Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Sunday, November 2, 2008
A less well known priestly class among the Celtic people are the Vates (literally, “seer”). Vates are rare on the continent and are most often found in Ireland and sometimes in Albion. They interpret sacrifices and natural phenomena to determine the will of the gods. Vates keep the great calendars, and maintain shrines in sacred groves. They have a great practical knowledge of mathematics, but refuse to apply this to worldly pursuits. Instead, they carefully study flights of birds, clouds, dreams, storms, and sticks thrown on the ground to sense divine will. To be touched by the gods is to court madness, and many Vates are not quite right as a result.
Unlike Druids, Vates (called Ovates in some Celtic dialects) do not truly fit in with Celtic society. Warriors fear what a drunken Vates might spill and are uncomfortable with their attendance at feasts. Tradition ties a Vates to his or her sacred grove, and they rarely wander from this site. Everyone likes it better this way.
The earliest Latin writers used vates to denote "prophets" and soothsayers in general; the word fell into disuse in Latin until it was revived by Virgil. Thus Ovid could describe himself as the vates of Eros (Amores 3.9).
According to the Ancient Greek writers Strabo, Diodorus Siculus, and Poseidonius, the vates (ουατεις) were one of three classes of Celtic priesthood, the other two being the druids and the bards. The Vates had the role of seers and performed sacrifices (in particular administering human sacrifice), under the presidence of a druid. Their role therefore corresponded to that of an Adhvaryu in Vedic religion. Celtic vates is continued by Irish fáith "prophet, seer," and ofydd in Welsh.
Diodorus Siculus, ¶31
The Gauls are terrifying in appearance and speak with deep, harsh voices. They speak together in few words, using riddles which leave much of the true meaning to be understood by the listener. They frequently exaggerate their claims to raise their own status and diminish another's. They are boastful, violent, and melodramatic, but very intelligent and learn quickly. They have Iyric poets called Bards, who, accompanied by instruments resembling Lyres, sing both praise and satire. They have highly-honoured philosophers and theologians [those who speak about the gods] called Druids. They also make use of seers, who are greatly respected. These seers, having great authority, use auguries and sacrifices to foresee the future. When seeking knowledlre of great importance, they use a strange and unbelievable method: they choose a person for death and stab him or her in the chest above the diaphragm. By the convulsion of the victim's limbs and spurtinp of blood, they foretell the future, trusting in this ancient method. They do not sacrifice or ask favours from the Gods without a Druid present, as they believe sacrifice should be made only by those supposedly skilled in divine communication. Not only during peacetime but also in war, the Gauls obey with great care these Druids and singing poets, both friend and enemy alike. Often when two armies have come together with swords drawn these men have stepped between the battle-lines and stopped the conflict, as if they held wild animals spell-bound. Thus even among most brutal barbarians angry passion yields to wisdom and Ares stands in awe of the Muses.
Strabo, Geography, 4.4.4
As a rule, among all the Gallic peoples three sets of men are honoured above all others: the Bards, the vates, and the Druids. The bards are singers and poets, the vates overseers of sacred rites and philosophers of nature, and the Druids, besides being natural philosophers, practice moral philosophy as well. They are considered to be the most just and therefore are entrusted with settling both private and public disputes, so that in earlier times they even arbitrated wars and could keep those intending to draw themselves up for battle from so doing and it was to these men most of all that cases involving murder had been entrusted for adjudication. And whenever there is a big yield from these cases, they believe that there will come a yield from the land too. Both these men and others aver that and the universe are imperishable, although both fire and water will at some times prevail over them.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
For generations, stories have been told of the fearsome weapon of the Norse god Thor. Legend holds that he who wields the hammer has the power to smash mountains into valleys and the strength to destroy even the gods. For more than a thousand years it has existed only as a myth…until now. In an ancient ruin on the floor of the Mediterranean Sea, Lara Croft uncovers proof of the Norse underworld and the mythical hammer. As she attempts to unravel the secrets behind these myths, Lara’s perilous journey leads her toward a forgotten power that, if unleashed, could lay waste to all civilization.
Lara is an adventurer, world traveller and archaeologist who seeks out relics and tombs, fuelled by an obsession to uncover the secrets of the great, ancient civilizations. She is a superb athlete, fluent in a dozen languages, and will stop at nothing to get what she wants. She has been hailed both as an Archaeological Wunderkind and a glorified Treasure Hunter. There are thousands of rumors surrounding Lady Croft's exploits, invariably involving the unexplained or outright unbelievable. Lady Croft continues to be the focus of wild speculation and intense debate. Idealized and vilified in equal measure, she is perhaps one of the fascinating and enigmatic figures of our times.
Zip is the tech guy of Lara's team, responsible for providing technical and logistical support for Lara's endeavors worldwide - he's the guy in the van or the server room at Lara's mansion, and Lara's constant remote companion via radio headset. A wisecracking guy who's part ultra-techno-geek and part street savvy. He used to be over-the-top, but a few years in prison toned him down a notch and increased his resentment toward all things established. A former computer hacker, he works with Lara for the challenge and the thrill of it. He's personally loyal to Lara, and it really is the most fun he can have without getting arrested.
Alister is Lara's research assistant, providing another mind filled with arcane historical information, someone to bounce ideas off of, and provide quick additional research while Lara's in the field. He's in this to test his theories, uncover secrets noone else can, and because it's the only place his eccentric knowledge is really useful. Alister is tense and takes himself much too seriously.
