of the Institute of Art and Archaeology (Memphis, Tennessee: Memphis State University 1988, pp. 10-18).

"Report of the President," in The Museum Year: 1986-87: The One Hundred Eleventh Annual Report of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, pp. 16-17.

Jean Leclant and Gisèle Clerc, "Fouilles et travaux en Égypte et au Soudan, 1986-1987," Orientalia 57 (1988), pp. 382-384.

T. Kendall, "The Monument of Taharqa on Gebel Barkal" in Steffen Wenig, ed. Merotica 21: Feldforschungen im Sudan und in Eritrea, Akten des Symposiums Berlin, 13-14.10.1999. Berlin: 2004.

Season 3: Jan. 8 - Feb. 24, 1989: T. Kendall (dir.), Cynthia Shartzer (proj. mgr.), Susanne Gänsicke (conservator), David Goodman (surveyor), Paul Duval (alpinist) and Enrico Ferorelli (photographer), with Babiker Mohamed El-Amin (for the Sudan Antiquities Service [now NCAM]): a) recorded and photographed the damage done to the site by a flood the previous August, b) excavated an area in front of B 500, exposing the pavement of the sacred way leading into the temple, and recording the plan and interior decoration of kiosk B 551, c) photographed and recorded the graffiti discovered on the western cliff in 1987, d) completed the recording of the pinnacle monument of Taharqa, e) surveyed the mountain and temples and made a preliminary overall map of the site, f) measured and made elevation drawings of all the known temples in order to try to re-create them in computer model and to begin construction of an overall 3-D site model (fig. 11). The temple elevations were completed in Boston by Susanne Gänsicke, and computer reconstructions were completed there by William Riseman & Associates.


T. Kendall, The Gebel Barkal Temples 1989-90: A Progress Report on the Work of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Sudan Mission. Seventh International Conference for Nubian Studies. Geneva, Sept. 3-8, 1990, 35 pages, 18 figs (privately distributed).

T. Kendall and William Riseman, "DataCAD and Archaeology: Reverse Engineering of 3400-Year-Old Holy Places," in 3-D World 4, no. 6 (Nov.-Dec., 1990), pp. 2-6.

T. Kendall, "A New Map of the Gebel Barkal Temples," in C. Bonnet, ed. Études nubiennes: Conférence de Genève. Actes du VIIe Congrès international d´études nubiennes 3-8 septembre 1990, vol. 2, Geneva: 1994, pp. 139-145.

Jean Leclant and Gisèle Clerc, "Fouilles et travaux en Égypte et au Soudan, 1988-1989," Orientalia 59 (1990), pp. 424-426.

T. Kendall, "Discoveries at Sudan´s Sacred Mountain of Jebel Barkal reveal Secrets of the Kingdom of Kush," National Geographic Magazine 178, no. 5 (Nov. 1990), pp. 96-125.

T. Kendall, "L´Empire des Pharaons Noirs," GEO 148 (June, 1991), pp. 24-51.

Season 4: April 5-24, 1996: T. Kendall (dir), Cynthia Shartzer (proj.mgr.), and Susanne Gänsicke (conservator), with El-Hassan Ahmed Mohammed for NCAM: a) excavated rooms B 1213-15, 1221-22 in the Napatan Palace B 1200, and discovered the audience hall of Aspelta, which the team later fully exposed in 2007, b) sifted and removed a dump of Reisner that related to B 1200 (rooms 1201-02), and c) probed the undocumented area in front of he pinnacle and found remains of a ruined temple (named B 1100).


T. Kendall, "The Napatan Palace at Gebel Barkal: A First Look at B 1200," in W.V. Davies, ed. Egypt and Africa: Nubia from Prehistory to Islam (London: British Museum, 1991), pp. 302-313.

T. Kendall, "Excavations at Gebel Barkal, 1996. Report of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Sudan Mission," in Kush XVII (1997), 320-354.

Season 5: Jan 1-Jan 20, 1997: T. Kendall (dir.), Cynthia Shartzer (proj. mgr.), Susanne Gänsicke (conservator), and Alan M. May (asst.), with El-Hassan Ahmed Mohammed (for NCAM) and Fa'iz Hassan Osman (representing the Department of Archaeology, Karima University): a) continued excavations in B 1200 (rooms 1217 and 1218), b) excavated a second (disturbed) flagstaff niche in B 500 with recovery of more prisoner plaques, all highly fragmentary, c) commenced excavation of B 1100 and mapped and recorded all blocks. The latter project resulted in the recovery of many red sandstone fragments of a small vaulted chamber, inscribed for Natakamani and Amanitore. The sides bore registers of repeating images of the two uraeus goddesses, Nekhbet and Wadjet, depicted as vultures, with squatting figures of Amun (human-headed) and Mut-headed fetishes wearing the double crown. The arched ceiling surface was carved with rows of stars and flying vultures. The vault fragments lay over older Napatan (or Dynasty 25) sandstone blocks, some reused, which, in turn, overlay a partial foundation of talatat blocks, associated with a fragment inscribed for Horemheb. The stratigraphy suggested a temple in almost continuous use from the post-Amarna period to the late Meroitic. The iconography suggested a temple of the uraeus goddesses.


