Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Hello My Friend and Welcome. 

Technically, a pyramid is geometric solid with a square base and four isosceles (equal–sided) triangles forming its sides. But to most people a pyramid is any structure that is more or less shaped like a triangle.  

Say the word pyramid, and people immediately think Egypt. But they do exist in other places. An example is the Transamerica Building in downtown San Francisco. Even though it is technically not a pyramid, everyone calls it the Transamerica Pyramid. By this definition, the Assyrian Ziggurats are a type of pyramid as well as the Mayan temples of Central America. The last Egyptian pyramid was built in Abydos by the first king of the Eighteenth Dynasty, Ahmose I, who ruled from 1549-1524 BC. Remember that date; it’s going to become important. 

Interestingly enough, there are other pyramids — real pyramids, not just pointy structures —  on the African continent. As a matter of fact, the ancient kingdom Nubia (now known as The Sudan) had twice as many pyramids as Egypt. And you’ve probably never even heard of them until now. 

It was the Greek philosopher Strabo who, after meeting members of the Nabo tribe in the First Century, dubbed their land Nubia. A thousand years before Strabo was born, the Egyptians had called it Ta-Seti, or the Land of the Bow. In the Old Testament it is known as Kush and the only pyramid builder the Bible mentions is King Taharqa, who ruled from 690 – 664 BC. Let’s revisit those dates. Why did the Nubians…Ta-Setis…Kushites…whatever, begin building pyramids eight centuries after the Egyptians abandoned the practice? 

The answer lies in the historic relationship between the two regions. For over a thousand years the Egyptians dominated Nubia. The frescoes showing the Nubians bringing tribute to the Pharaohs depict them as darker and with curly hair. This was clearly intended to show that the Egyptians were different from, and therefore superior to, the Nubians.  

Frescoe of Nubians Bringing Tribute

But over time Egypt declined and Nubia eventually broke free. However, after thousands of years of commerce and interchange, the Nubians worshipped the same gods and shared the same culture. In 722 BC, when Egypt was at its weakest, the Nubian King, Piye, marched north and conquered his ancestor’s former masters. Rather than seeing themselves as outsiders, he and his successors called themselves Pharaohs and established Egypt’s 25th Dynasty.  

Yet when Piye died, he was returned to Nubia for burial and above his grave there was…you guessed it…a pyramid! Clearly these rulers saw themselves as cut from the same cloth as Egypt’s great rulers. Rulers who, as a testimony to their power, had been buried within pyramids. 

This is where we encounter another Nubian quirk. Their pyramids were not tombs. This confused grave robbers and archaeologists alike until it was discovered that the Nubians cut their burial chambers in to the bedrock. The stairway leading to the burial chamber would be filled in after burial and the pyramid constructed on top. In order to accomplish this, the deceased successors would have to have constructed the pyramid. In effect the pyramids were nothing more than an elaborate tombstone.

This practice continued for 300 years. Eventually the Assyrians drove the Nubian ruler out of Egypt and the Nubians were forced into a long retreat into the southern reaches of their homeland.  They began building pyramids in an isolated area called Meroe around 270 BC and, out of contact with Egypt and the rest of the world, continued for hundreds of years.

Christianity eventually reached the kingdom of Meroe and sometime around 350 AD a king of Meroe built the last pyramid ever constructed on the African continent.

Queen Amanishaketo"s Gold & Jeweled Bracelet

You can thank treasure hunter Guiseppe Ferlini for the deteriorated condition of the Nubian pyramids. He obtained permission to explore and excavate in 1934 from the governor of Khartoum. After fighting off lions, he arrived at Meroe and struck gold, the jewels of Queen Amanishaketo who ruled around the time of the birth of Christ. Rather than admit that he had discovered her underground burial chamber, he said he found the jewelry in a chamber at the top of the pyramid. When word spread, other treasure-hunters flocked to the area and began tearing open the tops of the pyramids searching for treasure that wasn’t there. The end result was lots of damaged pyramids. 

On Friday, we’ll be examining the ancient game known as Tabula. 

Until then, we wish you Peace and Blessings. 

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1 comment:

From Carols Quill said...

I so enjoy your posts; always learn oodles. Thanks, E.G.