Natla was one of the members of the triumvirate ruling the lost continent of Atlantis. However, she was later condemned for her misuse of power and was imprisoned in a capsule by the other two rulers, Qualopec and Tihocan. After escaping from her prison in 1945 during a nuclear test in Los Alamos, New Mexico, she took on the name Jacqueline and founded her own company called Natla Technologies using her scientific expertise and cunning. In 1996 she hired adventurer Lara Croft to search for Qualopec's piece of the Atlantean Scion in his Tomb located in Peru. Shortly after finding the artifact, Lara was attacked by another adventurer under orders by Natla. Knowing Natla had betrayed her, Lara went in search for the remaining two pieces in Greece and then Egypt. After obtaining the final piece, Lara was ambushed by Natla and her men. Stealing the now assembled artifact, Natla ordered Lara to be killed and left Egypt in her boat heading to Atlantis.
It is inside the Great Pyramid of Atlantis that Natla's grand scheme is revealed: to use the Scion's powers to breed a new race of mutant creatures. Realizing this, Lara made her best effort to destroy the Scion. Refusing to let her work be destroyed, Natla charged for Lara sending them both falling into a deep abyss. While Lara managed to grab a ledge, Natla continued to plummet into the lava pit below. As Lara tries to escape the pyramid Natla confronts her a final time, revealing her true appearance. After a fearsome battle, Lara defeated Natla and escaped the pyramid, leaving Natla inside when it exploded...or so Lara thought...
Mercenaries, panthers, sharks, spiders, bats, tigers and octopus. There will also be a large number of supernatural and ancient enemies.
The first level in TRU. Lara arrives at the Med in a luxury yacht after learning her father found something here shortly before he disappeared. At the bottom of the sea lies a submerged temple that hides a lot of the answers to Lara's questions.
Lara arrives at Thailand where she explores a dense and dangerous jungle. Within this jungle is a temple dedicated to the god Shiva. This is Lara's goal...
Lara explores ancient tombs where she attempts to gain entry into the Mayan underworld...
Lara explores the frozen islands of the Arctic Sea.
“We’re Archæologists, Not Grave Robbers!” Straight from Ann Dupuis, publisher of Terra Incognita, Fudge, and the power behind Grey Ghost Press, comes today’s free adventure: “We’re Archæologists, Not Grave Robbers!” The download consists of four files:
The adventure, “We’re Archæologists, Not Grave Robbers!”;
A collection of eight intrepid Nags suitable for early 20th-century Egyptian archaeological exploits;
The GM’s map of Setna’s tomb;
and a Player’s map of the tomb.
Ann has run this adventure at numerous conventions to general acclaim. Enjoy!
Excitement, Adventure, and Tea at Four
Terra Incognita is a roleplaying games of exploration, intrigue, and mystery, featuring adventurer-scholars whose exploits span the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries. Armed with extensive training, unpredictable technology, and unimpeachable discretion, NAGS Society Members travel to the Four Corners of the globe — exploring unknown lands, investigating mysteries, and uncovering ancient knowledge.
Terra Incognita features a customized version of Steffan O’Sullivan’s innovative Fudge system from Grey Ghost Press. You can learn more about Fudge and even download the system for free.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Catalan-Estense Map, detail: Asia, Eastern Africa, Middle East
TITLE: Catalan-Estense World Map
DESCRIPTION: The oldest of the portolan [nautical] charts to survive are of Italian origin, made at Genoa and Pisa; those dating from the latter half of the 14th century are mainly Catalan. But the typical Catalan map is not strictly speaking a portolan chart. It is more than that; for while the latter is essentially a sailing guide concerned with coast wise navigation, the Catalan map is really a world map built up around the portolan chart. It is true that in some cases the term 'world' connotes simply the habitable earth as known by the author, nevertheless, in others, as the Catalan-Estense map, it is interpreted to include lands not yet discovered, but only posited. This aggravated the cartographer's task very considerably for it meant that he was continually being faced with the problem of choosing between scanty and often poorly substantiated fact on the one hand, and plausible and often well-attested theory on the other. It is a tribute to the integrity of these men that their work contains so much that subsequent investigation has proved true. In fact it is this careful sifting of evidence that constitutes one of the chief merits of the Catalan school of cartography, in an age when intellectual honesty was none too common. The value of the Catalan maps, as commentaries upon the state of contemporary knowledge at once becomes apparent and we are hardly surprised to find that the Catalan Atlas of 1375 has the finest delineation of Asia the world had seen up to that time, or that, in its knowledge of Cathay [China] and the Sudan, the same map is surpassed in the Middle Ages only by the 1459 Fra Mauro map. all of approximately the same date, ca.1450. According to Kimble, there are at least three distinct influences, in addition to the portolan chart tradition, that can be detected. These influences are Classical, Christian and Arab. Of these only the Arab influence is strong, while it is improbable that the Classical influence was direct. Thus, in the case of the Catalan-Estense map, it owes nothing to the Ptolemaic tradition, and it is less likely that its author should have taken his idea of a southern continent direct from Crates, the originator of the concept (150 B.C.),
than that he should have taken it from Arab or Christian cosmographers, such as Abu'l Fida or Isidore, who revived it. The influence of the medieval Christian tradition on the Catalan-Estense map is betrayed in such elements as the legend relating to Prester John and the portrayal of the Terrestrial Paradise . There can be no mistaking the Arab influence. We have only to compare the delineation of the southern half of Africa on the map with the description given by the 11th century writer, Al-Biruni, of the shores of the Southern Ocean to be convinced of the kinship. Thus, the Catalan-Estense map, although embellished with castellated towns, ships and portraits of African princes, attempts to furnish an up-to-date picture of the world and to resolve the ancient riddle of Africa nondum cognita.
