Agatha Christie could have invented the story. Imagine another Egypt, with a marked black African component. This is Meroe, in present-day Sudan. In art, ancient Egyptian deities appear alongside others, unknown elsewhere. The Meroitic cursive script has been deciphered, revealing that it transcribes an African language. It is related to others spoken today, like Taman in parts of Darfur and Chad, Nyima in the Sudanese Nuba mounts, or Nubian in upper Egypt and Sudan. For the moment though, it is only beginning to be partially understood. Go see the latest on “Méroé, un empire sur le Nil” at the Louvre until Sept. 6.
In the last three years, archaeological discoveries have given a new face to an enigmatic culture that already intrigued Western explorers 250 years ago. In 1772, the Scotsman James Bruce caught sight of broken obelisks and barely discernible traces of pyramids as he traveled back from the source of the Blue Nile. These, he reckoned, had to be the remains of Meroe, known to Ancient Greek historians.
It was the Frenchman Frédéric Caillaud who, on the morning of April 25, 1822, first saw “a host of pyramids.” He accurately drew and described these in his book “A Trip to Meroe on the White River,” published in 1826. The consequences were disastrous. Antique hunters rushed to loot the site.
In 1834, Giuseppe Ferlini destroyed several pyramid.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
The Mysteries of Meroe
New York Times (Souren Melikian)