Pyramids Discovered In Egypt And Sudan

pyramids
You’d think archaeologists would have found all the pyramids of Africa by now, but two recent discoveries show there’s a lot more discovering to be done.

A team of archaeologists working in Luxor, Egypt, have just announced they’ve discovered the pyramid of Khay, a powerful vizier of the Pharaoh Ramses II (ruled 1279-1212 B.C.). The pyramid was made of mudbrick and originally stood 49 feet high.

In the seventh and eighth century A.D. it was dismantled and turned into a Coptic Christian hermitage. Hieroglyphic writing on the surviving bricks told the archaeologists to whom the pyramid belonged.

Earlier this month, archaeologists announced they had found the bases of at least 35 broken pyramids at the site of Sedeinga in Sudan. They’re about 2,000 years old and belong to the kingdom of Kush, which lasted from c.1000 B.C. to 350 A.D. before finally being conquered by the Empire of Axum in Ethiopia. For almost a hundred years from 747-656 B.C., the Kushites ruled Egypt as the 25th dynasty.

The Sedeinga pyramids really just pyramid-shaped tombs. The largest measures 22 feet to a side, while the smallest is only 30 inches to a side. Others in Sudan, such as those at Meroë, are much more grandiose. Those at the pyramid field at Nuri, shown here courtesy Vít Hassan, are up to 150 feet tall.

Last year, a satellite survey conducted by Dr. Sarah Parcak of the University of Alabama found 17 suspected pyramids.

So how could these pyramids go missing? Well, most pyramids were much smaller than the famous ones at Giza and Saqqara that we always see pictures of. Shifting sands and erosion helped hide them. In the case of the Sedeinga tombs, later people took stones from them to build other structures.

Even some sizable pyramids have all but disappeared because they were made of inferior materials. Some of the last pyramids of Egypt are barely visible today because of shoddy workmanship or having been made with mudbrick instead of stone.

Video: Visiting The Pyramids of Sudan


Sudan is near the top of my list of countries I haven’t been to that I want to explore. One of the main things I’m aching to see are the pyramids of Meroë. This site has dozens of pyramids built starting around 720 BC.

Meroë was one of the capitals of the Nubian Empire, which at times rivaled its more famous northern neighbor, Egypt. As archaeologists continue to excavate in the Sudan, they’re finding that it had more influence on ancient Egyptian culture than previously thought. The Nubians even took over Egypt and installed their own dynasty there, ruling from 760-656 BC before the Egyptians kicked them out.

The pyramids at Meroë are a two-and-a-half hour drive north of the modern capital Khartoum. This video takes us on that journey, with a classic soundtrack to get us in the mood. The camel crossing reminds me of a similar holdup I experienced in Ethiopia’s Somali region!

Ancient palace discovered in Sudan

Sudan
Archaeologists digging in the ancient city of Meroë in the Sudan have discovered what they believe is a palace dating to 900 BC.

The team discovered the building under the remains of a later palace. It’s believed to be the oldest building yet discovered at the site, which was once the capital of the Kingdom of Kush. Kush had several great cities and exported iron all the way to China. From 747-656 BC, the Kushites ruled Egypt as the twenty-fifth dynasty. The empire lasted from about 1000 BC to 350 AD before being conquered by the Empire of Axum in Ethiopia.

Meroë is one of the greatest archaeological sites in Africa. It has more than 200 pyramids, although they’re smaller than the largest Egyptian pyramids.

For a long time Meroë and Kush were understudied in favor of the more famous Egyptian civilization. Now scholars are beginning to realize that this Sudanese civilization contributed a lot to Egyptian culture.

Meroë is two-and-a-half hours north of Khartoum and it’s feasable to do in a long day trip. If you’re not going to the Sudan, the British Museum in London has a whole room dedicated to this civilization and its art.

Image courtesy Sven-steffenarndt via Wikimedia Commons

The other pyramids of Africa


This desert land was once home to a great empire that built giant temples in honor of strange, animal-headed gods and memorialized their rulers with pyramids. It had one of the most advanced civilizations of its time and was known throughout the ancient world.

Egypt? No, Sudan.

The Kingdom of Kush in what is now Sudan built great cities and traded the products of its large and expert iron industry as far away as India and China. It lasted from about 1000 BC to 350 AD before finally being conquered by the Empire of Axum in Ethiopia. For almost a hundred years from 747-656 BC, the Kushites ruled Egypt as the twenty-fifth dynasty.

A new exhibit at the Louvre in Paris is the first to focus on Meroë, the capital of Kush in its later period and home to more than two hundred pyramids, some of which are shown in this photo. Meroe: Empire on the Nile showcases works of Meroitic art that help us understand the daily life, religion, and social structure of this often-overlooked empire.

Meroe: Empire on the Nile runs until September 6, 2010. Many of the objects are loans from the Museum of Khartoum, so if you can’t make it to Paris before September, you can always go to Sudan and the see the objects, and the pyramids, for yourself. Last year The Wall Street Journal listed the country as one of the top five destinations for the super adventurous.

Image courtesy Sven-steffenarndt via Wikimedia Commons