Napata Town Site:
Napata was the name of the ancient city surrounding Jebel Barkal. Located on the right (north) bank of the Nile, 23 km. downstream from the mouth of the fourth cataract, the town was doubtless situated in front of Jebel Barkal, like modern Barkal Village. During the New Kingdom, Napata became the southernmost permanent settlement in the Egyptian African empire; its Amun sanctuary was also the most distant from Thebes. Napata was also the main river crossing point on the important overland trade route linking the sixth cataract region with the third. The road probably followed the Wadi Abu Dom from Meroe and terminated at the south bank of the Nile, opposite Jebel Barkal, at the site of Duweim Wad Hajj. On the north bank, the road would have continued from Napata over the Nubian Desert to Gem-pa-aten (Kawa) and Pnubs (Kerma), and from there, would have followed the Nile down to Egypt.
Stray Neolithic and Kerma potsherds suggest that a small settlement had existed here since Neolithic times (ca. 5000 BCE). While the site may have been known to Egyptian overland merchants since the Old or Middle Kingdoms, it would first have been visited by an Egyptian king about 1504 BCE, when Thutmose I passed by with his army during his conquest of Kush. The site’s earliest Egyptian vestiges date from the reign of Thutmose III, but the name “Napata” does not occur in texts until the reign of his son Amenhotep II. By this time (late fifteenth century BCE), an Amun temple and a walled settlement were standing in front of Jebel Barkal. Although New Kingdom temples are known on the site dating from Thutmose IV to Ramses II (ca. 1400-1210 BCE), no trace of the Egyptian settlement of Napata has yet been found. Rock ledges at Hillat el-Arab, 3 km downstream, however, are honeycombed with rock tombs, which were perhaps cut and first used during the New Kingdom (Vincentelli 2006).
In the eighth century BCE, Napata became the birthplace of the Kushite 25th Dynasty of Egypt, and, for a millennium thereafter, it remained the religious capital of the independent kingdom of Kush and the preferred site of its royal coronations. The city was apparently attacked twice by foreign armies and heavily damaged: once in 593 BCE by an army of the 26th Dynasty Egyptian king Psamtik II, and again in 24 BCE by a Roman army under C. Petronius.
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 indicates the area of major ancient settlement. The town probably also continued under the remaining ½ km of palms, down to the Nile, and occupied approximately the area 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 town neighboring Jebel Barkal on the NE. After the decline of Kush in the fourth century CE, Napata became the site of small Christian and later Muslim villages.
Hillat el-Arab: (Text forthcoming)
Merowe Sheriq: (Text Forthcoming)
Sanam (Lat. N. 18 28' 10"; Long: W. 31 48' 40"), an ancient town site about 7 km. downstream from Jebel Barkal on the left bank of the Nile, within the bounds of the modern town of Merowe, Sudan (not to be confused with ancient Meroë). First noted by Lepsius in 1844, it consists of a settlement area (still unexcavated) as well as a temple, built by Taharqo (c. 690-664 BCE) to a local form of the god Amun, an extensive cemetery, and a "treasury," all excavated in 1912-13 by an Oxford University expedition directed by Francis Ll. Griffith and presently under excavation by a team from the University of Casino, Italy, under the direction of Irene Vincentelli.
The site's modern Arabic name means "idol," attesting to the large numbers of antiquities found there prior to Griffith's work, but its ancient name was probably that of the epithet of the local Amun: Ka-Ta-Seti ("Bull of the Bow-Land [i.e. Nubia]"). It must have been an important northern terminus of the Bayuda Desert road connecting Napata (Jebel Barkal) with Meroë to the SE, as well as the site of a major river ferry, just as Merowe was until 2008 when a new Nile bridge was completed there.
