Kerma, the first unified kingdom (and the Nuri pyramids)


In today's day we have deepened on a epoch of history before the Kingdom of Egypt and the Black Pharaohsspecifically the first unified kingdom with Kerma as capital. The route has led us, always along the Nile, to know a unique and unique adobe building asDefuffa, although beforethe ancient quarries of Tombus (Even the remains of a statue of King Taharqa abandoned in the desert about 2,800 years ago) had already allowed us to open our mouths. And the end of the day? What if I tell you that we have finished it off inNuri, with the pyramids of the Black Pharaohs of the XXV dynasty that ruled Egypt (including Taharqa itself) as a backdrop?

I live every day excited, more than the previous one, and David and Noe (who already knew they were 2 years ago) say that the best has not yet come. What else can an adventure like this have?

Tombus, the ancient granite quarry of Egypt in Sudan

"Good morning guys! To gain strength for another day in Sudan?"The truth is that I'm sleeping in luxury these days in the Traditional Nubian houses chosen byRaidan Travel Tours. If it is true that the accommodations in Sudan are very basic but nothing has to do with the lokandas, those communal patios with bed bases as a bed, shared sinks with a hole in the floor and very poor health conditions, which Paco Nadal defined in his "Horn of the Elephant". What is also missing are the jars that accompany each town and stop along the way with that water so important for life and that the Sudanese people offer as a symbol of hospitality to the visitor.

Like the day that we visited a school in Soleb (It was the day before yesterday but it seems that a century has passed), Mohamed proposes us to walk to our first visit and tour the town of Tombus, which seems an extraordinary idea to continue contextualizing what is the life of a local in this country. The "apparent relaxation" of the practice of Islamic law in front of other surrounding countries still catches my attention. Women do not always cover themselves and have no problem talking to us, in addition to continuing to wear beautiful dresses in bright colors even in these areas farthest from Khartoum that we might think a priori to be more conservative. Like all these days, we are received with that Arab kindness "extended to the Sudanese" which they have always shown and that the news muddles and confuses in an unfortunate wayto.

A meal, a cup of tea ... any excuse is good to be invited to enter by those colorful doors so characteristic which contrast sharply with the dust and suburbial appearance of these villages in the middle of nowhere. Another thing ... we continue to see many Atletico de Madrid t-shirts! Football unites civilizations ... how proud my father would be! (as is Patri who is from Atleti)

Sudan is the only country in the world where you are walking on a remote street that goes nowhere and you can find a statue sculpted 3,000 years ago! lying there

Well okay, maybe I exaggerated a bit in the text but I was looking forward to saying it. That statue of 3,000 years ago abandoned in the desert to its fate is the clear example of what many people had told me before coming, that Sudan is paradise for archeology lovers (and what remains to be discovered) although I never thought I could see things like that. Tombus (or Tombos) is an archaeological site on an island near the Third Waterfall that reveals what it was a black granite quarry in the pharaonic era. And yes, here they also come to receive us with curiosity as soon as they see us.

Tombus also explains that the Egyptians used Nubia not only to get gold and earrings, but to find quarries near the Nile from which to bring their main artistic creations. It seems that the lying statue that they wanted to transport Nile down, breaking their heads in the process, belonged to Pharaoh Taharqa already in full twenty-fifth dynasty of Egypt of "Black Pharaohs"

Mohamed tells us that he wants to show us more things on the other side of the road while 4x4 vehicles have just loaded all our equipment. Thus, we cross areas of crops that take advantage of the flood areas of the Nile to another kind of mountain boulders

Tombus also has a site full of stelae, hieroglyphs and pharaonic inscriptions, mostly carved during the 18th Dynasty of Egypt but that leave outstanding drawings such as that of Horus and Maat, that of Merymose worshiping the cartridge of Amenhotep III or a silhouette of Thutmose III that leaves evidence of Egypt's control beyond the third Nile River waterfall much earlier than previously thought .

At this time of the morning the sun doesn't hit the sun too much and it's nice enjoy a quiet time on the banks of the Nile, Right guys? At noon if something harder is done so imagine in summer that even archaeologists begin to leave the country in March. It must be impossible to visit it!

The expedition is ready. Sharaf with his almost perfect imitation of "Donald Duck" receives us. Let's go to the next destination!

The first kingdom unified with Kerma as capital

From Tombus to Kerma there is hardly a couple of hours on the way. This fact is what has allowed us to relax a little more than other days to go out since the idea is to spend the morning in this town. The route of the day will take us to Karima, as long as the unforeseen events do not appear like other days.

I can't help but be excited as we approach this point of the trip, the so-called Kerma Civilization complex. We are located about 15 km south of the Third Waterfall, those that serve as a reference in the entire route and that take us to what is considered the capital of a very very ancient civilization, of those many times eclipsed by India, China, Egypt and Mesopotamia as the great civilizations of the ancient world (some with origins beyond 5000 and 6000 B.C.) due to the enigmas or obscurantism or the little interest in redoing the history books that exist ... but before, Mohamed has saved us a surprise.

