Dr. Krzysztof Grzymski doesn't immediately strike you as an Indiana Jones type. But I can tell you that accidentally stumbling across the Royal Ontario Museum's senior curator by the 6th Nile Cataract in windswept Sudan was just as exciting as running into Harrison Ford's character -- the romance of archaeology, I suppose. There Dr. Grzymski was, wearing a Maple Leaf T-shirt and dusting off some shards of ancient pottery, somewhere between Khartoum and Port Sudan. All I could think of was, what are the odds?
About 200 miles northeast of Khartoum are Sudan's pyramids, smaller than their well-known Egyptian counterparts, a few dozen significant ruins from the Meroitic kingdom that lasted between 300 BC and AD 300.
Not far from this royal burial ground, on a dusty plain with dry acacia and hostile thorn trees, sits an inauspicious looking site that costs US$10 to enter. There is no one around. A short walk from the gate you discover Dr. Grzymski-- an unexpected piece of Canada in this desolate spot. On the outside of his house, his wife, who died last year, had painted a bright red Maple Leaf and a palm tree.
Dr. Grzymski was excited when I bumped into him as it had been an eventful time. UNESCO had just sent a delegation to determine whether the remains he is excavating should be deemed a world heritage site. The process, which has to be proposed by the local government, takes approximately two years.
"Ancient Nubia, or Kush as it is called in the Bible," he explained, "is after Egypt the second-oldest literate civilization in Africa. It had two main cities, Napata and Meroe. The traditional view is that the Kingdom of Kush arose around the town of Napata (modern Karima) near the 4th cataract, a town founded by Egyptian pharaohs around 1400 BC. Thus the stimulus for the development of Kush would have come from Egypt."
Dr. Grzymski believes, and his expedition seems to support his theory, that "the quest for the origin of Kush points to Meroe." He thinks we will reverse our idea that this culture was more native than Egyptian. "Last year I discovered a wall fragment dated by C-14 method to 1000-800 BC," he says. "This year we continued the exploration uncovering more of what is the oldest Kushite building found so far."
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