The excavated remains of the town can be dated with certainty only to the period between the reign of Piankhy (ca. 747-716 BCE) and that of Aspelta (ca. 600-580 B.C.). In the time of the latter king the town was evidently destroyed by fire, and the site remained abandoned until the late Meroitic period. The evidence of widespread burning and destruction would appear to be the result of the well-known military raid on Kush by the 26th Dynasty Egyptian king Psamtik II in 593 B.C. The important geographical location of this site at the northern end of the Bayuda Road, however, reveals that it cannot really have been vacated after the Egyptian attack; the settlement can only have been rebuilt in another nearby location, yet unidentified, and its important function as a caravan transfer point must have continued into Meroitic times. Later Meroitic material is indeed manifested on the Sanam site.
The major monument at Sanam is the temple of “Amun, Bull of the Bow-Land,” built by Taharqo, which lay on the southeastern edge of the settlement. It was a near duplicate of the temples built by the same king at Tabo and Kawa: 68.5 m in length and fronted by a pylon 41.5 m wide. Inside the first pylon was a colonnaded court, a second pylon, a hypostyle hall (4 x 4 columns), followed by a pronaos and a sanctuary of various chambers. The walls and foundation deposits were inscribed for Taharqo, who added a small chapel in the northern half of the pronaos. Texts of Senkamanisken (ca. 643-623 B.C.) were present, as was a chapel of Aspelta in the southern half of the pronaos. Shortly after the construction of the latter shrine, the temple was severely damaged by fire. It does not appear to have been restored. Curiously, prior to the temple's destruction, the outer courts had become occupied by fabricators of shawabtis and other small ornaments, whose shops were indicated by the mud brick walls between the columns. Although the temple ruins were much denuded by wind and blowing sand, the recovered relief blocks are of great interest. If the interior scenes depicted ritual processions involving the royal family and the bark of Amun, as well as subject rulers (?) prostrating themselves before the king, the exterior reliefs illustrated unusual four- and six-wheeled vehicles, chariots, mounted donkeys and pack animals - perhaps desert caravans from Meroë - arriving at sacred buildings surrounded by gardens. Other reliefs depicted ships on the river and landscapes with hills. Large fragmentary granite statues of a cobra and vulture, doubtless representing the royal uraeus goddesses Wadjet and Nekhbet, were recovered in a chamber to the left of the sanctuary – the usual location of the coronation vestibule or Per-wer (“Great House”), occupied by Weret-Hekau, goddess of the crowns.
Sanam's second important structure, termed the "treasury" by Griffith, seems actually to have been a warehouse either for the semi-permanent storage of goods or for their stockpiling prior to being shipped from Sanam by overland caravans or river craft. Located about one kilometer from the Nile, and 500 m E of the temple, this severely denuded structure was at least 256 m. long and 45 m. wide, orientated perpendicular to the river. At its E end it was isolated in the desert, but at its W end it was separated by a roadway from another colonnaded brick building, yet unexcavated. It consisted of a double series of seventeen storage cells, each 13.4 x 20.5 m. in area, the roofs of each of which were supported by twelve stout sandstone columns in three rows and by seven rows of thinner columns, forming 76 columns in all per chamber, a fact which perhaps suggests that the structure was multi-storied. On the floors of each of these cells were found many small objects inscribed with royal names from Piankhy to Aspelta, and one contained heaps of charred elephants' tusks. Like the temple, the "treasury" was burned.
Over 1500 graves were excavated from the cemetery at Sanam; these provide the primary evidence for the burial customs of the common population of the early Napatan period. The graves, dug into a silt bank rather than bedrock, had suffered severe erosion, and thus little evidence survived of enclosures or superstructures. Below ground they were universally plain and exhibited no expensive or elaborate construction. Three types of burials were noted: a) Egyptian-style interments in chamber graves, accessed by stairways, containing mummified bodies placed in wooden coffins or cartonnage, accompanied by wheelmade pottery and ornaments of Egyptian type, b) much more simple burials in which the dead were merely laid in rectangular pits, extended on their backs, yet accompanied by the same kinds of wheelmade pottery, and c) contracted burials of traditional Nubian type laid in rectangular or oval pits, accompanied both by wheelmade and local handmade pottery. These suggested that the population of ancient Sanam consisted of several different social classes and tribal groups living together simultaneously.
