Island of Meroe (World Heritage)

Island of Meroe (World Heritage)

The area in northern Sudan, enclosed by the Nile and Atbara, was once the center of the vast kingdom of Kush (8th century BC to 4th century AD). The archaeological sites include the capital Meroe and the ancient cities of Naqa and Musawwarat es Sufra with remains of pyramids, temples, etc.

Island of Meroe: facts

Official title: Archaeological sites of the island of Meroe
Cultural monument: Ruins on an island surrounded by the Atbara and Nile rivers, between the 5th and 6th Nile cataracts; one of the capitals of the Kingdom of Kush (Nubia); independent culture (with Meroitic script and language) between 300 BC BC and AD 200, in which, in addition to Egyptian influences (late period, Hellenism, Ptolemies, Romans), Near Eastern and Old Sudanese elements were effective; Remains of temples and tombs, palaces and the so-called Roman bath, probably a water sanctuary, have been preserved; in one of the pyramids finds of the gold treasure of Queen Amanischacheto (end of the 1st century BC, now in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin and Munich); 1979 Discovery of a construction plan (a drawing scratched in stone) of a pyramid that is more than 2,000 years old
Continent: Africa
Country: Sudan
Location: Begerawija, Upper Nubia
Appointment: 2011
Meaning: Outstanding evidence of an independent ancient culture in the Egyptian-African region; exceptional example of the cultural and religious exchange between the Mediterranean and Central Africa

The island of Meroe

In the semi-desert in northern Sudan, between the Atbara and Nile rivers, the last evidence of a lost civilization can be found. The island of Meroe was once the heart of the Kingdom of Kush, which existed between the 8th century BC. BC and the 4th century AD ruled this region.

The kingdom of Kush might have been the greatest civilization in Black Africa, but knowledge about this ancient state is quite sparse. It was in Nubia, an area in what is now northern Sudan and southern Egypt, which was alternately under Egyptian and Nubian rule. Around 1000 BC A state of its own was formed there with the kingdom of Kush, initially with the capital Napata. Above all, the ruling class of the Nubians was strongly influenced by Egypt. Among other things, the Nubian kings adopted the custom of being buried in pyramids from their neighbors in the north. Around 300 BC The capital was moved to the more fertile Meroe. What ultimately led to the fall of this empire is unclear. What is certain is that around 350 AD it fell into three new Nubian kingdoms.

With the beginning of the Meroitic phase, the Nubian culture slowly broke away from Egyptian influence. Above all, art and architecture bear witness to an exchange with the cultures of Africa (Egypt, sub-Saharan Africa) and the Mediterranean region (Greece, Rome). This is probably due to the extensive trade relations of the Nubians. Trade goods were gold and ivory, but also slaves.

Meroe was the capital of the kingdom of Kush for around 600 years. Over 40 kings and queens found their final resting place here. The stepped pyramids were built first from sandstone, later from brick. With a height of between ten and 30 meters, they are smaller, but steeper than their Egyptian models. The pyramids consist of three elements: the actual pyramid, the burial chambers underneath and a mortuary temple in front of it, which was decorated with reliefs of sacrificial scenes and images from the life of the deceased. In addition, the entire complex was surrounded by a wall. The deceased were mummified and buried in wooden sarcophagi. Presumably they received – like the Egyptian pharaohs – jewelry, weapons, furniture and other objects of art as grave goods.

Two other ruins belong to the island of Meroe. One is naqa. Its most important buildings are a Roman kiosk and two lion temples, which were dedicated to the gods Amun and Apedemak and are decorated with reliefs of Nubian gods and rulers. The Roman kiosk, a small temple, combines architectural and decorative elements from Egypt, Greece, Rome and Nubia. The Egyptian goddess Hathor was probably worshiped in it.

The temple ruins of Musauwarat es-Sufra form the third part of the world heritage. Presumably they were once a pilgrimage center – at least that’s what thousands of “graffiti” of ancient visitors on the sandstone walls suggest, including the only Latin inscription that has been discovered to date. The center of the temple complex is the large complex of three temples. They are connected by corridors and ramps and were partly built on artificial terraces. Since large areas of their empire were semi-desert, the Nubians developed a sophisticated water management system with numerous irrigation systems.

Island of Meroe (World Heritage)