Did you know that Egypt isnt the country with the most Pyramids in Africa?
In fact, Sudan has twice as much Pyramids still standing as Egypt
dating from the Nubian Kingdom of Kush.
But what people dont know is that before these Pyramids became the standard burial practice the
Nubian cultures laid their dead to rest in Burial Mounds, and boy do they have a lot of those.
My name is Kayleigh, and today we are going to take a look into the
Nubian burial practices, from the construction of Mounds to Pyramids.
In the Future I will create separate videos where we will take a closer look at the excavations
of each Cemetery and the artefacts founds and the archaeologists leading these excavations.
But this video would be way too long to include all of that
and for me personally its a lot more fun to focus on the excavations
separately in the future, so in this particular video we will look into the evolution of the
Burial practices with some background information about the Nubian Kingdom.
But first lets take a quick look into the history of Nubia,
I believe SOME people watching this video will know all of this, some will know a little bit
and there will be people watching that have absolutely no clue, so for those; a quick recap.
During the New Kingdom rule in Ancient Egypt much of Nubia came under Egyptian rule,
they were the ones that named the city-state in Nubia Kerma,
this city was established some 4500 years ago in 2500 BCE.
The heart of the Kerma Kingdom was the City of Kerma, which was
quite a big city with a very extensive cemetery that was filled with Mounds.
Although its been made apparent in recent years that the Kingdom of Kerma stretched
far beyond the borders of this large city.
For a very long time scholars didnt find evidence of them settling in other locations,
but this was mostly because the Nile river used to flow more to the east than in modern times.
Along the old banks that are now dry archaeologists found a pattern
of settlements going as far upstream as the Abu Hamad/Mograt island area.
We dont know much about the Kerma culture yet at this point in time,
only in the past decade weve stumbled upon discoveries showing that Kerma
city was much larger and a lot more complex as was assumed for a long time.
Many more excavations in this entire region need to be carried out for us
to understand the scope and magnitude of their culture.
The Kerma culture became ruled by the Egyptian New Kingdom rulers between 1550 and 1070 BCE
and most of Nubia was absorbed into the Egyptian Kingdom.
After 1070 BCE when the kingdom of Egypt collapsed the Kushites established a kingdom
in Napata under the Rule of King Alara who unified the Kushites and his successor King
Kashta became the King of Upper Egypt in the 8th century BCE (Southern Egypt).
I explained in my Step pyramid of Djoser video that Southern Egypt is known as Upper
Egypt and that Northern Egypt is known as Lower Egypt, all of this has to do with the flow of the
Nile that goes downstream to the Nile Delta branches which is the lowest point of Nile.
King Kashta ruling over Upper Egypt marked the start of the Kingdom of Kush,
this was a peaceful transfer of power, well at least as peaceful as can be.
I personally dont think the Egyptians were very much against it, as the Royal
Egyptian Families intermarried with the Nubians,
the Nubians held the God Amun in high regard and even though there had been
warfare between the two Kingdoms they did have many cultural exchanges and trade relationships.
The Kushite culture developed alongside the Egyptian but in their own unique way,
this can be seen in Egyptian art depicting the people of Kush by the way they dressed
and the way their appearance was depicted.
To me personally its quite evident that the Egyptians had nothing against this because
of the fact that the Daughter of King Kashta; Amenirdis was appointed as High Priestess of Amun,
otherwise known as Adoratrice of Amun in Thebes, modern day Luxor.
If they did see it as an issue they would never appoint her to
such an esteemed high role in their civilization.
She was Gods Wife of Amun for 14 years,
this is the high priestess role, the highest rank in the cult of Amun.
I will create a video in the future where I look into the different Cults
of Ancient Egypt, so stay tuned for that.
Amenirdis was most likely the sister of Piye, the son of King Kashta.
King Kashta gained power peacefully in Upper Egypt like I mentioned,
but it was his son Piye who after he became King invaded Lower Egypt in the 8th century BCE.
By invading Lower Egypt he established the Kushite ruled 25th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt.
He ruled Egypt from 744 until 714 BCE from the Capital City of Napata in Nubia, modern day Sudan.