T. Kendall, "Report of the 1997 Season at Gebel Barkal" in Newsletter of the American Research Center in Egypt 175 (1997), pp. 1-12.

Season 6: Feb. 2 ? 17, 1999. T. Kendall (dir.) and Cynthia Shartzer (proj. mgr.), with El-Hassan Ahmed Mohammed (for NCAM): a) continued excavation of B 1100, recording many fragments of Meroitic blue tiles and pieces of a lined quartzite Meroitic stela (text lost, probably originally only painted), and b) began excavation of the earth embankment behind B 1100 to attempt to determine if the structure had been connected to the pinnacle base, had possessed rock-cut rooms, and if these hypothetical rooms had been buried by an ancient rock fall. Our working hypothesis was that the temple, like B 200 and 300 immediately to the west, had rock cut inner chambers, which might have been sealed in antiquity by the rock fall.


T. Kendall, "Excavations at Gebel Barkal, Sudan, 1999: Report of the American Section of the Italian Archaeological Mission of the University of Rome ´La Sapienza´ " Preprint from Kush XVIII (1999). (withdrawn prior to printing due to unproven hypothesis)

T. Kendall, "Napatan Temples: A Case Study from Gebel Barkal. The Mythological Origin of Egyptian Kingship and the Formation of the Napatan State." Presented at the Tenth International Conference of Nubian Studies, University of Rome, Italy, Sept. 9-14, 2002. 95 pages. (withdrawn prior to printing for the same reasons as the former; text online at

Season 7: Dec. 4-12, 2000: T. Kendall (dir.) and Margaret S. Watters (geophysicist), with El-Hassan Ahmed Mohammed and Ahmed Moussa (for NCAM), and Faiz Hassan Osman (representing Nile Valley University, Karima): conducted geophysical investigations at Jebel Barkal, using both magnetometry and ground penetrating radar: a) surveyed by magnetometry the entire area of B 1150 without finding any legible architecture, and b) surveyed a sample area northeast of B 500, in which we recovered the partial plan of an important new structure, named B 1700. This temple, probably Meroitic, is northeast of and parallel to B 500; it was surveyed more carefully during the 2007 season.

Season 8: Feb. 6-27, 2002. T. Kendall (dir.), Cynthia Shartzer (archaeologist) (Feb. 4-15), and Pawel Wolf, Ulrike Nowotnick (archaeologists), Annett Dittrich, and Diana Nickel-Tzschach (assts.) (Feb. 15 to 25), with Shadia Abu Rabu Abdel Wahab (for NCAM): a) continued excavation of the area directly behind B 1100, without result, b) commenced exploratory excavation of the area B 1150, also without result. All the major visible architectural fragments of columns, sandstone blocks, and baked bricks, suspected to derive from a temple in front of B 1100 proved to be loose and without context, and no structural remains were found in situ.

Season 9: March 4-April 3, 2004: T. Kendall (dir.), Pawel Wolf, Ulrike Nowotnick (archaeologists), and Alexandros Tsakos (asst.) with El-Hassan Ahmed Mohammed (for NCAM): a) surveyed the rubble embankment behind B 1100 in order to create a 3-D computer image of the mountainside, showing the pinnacle, B 1100, and the neighboring temples B 200 and 300 together (fig. 12), b) created a photographic inventory and object list of the Jebel Barkal Museum, c) cleaned Museum and repaired and sealed broken windows.

Season 10: Jan. 4- Feb. 2005: T. Kendall (dir.), Max Farrar (surveyor), Jeremy Pope (asst.) (Jan. 4-19), Martin Pittertschatscher (conservator), Silvia Zauner-Mayerhofer (conservator), Alexandros Tsakos (asst.), with El-Hassan Mohamed Ahmed and Rehab Khidir al-Rashid for NCAM and Faiz Hassan Osman for the Archaeology Dept., Wadi el-Nil University: a) hired men with sledge hammers to break up the large fallen stones lying above and behind B 1100 in order to start major excavation of the rubble embankment between that temple and pinnacle, b) began clearing the inner rooms of B 500, in order to map them, since they were built exclusively with talatat blocks, implying remains of earlier construction by Akhenaten (ca. 1353-1335 BC), c) looked (without result) for traces of Amarna relief on the talatat blocks in B 500, d) procured from the provincial governor a plot of land 100 m sq. just east of the mountain on which to build a new site museum (if funds become available), e) surveyed and undertook test excavations on the new museum site in order to confirm that there were no underlying ancient remains, and f) conservators prepared a proposal to conserve the wall paintings in B 300.