The circular Catalan-Estense map, measuring 113 cm in diameter, is very colorful with a large number of princes shown throughout Africa (where Prester John has been placed), 52 legends, castellated towns for major settlements, loxodromes, ships, mermaids, domesticated reindeer and horses. Although almost a hundred years later, it is clearly related to the pivotal Catalan Atlas of 1375. This resemblance in the content of the two maps strengthens the contention that the latter was derived from a circular prototype. The nomenclature and the numerous legends on the Catalan-Estense , mostly in Catalan with a few in corrupt Latin, are often very similar to those of the 1375 Atlas . In some instances the legends are more complete, in others they are less detailed; they suggest, therefore, not direct copying but possibly a common source. This similarity is also evident in the delineation of the main features, most of those in the 1375 Atlas are to be found on the Estense map.
The northern portions of Asia and Europe on the Estense map, which lay outside the limits of the Catalan Atlas , significantly, contain very little detail. On the southern coastline of Asia there are some differences, generally slight, between the two maps. The peninsula of India is much less pronounced on the Catalan-Estense map, and to the south is the large island of Salam or Silan [Ceylon/Sri Lanka] which also fell outside the physical limits of the Catalan Atlas . A legend refers to its wealth in rubies and other precious stones. There can be no doubt however that the two outlines are fundamentally identical. To the east is the island of Java, as on the Catalan Atlas . The island of Trapobana is much enlarged, and is placed on the southeastern margin of the map. The surrounding ocean, the Mar deles indies is filled with numerous nameless and featureless islands.
Africa occupies most of the southern half of the map. The continent ends in a great arc, conforming to the circular frame of the map, and extending eastwards to form the southern boundary of the Indian Ocean. On the west, a long narrow gulf from the circumfluent ocean almost severs this southerly projection from northern Africa. The southern interior is blank save for the legend Africa begins at the river Nile in Egypt and ends at Gutzola in the west: it includes the whole land of Barbaria, and the land in the south. This outline and legend have been interpreted to imply some knowledge of the southern extremity of Africa, and perhaps of a practicable route from the west to the Indian Ocean.
That the great western gulf reflects some knowledge of the Gulf of Guinea is more probable. The design of the northern half of the continent in general resembles that of the other Catalan charts, but the northwestern coast embodies some details of contemporary Portuguese voyages as far as C. ude [Cape Verde] and C. groso . From this evidence, the map is usually dated about 1450. Near the gulf are the Mountains of the Moon , from which five rivers flow northwards to a lake on the western Nile . This lake probably represents the area around the Upper Niger liable to inundation; Kimble has pointed out that these rivers may well represent the five main sources of the Niger. These Mountains of the Moon are stated to be on the Equator, and the streams are called the riu de lor . We may therefore assume that the headwaters of the Niger marked the approximate limit of contemporary knowledge in this region, and it is not improbable that reports of the sea to the south had been received. These may have induced the cartographer to accept the western gulf of Ptolemy, but to enlarge it considerably. Again, the name Rio del Oro [river of gold] recalls the inscription on the Catalan Atlas and the classical tradition. The portrayal of the interior thus goes back at least to 1375. Apart therefore from a small portion of the coastline, the map owes nothing to Portuguese exploration.
Some surprise has been expressed that a map of 1450 should contain relatively up-to-date details coupled with antiquated ideas in other areas, and this has produced some rather involved explanations. Taking into consideration the lack of details and names in the southern regions of Africa, we may plausibly conjecture that, as an exception to the usual conservatism, the draftsman, in Africa at least, had removed all the detail for which he had no evidence, to obtain a framework on which to insert the latest Portuguese discoveries. It must remain debatable whether the outline of the southern extremity represents some knowledge of the Cape. The outline may be entirely imposed by the frame of the map: at the most, it may reflect the kind of report that we find on Fra Mauro's map .
The merit of the Catalan cartographers lay in the skill with which they employed the best contemporary sources to modify the traditional world picture, rarely proceeding further than the evidence warranted. In the same spirit they removed from the map most of the traditional fables which had been accepted for centuries, and preferred, for example, to omit the northern and southern regions entirely, or to leave southern Africa a blank rather than to fill it with the Anthropagi and other monsters which adorn so many medieval maps. Though drawings of men and animals still figure on their works they are in the main those for which there was some contemporary, or nearly contemporary, warrant; for example, Mansa Musa , the lord of Guinea, whose pilgrimage to Mecca created a sensation in 1324, or Olub bein , the ruler of the Tatars. In this spirit of critical realism, the Catalan cartographers of the 14th century threw off the bonds of tradition, and anticipated the achievements of the Renaissance.
LOCATION: Biblioteca Estense, Modena, Italy
*Bagrow, L., History of Cartography, plate XLIII.
*Cardini, F., Europe 1492, p. 208 (color).
Crone, G.R., Maps and Their Makers, pp. 47-50.
*Destombes, M., Mappemondes, A.D. 1200-1500, pp. 217-221, plate XXXIII.
*George, W., Animals and Maps, pp.13, 39-43, 48-49.
*Gross, J., Mapmakers' Art, p. 45 (color)
*Kimble, G.H.T., Geography in the Middle Ages, pp. 113, 182-3, 194-197.
*Skelton, R.A., The Vinland Map and the Tartar Relation, pp. 113, 118-19, 127, 131, 250, plate XI
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Kailasanatha Temple, (Cave 16) view from the top of the rock
Like Ajanta, Ellora in India is the location of a series of cave temples hewn into the living rock. It is located 80 kilometers (48 mi.) southwest of Ajanta. There are 34 individual temples extending along a distance of two kilometers (1.2 mi.). Twelve of these are Buddhist, 17 are Hindu, and five are Jain. The Buddhist temples, which date between 200 B.C.E. And 600 C.E., include sanctuaries and monasteries, with sleeping areas for monks cut into the rock. The most remarkable Hindu structure is the Kailasanatha temple. It is one of the world’s largest statues, because by removing more than 200,000 tons of basaltic rock, the makers created a highly decorated free-standing monolith. Its inspiration lay in the recreation of Mount Kailasa, the home of SIVA. Its construction falls in the reign of King Krishna I (c. 756–773). It is 50 meters long by 33 wide, and it stands to a height of 30 meters (165 by 109 by 99). Remarkably, it is covered in carvings depicting scenes from Hindu epics, including the demon Ravana shaking Mount Kailasa. A contemporary copperplate Inscription described it as “compelling the admiration of even the celestials, who pause on their heavenly course to gaze at the beauty of so magnificent a monument, and wonder how anyone could create such an extraordinary structures.”
