A team of Italian and Russian archaeologists has made what the Sudan Antiquities Service is calling the most important discovery in the last decade. A basalt ritual altar, a base for a sacred boat, and a hieroglyphic inscription were uncovered at Abu Erteila, around 200km north of Khartoum, shedding new light on the Nubian civilisation that existed between the 1st century BC and 1st century AD.
The archeological mission is funded by the International Association of Mediterranean and Oriental Studies (ISMEO) and the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IOS RAS). The finding, AGI learned, is the fruit of the eighth round of excavations conducted from November to December 2015 by the international team led by Eugenio Fantusati, his deputy Marco Baldi, and by Eleonora Kormysheva.
The mission was also officially recognised by the Italian foreign ministry. “We’re still studying the text of the hieroglyphic inscriptions in Egyptian, but we’ve already identified the cartouches with the names of the royal couple they mention,” Professor Fantusati stated. “They are King Natakamani and Queen Amanitore, who ruled during the Golden Age of the Meroitic civilisation that developed on the Nile. It played an important role on the international stage: consider the fact that it had commercial and diplomatic ties with the Roman Empire, up to its decline owed to the rise of the Ethiopian Kingdom of Axum.”
The findings were made in the ruins of a temple that was most likely destroyed by a fire; they are currently being carbon-dated to ascertain the exact date of the event. The base for a sacred boat was located in the “naos” or central hall of the building, which harboured a Nubian deity periodically placed on a boat for a ritualistic procession.
“The artifact is extremely important for a better understanding of the Meroitic world – which is still quite unknown – and its relations with the nearby Egyptian civilisation,” Professor Fantusati added. “It lends further prestige to the Abu Erteila site, whose official vestiges now certainly rank among the most interesting findings in contemporary Nubian archeology.”
The temple’s environment also allowed the team to form a clearer image of the building, integrating and enriching what had been discovered in previous digs. The mission’s first campaign was launched in 2008 with the support of Sudanese authorities.