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Middle 8th century BCE-4th century CE


Nubia /
Nubian pyramids



Nubian pyramids

Nubian pyramids

Nubian pyramids

Pyramids of Upper Nubia built between middle of the 8th century BCE until 4th century CE, a period of close to 1100 years.
There are more than 200 Nubian pyramids, compared to Egypt's 90. There are 3 main burial grounds of Nubia which have pyramids. Al-Kurru was used for almost 100 years, 747-653 BCE; Nuri for a period for almost 400 years, 690-308 BCE; and MeroŽ for a period of more than 600 years, 270 BCE-350 CE. Gebel Barkal is often attributed with pyramids, but this is really the site also called Nuri.
About 220 pyramids have been identified, the majority are today reduced only to rubble, some have the lower parts in good condition, and a few are reconstructed to their original shape and size. The finest pyramids are found at MeroŽ, these are also the newest.
The pyramids are far smaller than their Egyptian counterparts, in most cases a large Nubian pyramid is between 20 and 30 metres high. Taharqa's pyramid at Nuri is an exception, having reached 40 or 50 metres. The smallest structures that still are counted for pyramids were 6 metres.
Nubian pyramids were most certainly a continuation of the Egyptian tradition, even if construction techniques had to be reinvented. They were very faithful to their Egyptian ideal, built with a substructure (the actual tomb) and a chapel (for ceremonies for the funeral and remembrance services).
Nubian pyramids were built with stepped courses of horizontally positioned stone blocks. Angles were far steeper than Egyptian pyramids, between 65 and 70º compared to around 50º. This was possible from one advantage of the smaller size; inner pressure was far smaller.
The tradition of building pyramids began with the Cushite rulers' encounter with Egyptian culture in the 8th century; Kashta and Piy. Although Piy is at al-Kurru attributed with building the first pyramid for 800 years, it is generally assumed that his father, Kashta's tomb, 50 metres further up the hill, also was a pyramid. But no definitive traces of Kashta's pyramid have been found, it it is even possible that a pyramid was added to his grave after Piy's was finished.
Although the pyramids of Nubia are less impressive than the Egyptian ones, it is important to remember that Nubia had far less inhabitants, therefore also a smaller economy. But, the Nubians built far more pyramids for each generation, a larger part of the royal family were buried in pyramids.




By Tore Kjeilen