Charles "Kerma" Bonnet, as his colleagues call him, is 84 years old and is the dean of the archaeologists of Sudan and the main culprit that today this country is considered as the paradise for archeology. He has been working here for his last 44 years and has unearthed three temples in Sudan that could help uncover some of the secrets of ancient Africa. "The history of Sudan can play a role for Africa that Greece played for the history of Europe"Charles Bonnet welcomes us in espadrilles."Soon the hot season will come, we must prepare"

"I was one of those I thought as a young man that history was in Egypt. Of course, that happened before I got here"he tells us in a calm voice while he shows us a denture of a prehistoric elephant parent They just found and says they are 1 million years old! It is possible that never again in my life will I have something so old in my hands again (it is possible not, INSURANCE).

Bonnet has contributed to understanding 1,000 years of Sudan's ancient history that went unnoticed in the western world. "One fact that is overlooked is that Sudan has more pyramids than Egypt. If they let us work, in a few years there will be as much fascination with Sudanology as Egyptology. I am sure that in Kordofan there are huge sites with kingdoms to discover or in Darfur before the first sultans of the 16th century, or even in the Red Sea where the mythical Country of Punt was. "

Charles has a group of Italians waiting but we can't help but ask him the last big question. "What do you think has been your best discovery?"Don't doubt it,"the seven granite statues of the Black Pharaohs that you will see in the Kerma Civilization Complex museum"There we go

I still remember the most exciting day of the trip to Turkmenistan from a couple of years ago when the archaeologist Viktor Turik who had dedicated his life to the discovery, he detailed us before "a handful of stones" lost in the oasis of Murghab and called Gonur that constituted the clear evidence of a new civilization more advanced and prosperous than previous ones with origins beyond 7000 B.C. Excavations in Gonur Tepe revealed a unique culture of the call Oxus Civilization or Bactria-Margiana Civilization and today, perhaps not so old, we are in front of a culture of pastors identified since the year 7500 a. C. Do we open the door?

Kerma (The old name of the city is not known so that of the nearby city has been adopted) has shown that these pastors left nomadism and they settled around 4,800 B.C., domesticating their flocks and creating the first common cemeteries. As it happened to us in Gonur Tepe(or as many sites as the Babylonian cities in the Euphrates of Mari or Dura Europos in Syria), a good explanation and a general image are fundamental to understand what we are seeing here (the most valuable pieces are in the museum of the site that we will see later and in other museums of the world, including that of Madrid).

Something very important is that here we find a unique building that they believe were temples called Deffufa (which literally means adobe houses in Sudan). There is an Oriental in the nearby cemetery and the main building here would be the Occidental that came to measure 18 meters. Is considered one of the oldest buildings in Africa and of a constructive complexity comparable to the Egyptian pyramids.

The kingdom of Kerma was based on agriculture and livestock, its reddish pottery with black lid being characteristic, whose less usable remains we still see lying on the ground, made in the first furnaces. The buildings and houses were circular except those of cattle, rectangular although in this settlement there were already walls, sanctuary and the houses were transformed into rectangular. We talk about a time when the land was fertile and the weather was rainier, a time when the Egyptians were building their first pyramids and the Stonehenge Britons. At the end of 2012, what appeared to be the city walls was found.

The archaeological work in this place is fantastic because it should not be forgotten that Kerma had already had 2 previous settlements (they are called pre-Kerma) that were abandoned by the sudden change of the Nile River and this site, dating from 2,000 BC, had a mutually beneficial relationship with Egypt, at that time a similar and cordial power. Kerma sent ebony, ivory and exotic animals to the north but it was the gold extracted in the Nile Valley that seduced the Egyptians.

With the advance of Egypt, that ambition for gold was the one towards 1530 a. C. led to Pharaoh of Egypt Thutmose I to destroy them, conquering the city and kingdom of Kerma and using them as mercenaries and exclavos for his good gifts as warriors and archers. The Kushites were for the Egyptians a tribal people, black, inferior, in a clear racist vision. It is best to continue in the museum.

All the initial merit is of Reisner between 1913 and 1915 although it was re-excavated in 1973 and a careful study was carried out in 2005 by the hand of Matthieu Honegger and collected in the work of Charles Bonnet. Here the city of Dukki Gel is named as an original African architecture from around 1500 B.C. "No one knows this architecture ... It is completely new"said Bonnet.

To older, on January 11, 2003 they were discovered in a hiding place in this city 40 pieces of seven monumental statues of Black Pharaohs of which the great archaeologist was especially proud

The statues represent the last 2 kings of the XXV Dynasty of Black Pharaohs, Taharqa and Tanwetamani, who dominated Egypt and 3 of the first kings of the Napata, Senkamanisken, Anlamani and Aspelta dynasty.