Season 11: Nov. 8-Dec. 10, 2005: T. Kendall (dir.), Max Farrar (surveyor), Silvia Zauner-Mayerhofer (conservator), A. Tsakos (asst.), with El-Hassan Ahmed Mohamed for NCAM: a) continued a block-by-block mapping of the Barkal Temples in the pavements of B 300-sub, which proved to be inscribed for Ramses II (suggesting the date of the founding of that temple), and B 200, whose heavy pylon blocks, still in situ, appeared to be reused blocks from a New Kingdom (Thutmosid?) temple (Some bear traces of 18th Dynasty block patterns).

Season 12: Feb. 3-March 11, 2006: T. Kendall (dir.), Pawel Wolf (field dir.), Ulrike Nowotnick (archaeologist), Nadejda Reshetnikova (draughtsperson), Stanislav Vorstrikov (asst.), Thomas Goldmann, Ronny Wutzler, and Mohamed Abdel Wahab (geophysicists), with El-Hassan Mohamed Ahmed for NCAM: a) continued clearing area behind B 1100, without result, b) commenced excavation of a 10 x 20 sq. m area on northwest side of B 1200 (not previously excavated by Reisner), hoping to find the pedestals of the Prudhoe lions in the British Museum, since many fragments of the lions lay scattered on the ground there; found a complex of mud brick walls, corridors and rooms, representing several building phases, of uncertain chronology, c) commenced (Feb 20-Mar 5), a new magnetometry survey in area in front and behind B 1200, discovered major sub-surface structural remains on southwest side of B 1200, d) discovered (by magnetometry) the northeast corner of B 100, which had been excavated and reburied by Reisner in 1916, before he had placed it on a site map, e) continued the magnetic survey in front of B 500 and found three small Meroitic chapels perpendicular to the sacred way, just like those in front of the Amun temple at Meroe.

Season 13: February 18-March 31, 2007:. T. Kendall (dir.), Pawel Wolf (field dir.), Ulrike Nowotnick (archaeologist), Thomas Goldmann, Ronny Wutzler (geophysicists), Alexander Kendall (asst.) (Feb. 19- Mar. 2) Jana Neumann, Judith Heymach, Lukas Goldmann (assistants) (Mar. 4-15); Max Farrar (surveyor) (Feb. 18-Mar. 8), with Al-Hassan Ahmed Mohamed for NCAM: a) continued the magnetometry survey, begun in 2000 and 2006, into the northern and northeast part of the site, between B 500 and B 1500 (fig. 13), b) excavated, mapped, and photographed the inner chamber of B 600, recovered gold foil and amazonite inlay fragments from sockets on podium, c) cleared inner chambers of 700 to commence block by block mapping with a robotic total station, d) excavated the large audience hall of Aspelta in palace B 1200.


T. Kendall and Pawel Wolf, "Excavations in the Palace of Aspelta at Jebel Barkal, March 2007," Sudan & Nubia 11 (2007), 82-88, pls. XXXV-XXXVIII.

Figs. Captions.

Fig.1. View of Jebel Barkal from the air, looking north.

Fig.2a. The cliff and pinnacle of Jebel Barkal, viewed from the northeast.

Fig.2b. Jebel Barkal and its pinnacle as represented on the south wall of the great hall, Temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel.

Fig.3. The god Amun of Jebel Barkal, represented as a rearing uraeus. Bronze statuette found in Temple B 700.

Fig.4. Jebel Barkal represented as a box in which the god sits; its pinnacle is represented as a ram-headed uraeus supporting flail (as Kamutef), while a human head looks on. From a graffito on the western side of the mountain.

Fig,5 a. The pinnacle as seen in silhouette from the west.

Fig.5 b. Osiris and Thutmose III in statues at Karnak.

Fig.6. Sunset viewed from the summit of Taharqa´s pyramid in mid-November, at about the time of the ancient Khoiak festival, in which the death of Osiris and the end of fertility was celebrated. Here the pinnacle appears as the "dying god."

Fig.7a. Jebel Barkal viewed in profile from the northeast in late afternoon.

Fig 7b. The Kushite cap crown in profile, showing its remarkable resembelnce to the silhouette of Jebel Barkal.

Fig. 8. Map of the concession area of the NCAM Mission at Jebel Barkal, with structures identified.

Fig. 9. The Jebel Barkal pyramids.

Fig. 10. Painting by National Geographic artist James Gurney, showing the pinnacle monument of Taharqa under construction (November, 1990).

Fig. 11. Computer model of the Jebel Barkal sanctuary, created by William Riseman, 1990.

Fig. 12. Computer rendering of temples B 200, 300, and 1100 by Pawel Wolf and Ulricke Nowotnick, 2004

Fig. 13. Magnetic image of structure B 1700, lying northeast of B 500, by Thomas Goldmann, 2007.

Bibliography: (in Spanish)