Griffith 1922, 1923); Lohwasser 2008.
Duweim Wad Hajj:
This is the site of an ancient temple (?), directly across the Nile from Jebel Barkal on the left bank (fig. 001); its traces survive as blocks of red sandstone underlying the foundations of an old mosque. The side entrance to the mosque is flanked by two large cubes of polished black granite (figs. 002, 003), obviously ancient, which are now (2009) painted over. At the left of the doorway, lying on the ground, can be seen the core of a finely carved fragmentary seated lifesize grey granite statue in Egyptian style (figs. 004, 005). The site, discovered by Faiz Hassan Osman, would have been closely linked to Jebel Barkal. One suspects that it was at least the location of an important ferry between Jebel Barkal and the southeast riverbank, and connected Napata directly with the Wadi Abu Dom road leading to and from Meroë, 275 km across the Bayuda Desert to the southeast. Local residents of the place also point out carved stone elements of Christian buildings. No excavations have yet been conducted here.
El-Kurru (Lat. N. 18° 24' 24", Long. W. 31° 46' 25") lies on the right bank of the Nile, 13 km. downstream from Jebel Barkal, and 35 km. downstream from the mouth of the Fourth Cataract and the present site of the Merowe Dam. The origin of its modern name is mysterious; F. Ll. Griffith proposed to equate it with Kry ("Karoy"), the ancient Egyptian name of a place at the extreme upper limit of their empire during the New Kingdom. A. J. Arkell suggested a derivation from the Meroitic word Kore (“King”).
The archaeological importance of the site was first noted by F. Cailliaud in 1821 and K. R. Lepsius in 1844, among others, who had observed its two standing pyramids and other small ruinous tombs. Excavations were first conducted there by George A. Reisner and the Harvard University-Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Expedition between February and May, 1918. Reisner found that the two large pyramids were those of a late Napatan king and queen of the fourth century BCE, whose names were not recovered. The smaller ruined tombs surrounding them had belonged to four of the five kings of Dynasty 25: Piankhy (c. 747-716 BCE), Shabaqo (c. 716-704 BCE), Shebitqo (c. 704-690 B.C.), and Tanwetamani (c. 664-553 BCE), as well as their major and minor queens, and sixteen ancestors, whose names were not preserved. Here, too, he found a a cemetery of horses and dogs belonging to the four kings of Dynasty 25 (figs. 010a, b).
Until recently, the site was known exclusively for its cemetery, which was the only part ever published by Reisner and his assistant, Dows Dunham. Reisner's unpublished excavation diaries in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, however, indicate that for several days he probed the area of the modern village and identified remains of an important ancient walled town, thus accounting for the cemetery. El-Kurru can now be presumed to be the earliest royal seat of the Napatan dynasty. A small late Meroitic cemetery, called esh-Sheikheil (and designated Ku 700 by Reisner) was also identified about 800 m. N of the royal cemetery and partly excavated; the material, still unpublished, is now both at the MFA, Boston, and at the University Museum in Philadelphia (by exchange with MFA, 1991).
The ancient townsite at el-Kurru was identified by Reisner within and at the border of the modern village. Its traces consisted of a section of an early rubble-filled wall with a rounded bastion (Ku. 1200) and an apparent later wall (Ku. 1300) with a large central gateway. Ku. 1300, which seemed to mark the edge of the cultivation, was traced by Reisner for over 200 m. Ancient house remains were noted immediately inside it, as was a large rock-cut well or cistern (Ku. 1400), 6 x 4.5 m. in area and 5 m. deep at water level, with descending stairway. This feature was thought by Reisner to have provided the main water supply for the community at the time of Ku. 1300. Unfortunately no precise maps or plans of these features were ever produced, and today the site is so heavily populated that excavation would be very difficult. These features do suggest, however, that el-Kurru was the earliest residence of the Napatan dynasty and that, prior to the ascendancy of Napata and Sanam, in the later eighth century B.C., it had been the major trans-shipment point on the north bank of the Nile between the Bayuda desert road (to and from the Sixth Cataract region) and the Meheila road (to and from the Third Cataract region) across the Nubian desert.
