Saturday, February 19, 2011

Online Resource: Jebel Barkal

An excellent resource for Jebel Barkal (Sudan), with lovely photographs of the site and area. Here's a short exerpt from the introduction:

Jebel Barkal (“Mt. Barkal”) (var. Gebel Barkal, Gebel el-Barkal, and in some early sources Gebel Berkel/Birkel) is the modern Arabic name of a lone sandstone butte on the western edge of Karima, Sudan, about 365 km NNW of Khartoum and 23 km downstream from the Merowe Dam at the fourth cataract of the Nile; its coordinates are 18º 32’ N, 31º 49’ E).1 Situated about 1 1/2 km from the right bank, it rises to a height of 104 m above ground level and confronts the river with a sheer cliff 80 to 90 m high and approximately 200 m long (fig. 1). The mountain’s unusual appearance – its isolation, sharp profile, and spire-like pinnacle, 75 m high – made it a natural wonder in ancient times and excited intense theological speculation.

When the Egyptians conquered northern Sudan (Kush/”Upper Nubia”) in the early Eighteenth Dynasty (ca. 1504 BCE), they identified Jebel Barkal as the birthplace and chief southern residence of their state god Amun. As part of their program of conquest, they established the cult of Amun in many places in Nubia, but Jebel Barkal seems to have had a unique importance for them as a creation site and home of a primeval aspect of Amun who renewed life each year with the Nile inundation. Beneath the Jebel Barkal cliff the Egyptians constructed a major religious center and gave it the same name as Karnak (Ipet-Sut), Amun’s great sanctuary at Thebes, some 1250 km downriver (fig. 2). The Egyptians called the hill variously Dju-Wa’ab (“Pure Mountain”) and Nesut-Tawy (“Thrones of the Two Lands.”) (which in Dynasty 25 and the Napatan Period sometimes became Neset-Tawy [“Throne of the Two Lands”]). The settlement which grew up around it they called Napata, which became the southernmost town in their African empire.

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