Saturday, June 02, 2007

Archaeology at Meroe
"More royal pyramids stand in the deserts of northern Sudan than in all of Egypt. For 3,000 years, a succession of African civilizations rose and fell along the Nile River in ancient Nubia, at one point expanding north to the Mediterranean Sea. Relatively little is known about these peoples. While Egypt hosts up to 200 foreign archeological teams a year, Sudan until recently has averaged 10 to 12.
Among the pioneers is Krzysztof Grzymski, head of world cultures at the Royal Ontario Museum . . . . First recorded by the Greek historian Herodotus in the 5th century BC, Meroe served as capital of the most politically sophisticated empire seen to that point in sub-Saharan Africa.
To the right of the highway, along a sandy ridge, stand more than 40 royal pyramids – some with their tops lopped off by Italian tomb raider Giuseppe Ferlini in 1833, others recently restored by German architect Friedrich Hinkel.
'I don't like digging graves,' Grzymski says. 'That's where you find all those treasures, I know. But I have a not very archeological attitude that we should leave the dead alone.'
Instead, he digs on the left of the highway, at Meroe's Royal City on the east bank of the Nile. To the inexperienced eye, the site looks strewn with rubble. But through Grzymski's eyes, scattered boulders resolve into grand staircases and sacred sphinxes. Low-lying walls rise to become palaces and temples, decorated with murals and graced by tree-lined avenues.
Grzysmki points out the temple to the god Amun, and indoor royal baths outfitted with ceramic pipes and covered in glazed tiles of Mediterranean hues."

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