The evidence from the royal cemetery at el-Kurru offers the only data yet available for understanding the origin of the Napatan dynasty (which later became Egypt's 25th Dynasty). Unfortunately, the dating evidence for the sixteen ancestor tombs remains problematical. Radiocarbon dates from the earliest tomb (Ku. Tum. I) range from the New Kingdom to the late ninth century B.C. Stone, faience, and pottery vessels from the earliest tombs seem to belong both to the New Kingdom and to the Third Intermediate Period The fragmentary nature of the skeletal material and the chaotic mixing of the tomb contents during ancient plundering has rendered the sex of the occupants debatable. Although Reisner dated the earliest tombs to the early ninth century B.C., the chronology of the cemetery has become the subject of a heated and unresolved scholarly debate.
The early tombs were rock-cut burial pits or side-chambers, sealed by stone superstructures, which the ancient plunderers destroyed in order to gain access to the burials. The earliest tombs seem to have been those that occupied the highest and best points in the original cemetery area, which was bounded on either side by a wadi. The earliest tombs (numbered “Ku. Tum. 1, 5, 4, 2,” in chronological order) had round ground plans and were similar in form to typical Nubian C-Group graves. From rough stone to cut stone masonry, they rapidly advanced in form. Kurru Tumulus (Ku. Tum.) 6 was given an offering chapel on its east side, and together with its near duplicate Ku. 19, they were given horseshoe-shaped enclosure walls (figs. 012a, b, c). The remaining ten tombs in the series, now square in plan, were all built lower down-slope in a single line from NE to SW (Ku. 14, 13, 11, 10, 9, 23, 21, 8, 20, 7, in that order). Of these, Ku. 21 and 20, the only ones built without chapels, were smaller tombs that had apparently belonged to minor queens or family members of the king buried in Ku. 8, whom Reisner identified with Kashta (ca. 760-747 B.C.). These square tombs Reisner envisioned as "mastabas" (bench-like tombs) which he believed metamorphosed into small pyramids with the tomb of Piankhy (Ku. 17). Recent evaluation of the evidence, however, suggests that even the earliest square tombs had probably been built as small pyramids or step-pyramids on mastaba bases, probably not unlike Egyptian nobles’ tombs of the New Kingdom (figs. 016a, b, c).
Reisner recognized six different tomb-types among the ancestral tombs and equated these with as many human "generations." He thus envisioned six probable rulers prior to Piankhy, the first king with whom a tomb (Ku 17) could positively be identified by inscriptional evidence. Recently this traditional theory of the ancestral generations has come under critical review both by Kendall and Török in separate papers. Kendall, essentially agreeing with Reisner and Dunham, proposed on the basis of tomb evolution, and material and skeletal analysis, that the ancestral tombs had probably belonged to seven individual rulers and their chief wives prior to Piankhy. Since during the earliest historical period at Napata rulers were succeeded by brothers or nephews, he proposed that the seven rulers belonged probably to no more than four human generations. He thus proposed a mid-ninth century B.C. date for the founding of the cemetery. Török, on the other hand, disregarding Kendall's arguments and interpretations of the skeletal evidence as including both males and females, proposed to view the ancestral tomb sequence as a succession of exclusively male rulers’ tombs. In this manner he could propose that the founding of the cemetery had occurred shortly after the end of the New Kingdom (although leaving him unable to explain where the earliest royal wives were buried).
Within the tomb sequence there is a dramatic evolution from Nubian to Egyptian burial custom. Initially the dead were buried contracted, laid on beds, and oriented NW to SE. With the passage of time, however, the bodies were extended, oriented E-W, and laid in coffins. By the reign of Piankhy, mummification was certainly being practiced; the royal mummies of Dynasty 25 were shrouded with bead nets, placed in nested wooden coffins, and these were laid on raised stone benches that supported funerary beds. The bodies were also accompanied by canopic jars and shawabtis.