Kailash Temple Maharashtra
At Ellora , 34 cave temples were carved out of the hillside with hand tools. Only 12 of these 34 caves in the centre are the most impressive. The massive Kailash Temple (cave 16) is nearly one a half times taller than the Parthenon and occupies almost twice its area. It is believed that it was constructed by excavating approx. 200,000 tones of rock and is possible the world's largest monolithic structure. Representing Shiva's Himalayan home, the temple is exquisitely sculpted with scenes from Hindus mythology, each pulsing with drama, energy and passion. The Kailash Temple situated near the village of Ellora. It is considered as one of the most astonishing 'buildings' in the history of architecture. This temple is the world's largest monolithic structure carved from one piece of rock and the rock-hewn temples and monasteries of Ellora that lies just 30 kms from Aurangabad.. Kailash Temple at cave 16, were a big Shiva-linga (form of Lord Shiva) is worshiped. It is the biggest building carved in a stone in the whole world. is a part of Ellora Cave Complex. The Kailasanatha temple is the world's largest monolith structure that was literally scooped out of the hill side. Lord Shiva is worshipped in the form of a giant lingam in the garba griha. Beautiful sculptures from Ramayana and Mahabharatha are carved on the walls of this cave temple.
The depiction of the demon Ravana shaking Mount Kailash is a masterpiece contain the scenes of semi-mythological history, the royal court and popular life of the ancient times, as told in romances and plays. Some pictures recall the Greek and Roman compositions and proportions, few late resemble to Chinese manners to some extent. But majority belongs to a phase which is purely Indian as they are found no where else. These monuments were constructed during two different periods of time separated by a long interval of four centuries. The older ones were the product of last to centuries before Christ and belongs to Hinayana period of Buddhism in later part of 2nd century AD when Buddhism was divided into two sections, after the conduct of the fourth general council under another great king, Kanishka.
The new feature of Mahayana Buddhism was the concept of future Buddha's. The Buddha, himself probably thought that he was the last of the long succession of earlier Buddha's who lived before him. According to the Buddhist traditions, these former Buddhas were revered even in the historical Buddha's lifetime. By the time king Ashoka, their cult was widespread and was patronized by Ashoka. Later, when the stupas were constructed and beautified, the carvings were executed in a symbolic way. An inspired sculptor began to carve images of Buddha himself and within the few generations, all the Buddhist sects took to worshiping images. The universe of Mahayana contains numerous Bodhisattava, the chief of whom is Avalokitesvara with attributes of compassion. He is also called Padmapani or the lotus bearer. The Manjushri with a naked sword in one hand, stimulates the understanding. The sterner Bodhisattava who is a foe of the sin and evil and bearing a thunderbolt in the hand is Vajrapani. The future Buddha, Maitreya will take birth to save the world.
It is believed that work on the Kailasha temple was begun in the mid-8th century and under the direction of King Krishna I (757-775) of the Rashtrakutadynasty, the rulers of the western Deccan area. One of the India's greatest architectural treasures, was hewn out of the solid rock of the hillside to form a free-standing temple consisting of a gateway, two-storied halls and the main shrine within. The most majestic creation is the Kailash Temple, a full-sized freestanding temple flanked by huge elephants all carved from solid rock, pillars and podiums, as the workers dug away some 200,000 tons of rock. The result is an awe-inspiring representation of Shiva's Himalayan abode. Nearby caves are alive with stone murals depicting divine struggles and victories. With these caves before us, it is clear that India far surpasses the rest of the world in the glory of its rock-cut architecture.
Further reading: Burgess, J. Cave Temple of Ellora.
Columbia, Mo.: South Asia Books, 1999; Malandra, G. H.
Unfolding a Mandala: The Buddhist Cave Temples at Ellora.
SUNY Series in Buddhist Studies. New York: State University of New York, 1993; Pant, P. Ajanta and Ellora: Cave Temples of Ancient India. Columbia, Mo.: South Asia Books, 1998.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
The Nubian Pyramids
By Kelly Smith
The history of Nubia, the land south of Egypt, often in conflict with Egypt, frequently under at least partial control of Egypt and late in history, in control of Egypt, is an integral part of Egyptian history. When Egypt was strong, and expanding its territory, it often did so into Nubia, but when Egypt was weak, Nubian territory grew to the north.
Nubia was known to the Egyptians as Kush. During the Middle Kingdom, its principal town was Kerma, which lies just below the Third Cataract of the Nile River. It was ruled by chiefs, or kings who the Egyptians of the Middle Kingdom evidently viewed as a threat, for the Egyptians built a series of fortresses in Northern Nubia to protect Egypt's borders.
During Egypt's New Kingdom, the empire period, Nubia was for the most part a province of Egypt, ruled by the "King's Son of Kush". The southern limits of this control may have been Gebel (mountain of) Barkal, where a Temple of Amun was situated. Then, as the New Kingdom waned and Egypt declined into rival principalities, Egyptian control of Nubia was once more lost. For almost two centuries after the end of the New Kingdom, we find very scant records of Egypt's southern neighbor.