After King Piye died his son Shebitku reigned over Egypt from 714 until 705 BCE.
A short reign that was followed by his uncle Shabaka who was the brother of Piye,
Shabaka reigned for 15 years between 705 and 690 BCE.
After his death Taharqa, son of Piye became Pharaoh and King of Kush,
he reigned for 26 years between 690 and 664 BCE.
His reign was filled with conflicts with the Assyrians but
during his rule the Kingdom of Kush and Egypt flourished.
He revived the Egyptian culture, restored the architecture,, art and religion back
to its original glory from the Old, Middle and New Kingdom in Egypt and under his rule
Egypt an Kush who were once cultural distinct became thus intertwined and
integrated that this couldnt be reversed, not even after the Assyrian conquest.
Unfortunately after more than a century of the Kushite Royals ruling over Egypt,
the Assyrians conquered Egypt between 677 until 663 BCE.
The Kushite Capital moved from Napata to Mero around 590 BCE,
which we will speak more about later in this video.
Now that everyone has a bit of an understanding of what the Kingdom
of Kush was, we can start taking a look at the evolution of their burial practices.
Before the Kerma Culture emerged in the Bronze Age there was the Pre-Kerma Culture
between 3700 and 3250 BCE, and the way for them to lay the dead to rest was
in a Speos, a Speos is a Temple or Tomb cut into a rock facade.
We barely now anything about this early culture besides the fact they created these Speoi.
After the Pre-Kerma Culture there were the Early and Middle Kerma Culture,
around this time the slow evolution of burial practices started to set in.
But it wasnt until the Classic Kerma Culture starting from 1750
BCE that we know for certain they created burial mounds.
What we lack in knowledge about the Classic Kerma Culture they made
up for in their burial practices, as archaeologists have discovered
so many burials we have quite a clear picture of this part of their culture.
The oldest known burials in the Nubian lands were Mounds,
this to me personally isnt that strange as most cultures evolve into burial practices
with mounds structures, and then theres the Mastabas from Egypt,
but I personally see Mastaba's as a form of a burial mound as well, just unique and not round.
I personally see Mastaba's as a form of mound structure as
well, just a unique not round version of it.
As previously mentioned the city of Kerma had an extensive cemetery but what I
failed to mention on purpose was the amount of graves that have been discovered so far.
Because saying its extensive is kind of an understatement when you think of the fact that
this cemetery holds more than 30.000 burial mounds, staggering.
the burial practice here was the creation of large burial mounds that are unique to their culture.
You can see an example of a Kerman Tumulus on screen,
they were in my opinion very intricate and I love the dedication to layout each slab of black
sandstone to create the concentric circles, while pebbles of white quarts supported the structure.
The largest graves were surrounded by smaller ones,
this suggests a relationship between the people buried here.
The largest burial mounds are up to 90 meters in diameter
and they are located along the southern boundary of the cemetery.
Its hypothesized that these 4 largest mounds were the graves of Kermas last Kings.
Egyptian Pharaoh Tutmose I started to occupy the lands of the Kerma culture
and destroyed the Capital city of Kerma, this eventually resulted in
the Annexation of the Nubian lands that lasted for 800 years until 1070 BCE.
After the fall of Kerma and its culture and the 800 year long period of being subjected under
Egyptian rule, the independent Nubian kingdom of Kush emerged like I previously explained,
they moved the Capital from Kerma to Napata.
The Kingdom of Kush was heavily influenced by the Egyptians after
being a part of the Egyptian Kingdom for 800 years, this had a ripple effect on
their culture and future architecture, burial practices, art and way of life.
In the first 300 years of the Kingdom of Kush the burial practices stayed quite
similar to those of the Kerma Culture, they kept creating Burial Mounds in cemeteries,
and they were most likely even adding mounds to the cemetery at Kerma.
During this time I personally believe the other towns and cemeteries were starting
to be built along the old flow of the Nile river thats currently dried out.
For approximately 300
years their burial practices stayed close to the original practices created by the Kerma culture.
But the burial practices started to develop and change by the 8th Century BCE, King Alara
united the kingdom of Kush and established Napata as the religious Capital of Kush.