With Piankhy the royal tombs ceased being simple pit chambers capped by masonry superstructures. His tomb (Ku. 17) was a new type, consisting of a partly rock-cut, partly masonry-built vaulted chamber, surmounted by a pyramid but accessible by stairway. The stairway allowed the pyramid to be built over the open tomb while its owner was still alive. After the burial the stairway was filled in and the funerary chapel built over it. Shabaqo's tomb (Ku. 15) was constructed in the same manner, but with two connected vaulted chambers at the bottom of the stairway rather than one, a custom which continued with Shabataka's tomb (Ku. 18) and Tanwetamani's (Ku. 16). The tombs of the chief queens (Ku. 3, 4, 5, 6) were built in the same way, but their pyramids were slightly smaller in size. The kings' pyramids ranged from 8 to 11 m square, while the great queens' tombs ranged from 6.5 to 7 m. Both Tanwetamani’s tomb and that of his mother Qalhata (Ku. 5) were both fully painted inside and preserve fine portraits of their owners (figs. 21a, b).
Starting with Piankhy’s reign, the tombs of chief queens were placed on a new ridge immediately to the SW of the ancestral field. The kings, however, continued to be buried in the original field. Minor queens for the first time were provided smaller tombs in separate cemeteries far to the NE but still precisely in line with the original cemetery. The minor queens of Piankhy, Shabaqo, and Shabaqo were buried in separate cemeteries numbred Ku. 50, Ku. 60, Ku. 70. All but one tomb (Ku. 53) were single chamber tombs preserving no superstructures. Several of these tombs still provided many precious objects and amulets of their owners.
In addition to the royal graves, Reisner found a cemetery of twenty-four horse graves at el-Kurru (Ku. 201-224), in which individual horses were buried standing up, facing southeast. These had belonged to the four kings of Dynasty 25 buried here, who had interred these animals in groups of four or eight. Two smaller circular graves (Ku. 225-226) were also found; one contained the skeleton of a dog.
Bibliography: Reisner 1919, 1920; Dunham 1950; Gasmelseed 1982; Heidorn 1994; Török 1997, 1999; Kendall 1999a, b.
Nuri (Lat. N 18º 33' 45"; Long. W 31º 55' 03"), ancient name unknown, is a modern Sudanese village, 9.7 km. upstream from Jebel Barkal on the opposite (left) bank of the Nile. This is the site of the royal necropolis of Kush used during the Napatan Period, that is, the three centuries following the end of Dynasty 25 and the abandonment of the ancestral cemetery at el-Kurru. Nuri was founded as a royal cemetery by Taharqo (ca. 690-664 BCE) and used by all but two of his twenty-one known successors to the time of Nastasen (ca. 335-315 BCE), and fifty-three of their queens. It was earliest described by Waddington and Hanbury, Cailliaud, and Linant de Bellefonds in 1820-22, by Hoskins in 1833, and by Lepsius in 1844, among others. It was excavated by George A. Reisner and the Harvard University-Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, expedition between 1916 and 1918.
Taharqo’s pyramid (Nu. I) is the largest ever built in Sudan. At its base, it was 51.75 m (100 cubits) square and rose to a height of approximately 63 m., although today it is much ruined and appears as a large mound. In its original state, it was four times larger than the pyramids of the king’s immediate predecessors at el-Kurru, as well as those of his two successors Tanwetamani (ca. 664-657 BCE) and Atlanersa (ca. 657-640 BCE). It remained twice as large as any later pyramid built at the site. Degradation of the outer surface of Taharqo’s pyramid reveals that it may have been built in two, or possibly three stages: a first, comparable to his royal contemporaries at el-Kurru (with base measurement of 8-11 m square), a second of 28.5 m (50 cubits) sq. which gave it a size identical to the pyramids built by most of his successors. This pyramid, built of white sandstone, is plainly visible as the core within the ruinous and much larger outer pyramid. Both the latter two stages may have been added some time after the king’s death. Taharqo’s pyramid is the only pyramid at Nuri lacking a chapel, which has led to speculation that it is encased in the masonry of the final pyramid enlargment.
