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Ancient Sudan / Nubia / Cush /
MeroŽ



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MeroŽ

Pyramids at MeroŽ, Sudan

Pyramids at MeroŽ, Sudan

Pyramids at MeroŽ, Sudan

Pyramids at MeroŽ, Sudan

In Ancient Upper Nubia, modern Sudan, city and royal burial ground of the ancient kingdom of Cush, 593 BCE-355 CE, about 950 years.
It is in modern Butana region, 30 km north of Shendi, Sudan, on the east bank of Nile river, about 200 km northeast of Khartoum, Sudan's capital.
Iron appears to have been the main source of income for the city. Iron was smelted here and exported to the rest of Africa. Near MeroŽ, large forests were available for the blast furnaces. Trade along the Nile was another central part of the economy. As MeroŽ became capital, new trade routes would be established: Products were exported and imported through Red Sea ports, with Greek traders connecting to markets far away.
It is estimated that MeroŽ city had 25,000 inhabitants. Excavations have unearthed remains of streets and buildings of what was a big city. There was a quay on the riverbed, several palaces and a great Temple of Amon as well as a temple of Isis and one of Apedemak.
At MeroŽ, the Cushites departed from Egyptian hieroglyphs, and began using Meroitic script (which has not been deciphered). This attests both to an increasing cultural independence as well as decline of Egyptian.
The royal burial grounds lie next to modern village of Begarawiya, and was in use for more than 600 years, 270 BCE-350 CE, Arkamaniqo being the first king. This means that for more than 3 centuries, kings of MeroŽ were buried far away, at Nuri.
MeroŽ has 3 cemeteries, the northern, the southern and western, containing more than 100 pyramids. The northern section has the finest pyramids, there are over 30 of them. Though most are in ruin, some still stand in impressive condition. The largest pyramids are only 30 metres high, but angles are more dramatic than in Egypt proper, close to 70º.
MeroŽ's pyramids were built similar to those of Gebel Barkal, with elaborate casing, but over time construction techniques became more lax. The inner core became hastily built, and casing stones small and poorly fit together.
The deceased was placed in anthropoid coffins; it is assumed that bodies were mummified, although no mummy has ever been found at MeroŽ. Burial chambers had reliefs on the walls, and were filled with valuables.
It is now believed that the decline and fall of the kingdom of Cush in the 3rd and 4th centuries CE only involved cultural changes in MeroŽ, and that the people only relocated and even thrived.
To MeroŽ, a distinct language has been identified, referred to as Meroitic language with its own script, Meroitic script.

History
Around 750 BCE: MeroŽ becomes the southern administrative centre of the Kingdom of Cush.
591: Napata, the capital, is sacked by King Psametik 2 of Egypt.
580's: Cushite king, Aspelta, relocates Cushite royal court to MeroŽ. Nuri becomes new royal burial ground.
Around 270: MeroŽ replaces Nuri as the royal burial ground.
23: MeroŽ barely escapes a Roman invasion, in which Napata is sacked.
1st century CE: Pyramid construction begin to change into simpler techniques. It is believed that this came from weaker economy and a change towards Sudanese cultures, in which the pyramid had no role.
Around 350: End of the Kingdom of Cush and MeroŽ is believed to have been abandoned, but its people continued their culture, although in new variations, at nearby settlements.
1834: Guiseppe Ferlini destroys many pyramids at the northern cemetery, in his hunt for treasures. His search was most successful with the tomb of Queen Amanishakheto.
1902: Archaeological excavations begin.
2003: Is declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.




By Tore Kjeilen