When someone says “pyramid,” the first thing that comes to mind is Egypt. The country is known for its historical and jaw-dropping structures from thousands of years ago. But there’s another country that has quite a number of pyramids to show off: Sudan. How did this Northern African country come to have its own towering pyramids? It all has to do with history and Egypt’s influence on the country.
The area of the Nile Valley known as Nubia in present-day Sudan was home to three Kushite kingdoms. The first had its capital at Kerma (2600–1520 BC), the second at Napata (1000–300 BC), and the last at Meroë (300 BC–AD 300). Kerma had its own architectural style and burial customs, while Napata and Meroë were heavily influenced by Egypt.
The Kushite kingdoms competed strongly with Egypt in terms of economy and military.
Outdoor Revival reports that in 751 BC, Kushite King Piankhi overthrew the 24th Dynasty and united the entire Nile Valley under his rule. Piankhi and his successors ruled as pharaohs of the 25th Dynasty, and the Napatan domination ended with the Assyrian conquest of Egypt in 656 BC.
Around 255 pyramids were constructed at three sites in Nubia over a period of a few hundred years.
The pyramids served as tombs for kings and queens. The first three pyramids were built at the site of El-Kurru, and fourteen more were constructed for queens, some of whom were known as warrior queens.
Later on, Napatan pyramids were constructed at Nuri on the west bank of the Nile in Upper Nubia. This became the burial site of 21 kings and 52 queens and princes. The oldest and largest pyramid at Nuri is that of the Napatan King and 25th Dynasty Pharaoh Taharqa.
The most extensive Nubian pyramid site is at Meroë, where over 40 kings and queens were buried.
Nubian pyramids differ slightly from Egyptian ones. Nubian pyramids are built of stepped courses of horizontally positioned stone blocks. They range from approximately 6 to 30 meters in height, but they rise from small foundation footprints that rarely go beyond 8 meters in width. These resulted in taller and narrower structures.
Nubian pyramid tombs were often plundered in ancient times.
Historical evidence shows that the royals buried in the tombs were mummified, covered with jewelry, and put in wooden mummy cases. Explorations in the 19th and 20th centuries revealed some pyramids contained the remains of bows, quivers of arrows, archers’ thumb rings, wooden boxes, furniture, colored glass, pottery, and other artifacts that proved Meroitic trade with Egypt.
In the 1830s, the Nubian pyramids were even more damaged when Italian doctor-turned-explorer Giuseppe Ferlini blew the tops off around 40 tombs while looking for treasure.
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