Then, a new Kushite kingdom suddenly appeared, not surprisingly at a time when Egypt was at her weakest. As early as 770 BC, a powerful ruler named Kashta arose out of Napata, located at the foot of Gebel Barkal, to take control not only of Lower, or Northern Nubia, but also of
Upper, or Southern Egypt as far north as Thebes. There, he had his sister installed as "Divine Adoratice of Amun", a position that had become as important, if not more so, than High Priest. While the people of Thebes acknowledged Kashta as King of Upper and Lower Egypt, it would be his successor, Piye (Piankhi), who would truly rule a more or less complete Egypt. He left behind remarkable documents at Karnak, Memphis and Gebel Barkal, though only the last survives, that casts himself in the traditional role of Pharaoh, the restorer of order against the forces of chaos.
After taking control of most of Egypt, Piye set out for Heliopolis to worship the sun god and celebrate his coronation as king of Egypt. There we are told that he:
"...stood by himself alone. Breaking the seals of the bolts, opening the doors; viewing his father Re in the holy Pyramidion House; adorning the Morning Bark of Re and the Evening Bark of Amun."
Afterwards, he returned to Napata where he founded a Nubian dynasty, Egypt's 25th, that would last for about a century. Upon his death, he became the first Egyptian king in 800 years to be buried in a pyramid. He built it at el-Kurru, about thirteen kilometers downstream from the Temple of Amun at Gebel Barkal, and his was the first of an estimated 223 pyramids that would be built in Nubia over the next thousand or so years. We think that his palace may have been located nearby, though it has never been unearthed. Between 1918 and 1919, George Reisner conducted excavations at el-Kurru, but by then only one pyramid was still standing. He found
under low mounds of rubble the tombs of Piye and his successors of the 25th Dynasty, Shebaka, Shebitku and Tantamani. Their tombs had once been covered by pyramids, but by the early 20th century, they had been entirely removed.
These pyramids bore much more in common with the private ones that can still be found on the West Bank at Thebes (modern Luxor) than with the Great Pyramids of northern Egypt, though it is commonly assumed that he was inspired by the latter. Even though the superstructure of his own tomb had been removed, its foundation trench indicated a pyramid with a base length of only about eight meters, and a slope of probably about 68 degrees. Nineteen steps led down from the east to the burial chamber that was cut into the bedrock as an open trench and covered with a corbelled masonry roof. Piye's body had been placed on a bed that rested in the middle of the chamber on a stone bench with its four corners cut away to receive the legs of the bed, so that the bed platform lay directly on the bench. This was probably a Nubian custom, though fragments of canopic jars were discovered, leading Egyptologists to believe that he was most likely embalmed in Egyptian style. There were also the remains of Shabti figures, more typically found in Egyptian tombs. There had been a chapel built over and covering the stairway to the burial chamber, but it too was completely destroyed.
The pyramid of his successor, Shebaka, had a similar layout although the burial chamber was completely subterranean, and included a vaulted ceiling cut in the natural rock. Here, the entrance to the pyramid itself was built far enough to the east to allow it to be entered after the mortuary temple was built. A stairway led down to a short tunnel that than led into the burial chamber.
Along with the kings of the 25th Dynasty, there were also fourteen queens' pyramids built at el-Kurru, measuring between six and seven meters square, actually only slightly smaller than the kings' pyramids, which measured from eight to eleven meters square.
Reisner also found the graves of 24 horses and two dogs nearby. Four of the horses belonged to Piye, and four more to Tantamani. Scholars speculate that they may have each belonged to a chariot team. There were also ten horses belonging each to Shebaka and Shebitku. All of the animals had been sacrificially decapitated, and their skulls were missing. They were each buried in a standing position, and their bodies were draped with beaded nets hung with cowrie shells and heavy bronze beads. They also had silver collars and gilded sliver plume holders. There is also some speculation whether these horses might correspond with the boat burials of earlier pyramids.
One of the last kings of the 25th Dynasty, Taharqa (known in the bible, Kings 19:9, as Tirakah), moved to Nuri, a site just on the other side of the river from Gebel Barkal, to build his pyramid. There, he built a much larger pyramid measuring some 51.75 meters square with a height of between 40 and 50 meters. It was the largest pyramid ever built at Nuri, and is unique among the Nubian pyramids in having been built in two stages. The first pyramid was encased in smooth sandstone. Drawings and written reports of the early 19th century reveal the truncated top of the inner pyramid projecting from the top of the decaying outer pyramid. The outer pyramid was the first of a type with stepped courses and planed corners. It had a sloped angle of about 69 degrees. An enclosure wall tightly encircled the pyramid, but Reisner was not able to unearth any traces of a chapel.
However, the subterranean chambers of this pyramid are the most elaborate of any Nubian tomb. The entrance was by way of an eastern stairway trench, north of the pyramid's central axis, but in alignment with the original smaller pyramid. Three steps led down to a doorway with a molded frame and cavetto cornice. The doorway then led to a tunnel that widened and opened into an antechamber with a barrel-
vaulted ceiling. Six huge pillars carved from the natural rock divided the burial chamber into two side aisles and a central nave, each with a barrel-vaulted ceiling.
Though a rectangular recess was cut into the floor of the burial chamber for a sarcophagus, no sarcophagus was found. In addition, there were four rectangular niches in the north and south walls and two in the west wall. The whole of the chamber was surrounded by a moat-like corridor that could be entered by way of steps leading down from in front of the antechamber doorway. Another set of steps led to the corridor from the west end of the nave. Indeed, the whole arrangement is not unlike the Osireion, a symbolic Osiris tomb built by Seti I at Abydos.
During the reign of Taharqa, the Assyrians were becoming a growing threat. In fact, his successor, Tantamani, after having briefly received the submission of all the Egyptian Delta
rulers, was then forced back by the Assyrians to Napata. Nubian rule of Egypt gradually came to and end as Psamtik I, an Egyptian under Assyrian control, consolidated his powerbase in Egypt. Nevertheless, Tantamani and his successors would rule a territory that extended from the First Cataract (at Aswan) south to the White Nile for the next 350 years.
