Thursday, March 04, 2010

Former Swiss wine grower uncovers Sudan's ancient roots

Google / AFP

Charles Bonnet, the 76-year-old doyen of Sudan archaeologists who helped rewrite an ancient chapter of Africa's largest country, has come a long way from the Swiss vineyards he harvested as a youth.

"As a young person, I was a wine grower. I jumped off my tractor and quickly went to university," he recalled, eyes lighting up, as he sat with an AFP correspondent on the terrace of the Acropole hotel in the Sudanese capital Khartoum.

He still gives some credit to his roots as a vine grower. "One learns how to see the ground, the vegetation, the colours of the ground," he said, things he could not pick up at university.

Bonnet helped show that Sudan was not merely a satellite to Egypt's wealth of ancient relics. He unearthed statues of Sudan's "black pharaohs", the overlords of the Kingdom of Kush, and showing Sudan was a trove itself.

After university, he drifted to South America, but ended up setting his sights on Egypt. "I was interested in Egypt, but more in Africa. I realised it was wrong to seek Sudan in Egypt. It was necessary to seek Sudan in Sudan," he said.

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