AND why were they destroyed? It is believed that the Egyptian pharaoh Psamético II sent a military campaign with Libyan mercenaries around 591 B.C. in order to attack the descendants of the sovereigns of the XXV dynasty in the Kush. Subsequently, after the massacre, it is believed that he retreated north of the First Waterfall again and Aspelta himself would send the remains of the statues to bury.

Nuri, the necropolis of the Black Pharaohs

Not later than 13'00, we have abandoned the Nile course heading to Karima. The group is quieter than ever, even when we stop at another one of those "road bars" (read the quotes well) in which to enjoy another "made in Sharaf" menu that some tasting restaurants already want. Maybe if we improve the place a little we will achieve that Michelin ...

I think we are all aware that from the same day of the flight to Khartoum when we told abrief history of Sudan, the fundamental objective was to look for the vestiges of the XXV dynasty that ruled Egypt and returns again and again to these writings. Finding Egyptian or even medieval Christian sites was within reason but Kerma has left us speechless and on our long route of the day, about 4 hours that separate us from Karima, this time if with paved road finally, we are meditating on it.

Karima is synonymous with the Kingdom of Napata and that is the Sudan's main claim as that land of Kushites who became the Black Pharaohs of Egypt for seven decades. Today we visit the place where they rest ... if you can say so. David and Mohamed have changed the plans a bit and want to get to Nuri to watch the sunset ... And we got it!

Nuri, along with El-Kurru, are the necropolis chosen by these kings to achieve immortality after death.Nuri, also within the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Napata, houses more than 60 pyramids that have survived the adverse weather conditions of the centuries in two separate plateaus. The highest point is occupied by the pyramid of the most famous Kushita pharaoh and the one that brought Nubia to its fullest, Taharqa. From here you can see Jebel Barkal, a sacred mountain that we will visit in the next few days, which could be the reason for his decision, it is believed that he created a link related to the rise and fall of the Nile the day the sun was setting exactly after this, coinciding with certain seasons of the year.

Pyramids? What is the point of this? The Egyptian pharaohs abandoned the burial under pyramids in favor of the modern temples of Thebes, now Luxor, and in adjacent shrines. The Kushite kings, however, recovered the tradition of burying themselves in pyramids partly the result of the cult in Jebel Barkal to the Tebano god Amun

Around of the pyramid of taharqa, the highest with 52 meters, there are 3 differentiated subgroups where mothers, wives and other women of the king's rank were buried, all of them excavated by George Reisner in 1917 in his day but in quite bad condition.

However, something draws attention. These pyramids that we see are very different from the egyptians.

THE ENIGMS OF NUBIA (VOL7): The origin of the Kushite pyramids is in ... Thebes

When someone visits Luxor in Egypt (we have not been on the date of this trip) they usually explain that it is a population built on the ruins of Thebes, capital of the New Empire in Ancient Egypt, at a time when the great pyramids are left behind. and the pharaohs and queens prefer to be buried in great temples. However, almost forgotten to visitors, you can see the remains in poor condition of a simple construction with a few meters high but very vertical walls commissioned by a pharaoh of the 17th Dynasty without knowing that it would be the last in the next three dynasties (which would bury their dead under graves). Who would imagine that that little stylized stone pyramid was going to serve as inspiration for the XXV dynasty of Black Pharaohs centuries later and that would fill Napata and Meroe with replicas to this day?

These small pyramids dotted by Nuri and throughout the Nubian territory constitute a particular record to consider. Sudan is, today, the country that concentrates the largest number of pyramids in the world As Bonnet told us, ahead of Egypt or Mexico itself and, with the sun going down the horizon, it is a good time to leave the cameras and enjoy a unique moment in a privileged location.

In case the enigmas are not enough, Mohamed gives us a piece of information that takes us for a moment to that great mystery of the 21st century unresolved in the distant lands of Xi'an with the Terracotta Warriors. Reisner, in his 1917 exploration, found in the tomb of Pharaoh Taharqa, more than 1,000 shawabti !, a kind of army of statues that would accompany him to the next life. Is there a connection between the two?

While we sat down to enjoy, the group of Spaniards we had seen the other day appears in the Soleb templeand again I see the girl who recognized me. How small is the world, right? These things had never happened to me before. A big kiss and, if you read us, write us!

Karima, as a city, is still another town of low adobe houses, with a certain aspect of suburb but bigger than the ones we've been these days. Here we will sleep in another local house something simpler and more communal than these days but equally neat. I have even taken the opportunity to shave and take a "relaxing cold shower" before dinner although today I am exhausted and, after putting the appliances to charge (we also have electricity again), I put an end to my day.

Behind we leave a new and intense day through the places of the North of Sudan in which we have not only finished with a special sunset in Nuri in front of the first pyramids of the trip and necropolis of the Black Pharaohs that we were looking for, but in which we have learned that in this area of ​​the planet there was a civilization older than the Egyptians themselves founded by the kingdom of Kerma and that Sudan still hides many secrets for digging up, right Charles "Kerma" Bonnet?

Isaac (along with the Pobes Expedition), from Karima (Sudan)