Though Tantamani returned to el-Kurru to build his pyramid, 21 kings and 53 queens and princes were buried at Nuri under pyramids built of good masonry, using blocks of local red sandstone. In general, they were all much larger than those at el-Kurru, reaching heights of twenty to thirty meters. They had mostly consistent plans, with chapels built against the eastern faces decorated with reliefs and a stela built into the pyramid masonry depicting the king before the gods. The substructures almost always include stairway trenches to the east of the chapels that gave access to chambers, including two or three rooms, which were sometimes inscribed with the "Negative Confession" from the Egyptian Book of the Dead.
Their burial practices were largely Egyptian. They were mummified in Egyptian fashion, and their burials included multiple shabtis (some 1070 in Taharqa's pyramid alone). The royal mummies were adorned with gold jewelry, green stone heart scarabs, gold chest pectorals and gold caps on on the fingers and toes. The kings were also equipped with crooks and flails. The coffins were anthropid, made of wood and covered with gold leaf and inlaid with colored stone. There were sometimes outer coffins that were even more elaborate, covered with gold and stone inlays with the motif of falcon and vulture wings. Several bodies of kings, notably those of Anlami and Aspelta (about 568 BC), were placed in huge granite sarcophagi. Aspelta's in particular weighed 15.5 tons and had a lit weighing four tons, carved with Pyramid Texts, chapters form the Book of the Dead, and depicting various Egyptian gods.
The Nubian pyramid field at Nuri continued to receive the bodies of the royalty until about 308 BC. Afterwards, the site of Meroe, further south between the Fifth and Sixth Cataracts rose to prominence as a royal cemetery. No evidence has really surfaced about why this transfer was made, though there is some speculation that the Meroe may have slowly gained importance beginning as early as 590 BC, after Psamtik II campaigned in northern Nubia. He may have defeated King Aspelta's army and marched on Napata, but much of this is very uncertain.
In fact, Peter Shinnie, one of the excavators at Meroe, has pointed out that no settlement has ever been found at Napata (near Nuri), and no royal residence may have ever been located at that site. On the other hand, Meroe was settled as early as the 8th century BC. It may have predated Napata, and even been the cultural and political center all along. At any rate, it provided a somewhat more comfortable cushion of land separating it from Egypt.
Meroe would remain the royal cemetery for 600 years, until about 350 AD. The main heartland in this area, known today as Butana, was better known to ancient writers as the "Island of Meroe". It is bounded on three sides by the rivers Nile, the Atbara and the Blue Nile. Most traffic from Napata to Meroe, however, took the road along the Wadi Abu Dom that cuts across the great bend of the Nile from the Fourth to the Sixth Cataracts. Meroe was repeatedly a refuge for Napatan and Meroitic kings when they retreated from world powers who penetrated down the Nile. It lay just beyond the reach of the Roman Empire, with which it was tied economically through trade.
The Pyramid Fields of Meroe in Nubia (The Sudan)
Some writers have described Meroe as one of the largest archeological sites in the world. The actual settlement of Meroe is just about one half mile east of the river and its cemeteries lie in the desert somewhat farther east. The first known, major king to build his tomb at Meroe was Arkamaniqo (sometimes referred to as Arikakaman, known to Diodorus as Ergamenes). He
ruled at about the same time as Ptolemy II in Egypt. His pyramid was built in the South Cemetery, which had actually been in use since the time of Piye. There were as many as three kings buried here, including Yesruwaman and Kaltaly, as well as six queens, but the crowding caused by more than 200 individual graves prompted future royalty to move across a narrow valley to a curving ridge, where they initiated a North Cemetery. As many as 30 kings may have been buried in the North Cemetery. A third cemetery at Meroe, known as the West Cemetery, includes brick-faced and rubble pyramids of lesser royalty surrounded by a host of graves, many of which are well furnished, belonging to important private households of Meroe.
Like Nuri, these pyramid are fairly standardized. They are all steep-sided pyramids built of sandstone, with a height between ten and thirty meters. As at Nuri, they are stepped and built on a plinth, though here each triangular face was framed by smooth bands of raised masonry along the edges where the faces meet. Note that the pyramids at Gebel Barkal also have this feature.
Where the upper parts of the pyramids are preserved, these lines are rounded, like the torus
moldings on the corners of Egyptian temples, for the upper fourth of the total pyramid height.
Against the eastern side of the pyramids was situated a chapel, often fronted by miniature pylons.
Towards the end of the Meroitic period, the pyramids are no longer stepped, but smooth and the casing blocks become much smaller laid on a poorly constructed core. In fact, the last of these pyramids were built of rubble and brick and had a plastered surface.
For the substructure, they have an eastern stairway descending to a blocked doorway in front of usually three adjoining chambers. Normally, two of the chambers had square pillars carved from natural rock, with a third, innermost smaller chamber. Ceilings were slightly vaulted in earlier chambers and more roughly hewn, round vaulted in later ones.
At Meroe, the body of the deceased was buried in the innermost chamber in a wooden anthropoid coffin placed on a raised masonry bier. The finer ones were carved with divine figures. Relief scenes in the chapels attached to the pyramids, including depictions of mummies and the remains of canopic equipment, suggest that at least the royal bodies were still mummified. Excavations unearthed bodies that were adorned with gold and silver jewelry, along with bows, quivers of arrows, archers' thumb rings, horse trappings, wood boxes and furniture, bronze lamps, bronze and silver vessels, glass bottles and pottery. The chamber nearest the entrance often contained wine amphorae and food storage jars.
