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Ancient Egypt

Nubian Black Pharaoh Trove Uncovered

by Ishbel Matheson, 20 January 2003

A team of French and Swiss archaeologists working along the Nile Valley in 2002 uncovered ancient statues in northern Sudan which were described as sculptural masterpieces.

The archaeologists from the University of Geneva discovered a pit full of large monuments and finely carved statues of the Nubian kings who were known as the black pharaohs. The Swiss head of the archaeological expedition said that the find was of worldwide importance.

The black pharaohs, as they were known, ruled over what seems to have been a mighty empire which stretched along the Nile Valley in the first millennium BC.


The pit, which was full of ancient monuments, was located between a collection of ruined temples on the banks of the Nile. It had not been opened for over two thousand years. Inside, the archaeologists made a breathtaking discovery. The statues of the black pharaohs were highly polished, finely carved, and made of granite.

The name of each king was engraved on the back and on the feet of their specific sculpture. The head of the expedition, Charles Bonnet, described them as being very beautiful, adding that they were sculptural masterpieces.

They were important not just for the history of Sudan but also for world art.

Savagely destroyed

The Nubians were powerful and wealthy kings who controlled large territories along the Nile. Their land was known as the kingdom of Kush. They controlled the valuable trade routes along the river but were eventually conquered by their neighbours from the north.

The ancient Egyptians made the pit into which the monuments and statues were piled. Many of the sculptures were savagely destroyed, with smashed heads and broken feet.

Professor Bonnet said this showed that the Egyptians were not content simply with conquering Kush. They also wanted to obliterate the memory of the black pharaohs and their unique culture from the face of the earth. They almost succeeded, as information on Kush is much harder to find when compared to Egypt.



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