Taharqo’s subterranean tomb also differs radically from all the royal tombs preceding and following his reign. The rock-cut crypt, 13 m deep and accessed by a stair of 51 steps, is closely related in plan to the Osireion (that is, the cenotaph or false tomb of Osiris) of Seti I at Abydos. It is a room with six massive square pillars and vaulted aisles, whose walls were once plastered and brightly painted. This room was surrounded by a rock-cut corridor which gave entrance to the central chamber at its front and rear walls. The king’s nested gilt wooden coffins, inlaid with colored stones, had apparently been laid in a rectangular sunken depression the center of the room, which, being cut below the level of the water table, remained immersed! The tomb was supposed to simulate the burial environment of Osiris, which was described in a hymn, found in a fragmentary copy at Jebel Barkal, inside temple B 700: "Shining youth, who is in the primordial water, born on the first of the year…From the outflow of his limbs both lands drink. Of him it is arranged that the corn springs forth from the water, in which he is situated…From whom are fixed (the year?) the eternity in this his name as Pillar." (See Part III. E).
Taharqo is now known to have chosen the site of Nuri for his pyramid because its location was the point on the horizon where the sun rose on the ancient Egyptian New Year’s Day (modernly July 31; anciently August 7), when that sunrise was observed from the Jebel Barkal cliff top, directly opposite the apex of the Jebel Barkal pinnacle. Egyptian New Year’s Day – the day that the star Sirius was first visible above the horizon before dawn - was considered to be the birth and resurrection day of Osiris (as well as of Re) because it coincided with the time when the Nile began its annual rise. Because the rising waters brought fertility, and because both gods (as aspects of each other) personified fertility, the rising Nile proved that both gods were alive and active again. Since all deceased kings were thought to merge with Osiris when they died, Taharqo’s placement of his pyramid at the point of sunrise on the day of Osiris’ “resurrection” would have been thought to ensure his own resurrection.
The fact that the observation point of the sunrise on New Year’s Day was the cliff top of Jebel Barkal directly behind the pinnacle indicates that the pinnacle itself had an important meaning in this context. This is revealed in the B 700 text, quoted above, which notes that the god was “Chief of both banks,” that he wore the white crown and the two uraei, that “what he loved is that everyone looks up to him,” and that his name was “Osiris-Pillar.” All this suggests that he was thought to be embodied in the colossus of the pinnacle, which looks much like a standing figure wearing the White Crown. The fact that the pyramid lay on the left bank and the pinnacle rose on the right bank confirmed his epithet “Chief of both banks.”
Taharqo’s efforts to ensure his posthumous union with Osiris through his tomb’s special form and placement probably also explains why he attempted to unite himself with the pinnacle (See B 350). By means of a crane constructed on top of the pinnacle, he raised up a small statue (now lost, probably of himself) and set in a socket within a rock-cut alcove just below the summit.
Taharqo’s pyramid and the pinnacle apparently worked together as a huge calendar circle. If, when viewed from the mountain top, his pyramid marked the point of sunrise on the supposed birthday of Osiris about August 7 in 664 BCE, then three and half months later, on November 21 (presently November 13), when viewed from the summit of the pyramid, the pinnacle marked the point of sunset on the supposed death-day of Osiris – when the Nile began to fall and the end of fertility indicated the god’s “demise.” On that evening, the sun set directly behind the pinnacle and momentarily silhouetted the “the god.” Since the setting sun was a metaphor for death, the silhouetted “god” symbolically “died.” When one views the November phenomenon from the summit of Jebel Barkal, the pinnacle shadow, at the moment of sunset, can be seen to point to Taharqo’s pyramid in the distance. Symbolically, therefore, the “dying god” casts a shadow to his tomb. It stands to reason, therefore, that on New Year’s Day, the rising sun cast a shadow from Taharqo’s pyramid to the pinnacle across the river, thus “waking the god.”