Here, and elsewhere in Nubia, kings and even wealthy commoners also took with them to their graves servants who were apparently sacrificed at the time of their master's funeral. Animals, including yoked horses, oxen, camels and dogs were also slaughtered and interred outside the entrances of the burial chambers.
A famous treasure, known as the Ferlini Treasure named for its discoverer, the Italian explorer, Giuseppe Ferlini, was unearthed in 1830 in one of the North Cemetery Pyramids (Beg. N.6). This was the pyramid of Queen Amanishakhto who lived during the late 1st century BC. Ferlini reported that this cache of gold rings, necklaces and other ornaments was found in a secret chamber at the top of one of the pyramids, with obvious results. Soon, other treasure hunters
were lopping off the tops of the other pyramids. In fact, the treasure was almost certainly found in one of the subterranean chambers.
The re-emergence of the royal pyramid after some 800 years is an interesting case of the transfer of an architectural, as well as a religious idea from one region and culture to another. It seems that the Nubians, for a considerable period of time, probably had a rather high regard for their neighboring culture to the north. When Egypt floundered, the earlier Nubian kings who took control of Egypt sought to turn back time to a more classical Egyptian past, and they took some of this past home when they left Egypt.
The Nubian pyramids are characterized by smaller scale, with steeper slopes, but they are far more numerous, considerably more standardized and owned by more members of the royal households (and probably non-royals as well) than the classical Egyptian pyramids. When the Nubians stopped building them, the pyramid as a marker for a royal tomb would be no more.
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Treasures of the Pyramids, The
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Pharaoh and a Temple Chantress present offerings to Amon-Re. The lady on the left wears the crown of Lower and Upper Egypt. Art from Gebel Barkal, by Ernst Weidenbach, 1845.
Incense and gifts for Pharaoh, protected by winged Isis. Artist uncertain, perhaps Weidenbach.
Reconstruction of the Gebel Barkal temples.
Gebel Barkal, on the western edge of modern Karima, Sudan, is an isolated sandstone butte 1km from the right (northwest) bank of the Nile and about 20km downstream from the Fourth Cataract in Upper Nubia (18°32' N, 31°49' E). Triangular in outline, the mountain is about 1km in circumference, rises 102m from present ground level, and faces the river with a sheer cliff 93.06m high. Marking the location of the ancient city of Napata, it is bounded on the southeast by a huge cult precinct and on the west by an ancient cemetery, including royal pyramids. Described in the early nineteenth century by George Waddington and Barnard Hanbury, Frédéric Cailliaud, Louis Linant de Bellefonds, George Hoskins, John Lowell, Richard Lepsius and John Gardner Wilkinson, among others, the site was briefly excavated in 1897 by E.Wallis Budge for the British Museum and in 1907 by James Breasted for the University of Chicago. The first major excavations were undertaken by George Reisner and his Harvard University-Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) Boston expedition from 1916 to 1920. These investigations have been followed more recently by an expedition of the University of Rome, under F.Sergio Donadoni (1972 to present), by a renewed expedition of the MFA under Timothy Kendall (1986 to present) and, from 1996, by an expedition of the Fundacion Clos, Barcelona, in the Barkal cemetery.
From at least the 18th Dynasty, Gebel Barkal was identified as a sacred hill. The Egyptians declared it the chief Nubian residence of the Theban god Amen, and for this reason they called it “The Pure Mountain” ( ) and “Thrones [or Throne] of the Two Lands” (Nswt [or Nst]-T3wy): or the source of Amen’s most ancient epithet (Lord of the Thrones of the Two Lands). The name “Napata” (Npt) is thought to have been derived from the word ipt (sanctuary, forbidden place), and the god worshipped here, by the 19th Dynasty, would come to be called “Amen of Napata,” or, by Meroitic times, “Amanapa.”
The Egyptians, and perhaps the earlier Nubians as well, attached religious significance to the mountain because of the unusual freestanding pinnacle on its southwestern corner. Viewed from different angles, this statue-like, natural rock formation appeared to them variously as (a) a uraeus (sacred cobra) wearing the White Crown of Upper Egypt, (b) a uraeus wearing a sun disk, and (c) an erect phallus, evocative of the procreative forms of Amen/Re-Atum. The mountain came to be seen not only as a primeval source of creation, but also as the original home of the sun god’s uraeus (the “Eye of Re”) and the king’s uraeus, and thus an important source of kingship.
Pottery of the Neolithic, Pre-Kerma and Kerma periods has been found on or beside the mountain, indicating that the site probably had been continuously occupied long before the Egyptians conquered Upper Nubia in the early 18th Dynasty. A cave site on the western cliff of Gebel Barkal was apparently frequently visited in pre-18th Dynasty times as a source of the fine white clayey material kaolinite. The earliest evidence of Egyptian settlement and building activity is from the reign of Tuthmose III. His stela at Gebel Barkal, dated to his 47th regnal year, is the first to mention Gebel Barkal by name and to refer to an existing native settlement and a newly built Egyptian fort called “Repelling the Foreigners.” The fragmentary stela describes a miracle by which the Egyptians identified the mountain with Amen, although there is reason to believe that the Egyptians may have identified a ram-headed local Nubian god as an alternate form of their own supreme god and to have simply taken over a pre-existing sacred place.
Tuthmose III built the first Amen sanctuary (labeled B 500-sub by Reisner) at Gebel Barkal. The stela at Amada of Amenhotep II is the first to record a town here called Napata, from whose “walls” a Syrian chief was said to have been hung. Temple building activity continued under Tuthmose IV, who added temples B 700-sub, B 600-sub and B 300-sub. During the Amarna period (reign of Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten), the name of Amen was methodically erased from local monuments, revealing that the king even attempted to eradicate the local cult in Nubia. It was restored, however, under Tutankhamen and Horemheb, who erected the nucleus of temple B 500. This temple was greatly enlarged in the 19th Dynasty by Seti I and Ramesses II, with the addition to it of a hypostyle hall (B 502), probably of 72 columns. After Ramesses II’s reign all evidence for building activity ceases, and the temples appear to have fallen into ruin and disuse until the advent of the earliest Napatan monarchy (circa 850–800 BC).
