Other than the pyramids, two other sites, Naqa and Mussawarat, together make up the UNESCO archaeological sites of the Meroitic Empire. Naqa is one of the largest ruined ancient city centers in Sudan with the remains of two important temples, Temple of Apedemak and Temple of Amun. The Temple of Apedemak was dedicated to the Nubian lion-headed warrior god. It was believed that Apedemak brought victories and was the guardian of the deceased king and anyone who touched his grave would be cursed by Apedemak. Built in the 1st century AD, the Temple of Apedemak in Naqa is considered a classic example of Kushite architecture. On the gateway to the temple are reliefs depictig Natakamani and Amanitore exerting divine power over their prisoners with lions at their feet. Here you will see Natakamani and Amanitore portrayed with Nubian features of round heads and broad shoulders and especially Amanitore who was depicted with unusually wide hips. Amanitore was a warrior queen who co-ruled the empire with Natakamani though it is unclear whether she was his wife or his mother. The fact that the king and queen are equal in size in the bas relief shows that queens or candaces were important rulers ruling side by side with the king. Here on the gateway in particular, you can see Queen Amanitore wielding a sword which is usually carried by the king while King Natakamani holds a battle axe. On the sides and rear of the temple are reliefs depicting the king and queen making offerings to the gods Amun, Horus, Apedemak, Isis, Hathor, and Mut. A few meters away is a Roman kiosk with a combination of Egyptian, Greek, and Roman styles. The entrance is Egyptian topped by a lintel with a row of cobras while the columns have Corinthian capitals in the Roman style.
Not far from the Temple of Apedemak is the Temple of Amun in Naqa. Amun was one of the most important deities in Ancient Egypt and was believed to be self-created (without father or mother) and the king of all gods. A row of rams guard the Temple of Amun designed in Egyptian style with an outer courtyard, a hypostyle hall, and an inner sanctuary, similar to the Temple of Amun at Jebel Barkal and in Karnak in Egypt. Archaeologists have discovered a rare painted altar with the names of King Natakamani and his queen Amanitore written in hieroglyphs. In this altar room was also a stone stela of Queen Amanishakheto believed to have ruled before Natakmani. There is a sunken relief of the queen with the goddess who was the consort of Apedemak, the lion god.
North of Naqa in the desert is Mussawarat which is another ancient settlement with a large Lion Temple and several other Temples. The Lion Temple is believed to be built around 230 BC by King Amekhamani and is a typical Meroitic one-roomed temple dedicated to the Kushite lion god Apedemak. It is dated to be about 200 years older than the Temple of Apedemak at Naqa. The walls inside the temple here have carvings of elephants and lions leading archaeologists to believe that there used to be many of them roaming the area in the past. The Lion Temple at Mussawarat is also an important testimony to the changes in religion from mostly Egyptian gods such as Amun to indigenous Kushite gods like Apedemak, Sebiumeker, and Arensunuphis which are depicted here for the first time. The Lion Temple was completely rebuilt and restored by the mission from Humboldt University in Berlin in the 1960s.
Also in Mussawarat is one of the largest building complexes found covering an area of about 45,000 m². The main structure remaining is the Great Enclosure built in the 3rd century BC with many columns, terraces, temples, and ramps for access by elephants all surrounded by walled courtyards. There are also sculptures of animals here in particular elephants. There is some debate about the purpose of the buildings with some suggesting it was an elephant training camp due to the discovery of elephant ramps and sculptures. Regardless of its purpose, it is widely believed that at least four Kushite queens lived here including Amanirenas, Amanishakheto, Nawidemak, and Amanitore.
My adventure in the deserts of Sudan quickly came to an end and we have to head back to Khartoum through the spectacular desert surrounded by huge granite boulders. I thoroughly enjoyed playing Indiana Jones in this remote land rarely frequented by tourists. Next post will be on some other sights we visited in the capital of Khartoum before our departure. Stay tuned!
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