Now that the Kingdom of Kush had a Capital city they needed
a new Royal Cemetery, which was in El-Kurru.
There had been some burial mounds created in the El-Kurru cemetery,
they ranged from 7 meters in diameter to 8.5 meters in diameter.
One of the burial mounds known as Tumulus Ku 6 shows the development of the burial
mounds and how their complexity increased over the centuries.
It was constructed as a central mound which was encased in masonry.,
with a chapel to the east side constructed out of mud bricks.
Around the mound and chapel was an enclosure wall made from masonry in the shape of a horseshoe.
This was most likely the very last burial mound created on the cemetery,
as this shows the evolution and later pyramid construction plan.
Its said that King Alara constructed the first Pyramid on Nubian soil, although some scholars
believe it was King Kashta or even King Piye who was the first to create a pyramid.
It gets murky because of the fact that some archaeologists have attributed the
tombs of King Alara and King Kashta as Mastabas instead of Pyramids.
They do have the same square ground plan as King Piyes Pyramid, and since there was nearly nothing
left of their tombs besides the ground plans its difficult to be completely sure about this.
So instead of me making a claim on which one was the very first I will leave this fact as is,
its unclear and therefore we will not appoint one or the other as the first.
We do know that from King Alara onwards the Burial mounds stopped being created for the royals,
and the squared tomb became the new way to lay the Royally deceased to rest.
Its a fact that the Tomb for King Piye is a true Pyramid,
and from this point onwards the Pyramid had become the Monument of the Kushite Royal Family.
The main difference between the Nubian Pyramids and the Egyptian pyramids is the fact that
there wasnt a burial chamber inside the Nubian Pyramids, instead the decease were laid to rest
underneath the pyramid in a separate burial chamber.
In the case of King Piye, he was laid to rest next to the largest Pyramid on the Cemetery,
known as Ku 1, here you can see the pyramid and the stairway towards his burial chamber.
His burial chamber is to the east of the Pyramid, this to me personally signifies
rebirth as the East brings in the sun thus new light and new life.
This may show their belief in an Afterlife like the Egyptians did.
His burial chamber was cut into the bedrock with a corbelled roof,
in the middle of the chamber was a bed where he was laid to rest.
At El-Kurru there was a total of 22Pyramids on the cemetery,
many of these pyramids were created for the Queens as well, as the Nubian
Queens were renowned warriors and were most likely revered as much as their husbands.
The El-Kurru cemetery Royal Pyramids and
tombs were constructed over a time period of approximately 1 century.
This is quite a short time period for a Royal cemetery, of course we have the Burial mounds
here predating the Pyramids but the reason for this cemetery being small compared to
others is because the Royals relocated themselves to another cemetery nearby,
known as Nuri Cemetery, and some Royals chose to be buried further away at Mero Cemetery.
On the opposite of the bank is another cemetery known as Nuri,
this served as a Royal necropolis for the Capital of Napata as well.
At its height its been estimated that there would have been 80 Pyramids standing here,
they marked the tombs of the royals.
The Pyramids on the Cemetery of Nuri were constructed over a time period of a little
more than 3 centuries, starting from 670 BCE until approximately 310 BCE.
The oldest pyramid at Nuri was constructed for King Taharqa, the base of his Pyramid
measured approximately 52 meters square and between 40 and 50 meters in height.
The location of his pyramid was very calculated, when standing from afar at
Gebel Barkal at sunrise on the Egyptian New Years Day, which is the beginning of the
annual flooding of the Nile River, the Sun would rise directly over the point of the pyramid.
Like I said before, the sunrise is a sign of rebirth,
the annual flooding of the Nile is a sign of Rebirth as well.
Signifying the continuing rebirth of the Kings soul in the eternal afterlife.
Strange fact many people dont know, the Successor of King Taharqa was King Tantamani,
he decided to not have his Pyramid and Tomb constructed at the new cemetery of Nuri,
but instead he choose to have it constructed at El-Kurru.
This made his Pyramid and Tomb the last ones that were constructed at El-Kurru because after
him there were no more constructions and burials at El-Kurru Royal Cemetery.
