The desert expanses of the Sudan still hide countless historical treasures which are only gradually coming to light. The city of Naga was an important place in ancient times, but was forgotten over the millennia. Only now are scientists finding out how much it has to tell us.
In 1995 a team of researchers from the Egyptian Museum Berlin began to excavate the site of the city of Naga in the steppes northeast of Khartoum. The city had lain untouched for two thousand years. Numerous huge heaps of rubble marked the area. Four wellpreserved temples decorated with reliefs and inscriptions showed that, from 300 BC to 200 AD, Naga was a royal city of the Meroitic Kingdom, the powerful southern neighbour of Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt.
Over ten years of excavations, the Amun Temple was uncovered on its dominant position on a hill above the city. An avenue of twelve monumental ram statues lining the approach to the temple and the columns of the hypostyle discovered under rubble and winddriven sands were restored. Many of the findings in the temple – statues, steles, altars painted and decorated with reliefs, wall paintings – present an extraordinary wealth of new material for research.
A hill south of Amun Temple proved to be a veritable treasuretrove. More than 1500 relief blocks found there could be pieced together to recreate the pictures on the collapsed temple walls. Since October 2009 three wall panels with life-size depictions of Meroitic gods have been on permanent loan from the Republic of the Sudan to the New Museum in Berlin – a remarkable token of cultural cooperation.
The Naga project will end for the time being with the restoration of the Chapel of Hathor with funding from the Federal Foreign Office’s Cultural Preservation Programme. The combination of Pharaonic, Graeco-Roman and Meroitic forms is a reflection of the Meroitic Kingdom’s function as a bridge between Africa and the Mediterranean. State-of-the-art technology was used in the restoration. 3D strip light scanners produced a survey of the architecture accurate to the millimetre. On the basis of these findings, the badly damaged capitals were copied in synthetic stone. The originals are to be exhibited along with other artefacts in a local museum devoted to the excavations; the museum has been designed free of charge by the British architect David Chipperfield. In this way Naga can again become a focal point of the Sudan’s historical and cultural identity.
Project: Prof. Dr. Dietrich Wildung, Project Director, egyptian museum and Papyrus Collection, Berlin
Source: Worlds of Culture, Ed. Federal Foreign Office