The Amen cult and sanctuary at Gebel Barkal were revived by the native Nubian kings buried at nearby el-Kurru. Why they became adherents to the Egyptian cult of Amen remains unclear, but one theory suggests that their conversion may have been brought about by expatriate Theban priests, fleeing persecutions caused by civil disturbances in Upper Egypt at the end of the 22nd Dynasty. The earliest Napatan temple (B 800-sub) was of mudbrick with stone columns, and this can almost certainly be attributed to Alara (circa 785–760 BC), the first Napatan king known by name. Its stone extension, as well as the lowest level of the adjacent Napatan palace (B 1200), can be attributed to his successor, Kashta (circa 760–747 BC), the first Kushite king to reign also in Egypt. His son Piye (circa 747–716 BC) refurbished the old Egyptian temple B 500, first encasing it in new masonry and adding new rooms, then later restoring the hypostyle hall (B 502) with 46 columns and adding a new outer court (B 501). He also refurbished B 800 in stone. These parallel Amen temples are presumed to have been dedicated to Amen of Napata and Amen of Karnak, respectively, since each god was said to have conferred upon the Kushite kings a half part of their kingship. Piye’s son and third successor, Taharka (circa 690–664 BC), added temples B 200 and 300, dedicated to the goddesses Hathor, Mut, Tefnut and Sekhmet, who were all aspects of the “Eye of Re,” manifested in Gebel Barkal’s uraeiform pinnacle beneath which the temples were built. He also placed a statue and inscription, covered with gold sheet, on the summit of the pinnacle.
Tanutamei (circa 664–553 BC), the last Kushite ruler of Egypt, contributed a kiosk (B 502) inside B 500. His successor Atlanersa (circa 653–643 BC) started construction on the smaller temple B 700, but died before it was completed, leaving the work to be finished by his heir Senkamenisken (circa 643–623 BC). This temple seems to have been dedicated to the Osirian aspects of Amen, as well as to the Nubian god Dedwen, and all deceased kings; its bark stand is now in the MFA, Boston. B 800 and 1200 were again restored during the reign of Anlamani (circa 623–600 BC); the latter was completed by Aspelta (circa 600–580 BC). Shortly afterward the temples and palace were burned, and the many royal statues in B 500 were pulled down and vandalized. This, and contemporary damage noted at other Napatan sites, is almost certainly to be attributed to the invasion of Nubia by the army of Psamtik II (26th Dynasty) in 593 BC.
Although this destruction may have been a primary cause of the move of the Kushite court to Meroe, the Gebel Barkal sanctuary seems to have been restored during the sixth century BC. Unfortunately, no royal names can yet be connected with this restoration. In the early fourth century BC Harsiotef again restored B 800, B900 and the palace B 1200, and Nastasen restored Taharka’s pinnacle monument, adding his own name to it. Both Harsiotef and Nastasen also set up stelae at Gebel Barkal detailing their works at the site, works that can no longer be traced in the archaeological remains. Following a probable final restoration of B 1200 by Amenislo (circa 260–250 BC), a new palace (B 100) was erected about 75m in front of the former during the second century BC.
The rock ledges of Hillet el-Arab, immediately southwest of Gebel Barkal, were evidently used continuously as a burial place beginning in the New Kingdom; they are honeycombed with rock-cut tombs and are presently being excavated by a joint Sudanese and Italian Mission under Irene Vincentelli-Liverani. The desert area immediately west of Gebel Barkal was also a cemetery, probably as early as the 25th Dynasty, and a ruined royal tomb, recently discovered by the archaeological mission of the Fondacion Clos, apparently belongs to the mid-sixth century BC. Again, in the early third century BC, a king, perhaps Arnekhameni, selected the site for his pyramid tomb and those of his several queens. While his immediate successors preferred to build their tombs at Meroe, more royalty erected their pyramids at Gebel Barkal during the second and first centuries BC.
Prior to the second century BC, the Gebel Barkal sanctuary seems to have been centered primarily in an arc around the pinnacle, with its western extremity marked by B 200 and its eastern by B 1700, the yet unexcavated temple bakeries. Later, however, when Meroe was the capital of the Kushite state, there was a massive new development of the area northeast of B 1700. Several new temples were built (B 1800–2400), which have not yet been excavated, as well as a large new palace (B 1500), which replaced B 100. B 500 was extensively restored, and a new kiosk (B 551) was added in front of B 501. All of this construction probably dates to the reigns of Amenishakheto, Natakameni and Amenitore, a program very likely undertaken as a result of the reported destruction of Napata at the hands of the Roman general Petronius about 24 BC.
Throughout most of the history of Kush, Gebel Barkal remained the most important religious center of the kingdom, and was for many centuries the primary center for coronations and kingship ritual. After the decline of the Meroitic kingdom (circa AD 350), the site became a Christian village and cemetery.
Dunham, D. 1970. The Barkal Temples. Boston.
Kendall, T. 1991. The Napatan palace at Gebel Barkal: a first look at B 1200. In Egypt and Africa: Nubia from Prehistory to Islam, W.V. Davies, ed., 302–13. London.
——. 1997. Excavations at Gebel Barkal, 1996: report of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Sudan Mission. Kush 17: in press.
Reisner, G.A. 1931. Inscribed monuments from Gebel Barkal. ZÄS: 76–100.
Robisek, C. 1989. Das Bildprogramm des Mut-Tempels am Gebel Barkal. Vienna.