The pyramids at Nuri cemetery havent stood the test of time as well as I wouldve hoped,
theyre heavily degraded on the outside,
but thankfully they still contain parts of the funerary equipment of the Kushite Royals.
Another thing that happened at Nuri cemetery was that during the Christian
Era in Nubia centuries after the cemetery was abandoned
a church was built on the cemetery grounds, partially constructed
out of reused pyramid stones, including stele coming from the tombs of the pyramids.
Its known that there are at least 20 Pyramids for Kings at Nuri Cemetery,
and 41 known Pyramids to have belonged to Queens.
At this point we know of 61 Pyramids of the cemetery that have been discovered
and excavations have been carried out, as I said in the start of this video
I will be looking at the excavations carried out here in a separate video.
Some notable artefacts discovered during excavations on Nuri Cemetery include
a Gold flower shaped Diadem that was found in Pyramid 16,
belonging to King Talakhamani, currently on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
make your names easier to pronounce cause Amaninatakilebte is not easy to pronounce like ugh
Another artefact discovered is a piece of Jewellery found on the Mummy of King
Amaninatakilebte in Pyramid 10, which is also on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
As mentioned earlier, there was another Royal cemetery in use around the same
time as Nuri Cemetery, Mero cemetery, to be exact the Southern Cemetery at Mero
To be exact, it was the Southern Cemetery at Mero that was used between 720 and 300 BCE.
This Section of Mero has less Pyramids than Nuri, we know of a total of 12 pyramids being
constructed here, mostly Queens, Princesses and Princes were laid to rest here, including 3 Kings.
Besides these pyramids there are 195 other tombs on this Southern Cemetery,
filling the grounds with no room for more burials.
After the 25th Dynasty of Egypt under Kushite Rule
ended and the Nubians lost control over the Egyptian lands their Capital was eventually
relocated more south into Upper Nubia to the city of Mero around 590 BCE.
During this time the Nubian Kings were mostly still laid to rest at Nuri Cemetery,
but around 300 BCE the Mero grounds became the primary Royal Cemetery for the Kings of Mero.
The shape of the Nubian pyramids evolved to a lot steeper than the traditional Egyptian
pyramids and yet another difference between the two types of pyramids is the fact that
the Nubian pyramids have an offering temple as the entrance to the tomb.
The tomb entrances were in the architectural Pylon style, meaning there were 2 towers
with in the middle an entrance that was approximately half the size of the towers.
The pylons here at the Nubian Pyramids arent as
heavily decorated on the outside as we mostly see being done in Egypt.
Mero is the location with the most Nubian Pyramids and I believe its also the location
of the Most Pyramids in the world as there used to be more than 200 Pyramids on the Mero Cemeteries.
Mero has a Western Cemetery as well, this cemetery is a non royal site containing 113 tombs,
this cemetery is often overlooked because of the fact that the people buried here
werent of Royal but simply Noble descent.
For the sake of this video I will not look further into the Western Cemetery,
but when I look into the excavations in the future I will do a lot more research to uncover
why they created these pyramids for Non-Royals.
Now its time to look into the most Famous Kushite Cemetery, if youve ever seen pictures of Nubian
Pyramids I will guarantee you, those were pictures of the Northern Cemetery at Mero.
This cemetery has 41 Royal Pyramids and accompanying tombs, 30 belong to Kings,
6 belong to Queens and 5 belong to other royals, most likely princes and princesses.
There are 3 non-royal pyramids and accompanying tombs here.
These are the most famous Nubian Pyramids and the most popular
tourist attraction in the entirety of Sudan.
Although youll most likely be there with just your tour group and guide, as there are no camel
rides, salesmen and other people surrounding it taking away from the grandeur of the location.
Just the Desert, the pyramids and your tour group.
People who went here spoke about how it felt as if they were on the verge of discovering
a long lost secret as it feels surreal to walk among these pyramids in tranquillity.
30 of the 44 pyramids in the Nortern Cemetery still stand,
although in various states of repair and existence..
Around 1821 french Mineralogist Frdric Cailliaud brought the knowledge of the Mere
Pyramids to Europe, he published detailed illustrations describing the pyramids,
at this point in time they were in quite a good state of preservation.
