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NUBIAN PYRAMIDS

Introduction :

The Nubian pyramids, south of Egypt’s border, are often seen as the Nubians trying to keep up with the Egyptians, but utterly failing to do so. Still, there are 223 pyramids in ancient Nubia, roughly double the amount of pyramids in Egypt. However, they are small in size; sceptics could argue it is quantity, rather than quality. Nevertheless, the 20th century British writer Basil Davidson described Meroë, one location in which a huge concentration of Nubian pyramids is located, as one of the largest archaeological sites in the world.

History :

There were three Kushite kingdoms: the first had Kerma as capital and existed from 2400 to 1500 BC; the second centred on Napata (1000 300 BC) and the third was that of Meroë (300 BC–300 AD).Originally influenced by their northern neighbours, eventually, the Nubians were even able to invade, conquer and unify Egypt, when the king of Napata ruled as a Pharaoh of the 25th Dynasty, a rule that ended with the Assyrian conquest in 656 BC.

Though the Nubian kingdoms must have been aware of the pyramids that lined the Nile valley further north, it was only during their domination of Egypt that the royal sites of Napata and its successor Meroë became associated with any pyramidal activity in Nubia itself. That the Nubian kings definitely saw the Egyptian monuments is known from an account of Pharaoh Piye. After taking control of most of Egypt, Piye set out for Heliopolis to worship the sun god and celebrate his coronation as king of Egypt, before returning to Napata the first series of Nubian pyramids were built at the site of elKurru and included the tombs of King Kashta and his son Piye (Piankhi), together with Piye’s successors Shabaka, Shabataka and Tanwetamani, and 14 queens’ pyramids. The Napatan pyramids were sited at Nuri, on the west bank of the Nile in Upper Nubia.

But the most extensive and best known Nubian pyramid site is at Meroë, which is located between the fifth and sixth cataracts of the Nile, approximately 100 kilometres north of Khartoum, the modern capital of Sudan.

The Nubian pyramids differ from the Egyptian edifices: they are built of stepped courses of horizontally positioned stone blocks and range from approximately six to thirty metres in height; they are, to all intents and purposes, rather unimpressive.

El-Kurru, about 13 km south from Gebel Barkal, was excavated by G. Reisner in 1918-19. The site includes, as mentioned, the pyramid of Piankhi, which has a base length of about eight metres and a slope of probably about 68 degrees much steeper than the 51 degrees of the Great Pyramid – though eight metres is, of course, miniscule compared to the floor plan of the Great Pyramid. It was the largest pyramid ever built at Nuri, and is unique among the Nubian pyramids in having been built in two stages. The first pyramid was encased in smooth sandstone. Drawings and written reports of the early 19th century reveal the truncated top of the inner pyramid projecting from the top of the decaying outer pyramid. The outer pyramid was the first of a type with stepped courses and planed corners. It had a sloped angle of about 69 degrees. An enclosure wall tightly encircled the pyramid, but Reisner was not able to unearth any traces of a chapel.

Geometry :
The physical proportions of Nubian pyramids differ markedly from the Egyptian edifices: they are built of stepped courses of horizontally positioned stone blocks and range from approximately 630 metres (2098 ft) in height, but rise from fairly small foundation footprints that rarely exceed 8 metres (26 ft) in width, resulting in tall, narrow structures inclined at approximately 70°. Most also have offering temple structures abutting their base with unique Kushite characteristics. By comparison, Egyptian pyramids of similar height generally had foundation footprints that were at least five times larger and were inclined at angles between 4050°.

(Source : http://www.philipcoppens.com/nap_art3.html)