Although Taharqo’s successor Tanwetamani chose to be buried at el-Kurru, four queens of his generation preferred burial at Nuri. Subsequently all kings' tombs were built to the SE of Taharqo's in a row, while all the royal women were buried N or NE of Taharqo's pyramid. According to Dunham, each tomb was built on the most favorable spot remaining vacant on the site at the time it was constructed.
Following the burial of Atlanersa, whose tomb (Nu. 20) was similar in scale to Tanwetamani at el-Kurru, the kings established an entirely new, more grandiose, tomb and pyramid type having an average base measurement of 28 m (50 cubits), which remained the standard for three more centuries. Against the SE facades of the pyramids were built chapels with pylons. The subterranean tombs, 8-9 m below ground, consisted of three interconnecting rock-cut chambers accessed by a deep stairway. When well-finished, the walls of each of these rooms were completely carved or painted with Egyptian funerary texts and scenes.
The Napatan kings were mummified according to Egyptian fashion; their bodies were wrapped holding gold crooks and flails, and green stone heart scarabs and gold pectorals were placed over their chests. Their fingers and toes were capped with gold, and their faces were covered with gold masks (although the only existing examples were found in queens' tombs). The viscera were placed in large canopic jars. The royal mummies were encased within wooden anthropoid coffins covered with gold foil and adorned with inlay eyes of bronze, calcite, and obsidian. These coffins were then placed within larger coffins, covered with gold leaf and inlays of colored stones set in designs of falcons or vultures with outstretched wings. In two cases (Nu. 6 and 8), the kings' outer coffins were placed within huge fully decorated granite sarcophagi, carved with scenes and texts from the Amduat: the Book of "What is in the Underworld.". Around the walls of the burial chambers shawabti figures of stone or faience, numbering between several hundred to over a thousand, would be arranged standing. Although the tombs were all badly plundered, evidence suggests that the kings were buried with chests of valuable jewelry, vessels, toilet articles, and other personal possessions. The stair landing or first chamber often contained large numbers of jars containing food and drink.
The queens' tombs and burials shared much in common with the kings', but they were less elaborate and the materials used were less costly. The most developed queens' tombs contained two interconnecting rock cut chambers, between 4 and 8 m deep, surmounted by pyramids about half the size of the kings'. A lesser type contained only a single rock-cut chamber with an even smaller pyramid. Still another contained only a single chamber without any evident superstructure. These were the same types of queens' tombs that had been built at el-Kurru. The walls, as they were preserved, exhibited little decoration, but one tomb (Nu. 24) was extensively carved with texts from the Book of the Dead, and others (Nu. 53) bore traces of plastered and painted decoration. Some tombs contained niches in their walls, either for lamps or for statues. In the center of the floor, or slightly off-axis to the S, a low bench, either rock-cut or of masonry, appeared on which the queens' coffins were laid. Each tomb was marked on the surface by a pyramid ranging in area between 6.3 and 7.5 m square for the earliest, to 10 and 11 m for those in mid-sequence, to 12 and 13 m toward the end of the sequence. This increase in size of the queens’ pyramids seems to correspond to the increasing political importance of the great queens in the Meroitic period. None of the queens' pyramids preserved a chapel with pylon.
Nuri was abandoned as a royal cemetery in the late fourth century BCE. Subsequent kings initially built their tombs at Jebel Barkal, but by the mid-third century BCE the kings all chose burials at Meroe.
Bibliography: Reisner 1918b; 1918c; Dunham 1955; Kendall 1982; Kendall 2008.
Tangasi: (Text forthcoming)
Zuma: (Text forthcoming)
Wadi Abu Dom: (Text forthcoming)
El-Ghazali: (Text forthcoming)