Of course in antiquity tomb robbers had damaged the pyramids but they werent completey ruined.
That was until in 1834 Italian treasure hunter Guiseppe Ferlini passed through
the area and cemetery with permission from the Government to carry out excavations.
He was convinced that the Pyramids held riches,
and instead of doing careful excavation work he took a more drastic approach..
He demolished multiple pyramids by completely destroying them from the top down, sometimes
even using explosives to blow them up after he struck gold after blowing up the first,
which was Pyramid 6 that belonged to Queen Amanishakheto.
He discovered a hoard of jewellery in a chamber near the burial chamber, which was very uncommon
as the grave goods were usually placed with the body in the burial chamber beneath the pyramid.
Unfortunately he destroyed a lot of these pyramids to come up empty handed,
as besides this one find of gold he didnt discover anything besides some workmens tools.
The Gold he discovered made its way to the Egyptian Museums in Berlin and Munich,
leaving Sudan with more than 40 damaged and blown up pyramid remnants,
destroyed heritage and a yearning for their repair.
A couple of Pyramids at Mero have been restored and to some extent even reconstructed, this was
done to show what the Pyramids would have looked like in antiquity and to restore Nubias Legacy,
Although I personally dont think more restorations or reconstructions will be
carried out in the Future as it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and there are strict
rules in place that make reconstruction and restoration extremely difficult.
There are international agreements and overall conservation plans that make
the justification for restoration and reconstruction very difficult.
Thankfully its not impossible, and there is an urgent need for major conservation projects
on the Mero Pyramids, that hopefully will be undertaken in the upcoming years or decades.
And then there is another threat to the Mero Cemeteries, their Pyramids and their tombs..
on September 8th 2020 they were threatened for the very first time by floods
after continuous rainfall caused devastating floods in the area.
With water levels not seen for nearly a century,
this was one of the most severe floods recorded in the region.
This means that a plan needs to be created to preserve and
protect the Mero Cemeteries and its contents against future disasters.
And now we arrive at the very last Royal Cemetery of the Nubian Kings
and the Kingdom of Kush, this is the Jebel Barkal Cemetery.
Way before this became a cemetery it was already a holy place with
Temples and the mountain was a sacred location in the eyes of the Nubians.
But after the Mero Cemeteries were too crowded to create more burials
the Royal Cemetery relocated to Jebel Barkal.
From 300 BCE until the 2nd century AD Pyramids were constructed here as a final resting place
for the Royals. Again in the Nubian style with a burial chamber in the bedrock below the pyramid.
We know of a total of 9 Pyramids at this Cemetery with some in quite a good state of preservation.
One of the most incredible artefacts found here
was a golden bracelet discovered in one of the tombs dating from 250-100 BCE,
it is currently on display at the Drents Museum in Assen the Netherlands.
In Assen the Netherlands,
and All Im hearing is that I need to get my butt over to that museum ASAP.
Unfortunately theres really not much known about these Pyramids, most of them are unclear
to belong to which King or Queen, so instead of speculating I am going to leave it here.
Maybe in the future I will find more information on this particular cemetery,
if I do Ill be sure to create a video about it.
To me personally it was a lot of fun and it was quite intriguing to see
the evolution of the Nubian burial practices throughout the centuries.
They went from cut out rock tombs to burial mounds to Pyramids with burial chambers underneath with
intricate designs and temples in front, just incredible.
The Nubians were a unique culture, living alongside the Greatest culture of all time
couldnt have been easy, and to think they ruled over the Egyptian lands for a century.
Its unfortunate that in modern times they dont get the recognition they deserve and I
hope future excavations and research will bring new light on the rich Nubian history in Sudan.
I know I have put these Pyramids on my very very long list of monuments I hope to
see with my own eyes one day, and I hope that people watching this video will do the same,
because they do deserve to be travelled to and to be seen.
But with that said youve reached the end of this particular video.
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Now its time for me to finish my cocktail,
and there is no sun anymore because its like 6:30pm, this was the heatwave.. yay.. cheers!