7 August 2017

Sudan: Can Treasure of Nubian Queen Amanishaketo Be Retrieved?

analysis

Khartoum — Priceless 57 Pieces of pure gold, studded with jewels, were stolen in open daylight from her pyramid in Meroe in the early 19th Century and nobody can tell how this historically and artistically invaluable wealth can be returned to the country.

The treasure is now on display in Munich, Germany.

The treasure of the Kandake (queen) Amanishakheto was discovered in her pyramid at Meroe, however probably not in a funerary chamber inside the core of the pyramid as claimed by the Italian explorer, treasure-hunter, Giuseppe Ferlini, but more likely in the burial chamber below the pyramid.

General Manager of Sudan's Public Antiquities and Museums Corporation Abdelrahman Ali describes the theft "as the first documented robbery in the history of mankind" and "one of the biggest antiquities' thefts Sudan had seen."

Amanishakheto was a Nubian Queen, a valiant fighter and one of the most outstanding monarchs of the Sudanese Meroitic Kushite civilization of ancient Sudan. She is believed to have reigned from 10 BC to 1 AD. Her name was found in a manuscript in Meroe in which she was named "The Queen and The Ruler". Queen Amanishakheto is known to have repelled the invading Roman forces sent to conquer Nubia by Emperor Augustus. Consequently, Queen Amanishakheto obliged the invading Roman army to sign a fair peace deal.

Amanishakheto is known from several monuments. She is mentioned in the Amun-temple of Kawa, on a stela from Meroe, in inscriptions of a palace building found at Wad Bannaqa, from a stela found at Qasr Ibrim, another stela from Naqa and in her pyramid at Meroe.

Dr. Ali explains that Giuseppe Ferlini (a medical doctor in some reports) was in the company of the expedition sent by Egypt's ruler Mohammad Ali Pasha to conquer Sudan in 1821 AD that was also accompanied by several treasure and antiquities hunters. Giuseppe Ferlini's passion for treasures and antiquities led him to the Northern cemetery, east of the Royal City of Meroe (210 KM North of Khartoum) and to Pyramid No 6 in the Royal City, where the Queen was buried. Giuseppe Ferlini and his men in 1834 destroyed the pyramid to find what it was hiding.

Unlike Egyptian ones, the structure of Kushite pyramids does not make access to the inner chambers possible. Considering that, Ferlini and his men completely dismantled the pyramid from the top down. It is possible that he thought the chamber was inside it when in fact he was already beneath it. The poor pyramid was destroyed to its foundations!

In the process, Giuseppe Ferlini and his men removed granite blocks inside the pyramid to discover a rectangular room. The room walls were made of granite blocks parallel to the exterior staircase of the pyramid's facet. The room was 5 feet high. Inside the pyramid was found a big bowel covered with a cotton sheet. Below was a four-leg bed that looked like a platform or a coffin and then the Queen's treasure.

Dr. Ali said the treasure was made of a big collection of the Queen's jewels and ornaments and other royal belongings all of which were looted by Ferlini who later on sold them to a Prussian king in Germany. The collection then changed hands among European kings and princes until it finally settled down in the Staaliche Museum Agyptischer Kunst in Munich, under the name 'Jewels of Queen Amanishakheto.'

Dr. Ali said the collection "was carved in a superb artistic order". The treasure's collection is made up of 6 golden bracelets beautified with crystal and gems. It also includes a golden and crystal armlet and a necklace made of gems, ceramics and glass. Another necklace among the collection is made of 12 golden and crystal beads.

The treasure also contains 7 golden beads carefully beautified with crystal, a vase with two bronze supports, a perfume container with a wooden cover, a tiny statue for the god Amun made of gold and red agate, two golden statues of lions, a statue of a fox and another statue of the lotus flower.

It also contains a chain made of seven pieces of gold containing carvings of a goddess, a golden chain containing a carving of a beetle, a six-piece golden chain containing the key-like emblem of the god Amun.

Another characteristic of the treasure is the presence of a big collection of royal stamps in twelve groups, each group containing four pieces, then three pieces and then two pieces. All these stamps are made of pure gold and carry carvings of the god Amun and other gods all in different positions, either presenting a crown, sitting on the throne, or defeating the enemy etc... Pictures of lions, sheep, beetles and birds can also be seen. Finally, three small golden bells used for calling attendants are also found in the collection. The presence of this varied number of the stamps may signify the progress of old Nubian kingdoms and how progressive was Queen Amanishaketo in running the affairs of her kingdom, as every stamp may refer to a certain administration or royal order.

German Historian Karl Heinz Priese, who explored historical monuments in northern Sudan has revealed some resourceful information about this treasure, how it was stolen, how it was sold and how it was dispersed among European museums that competed to obtain valuable treasures and artefacts.

In his book "The Gold of Meroe",Priese gives a precise description of every piece of this collection and after every description he gives an explanation of the meanings of all the drawings and inscriptions each piece had contained.

He also accounts for a lot of information about the civilization of Meroe at that time.

The book is worth reading for the valuable information it contains about this treasure. The reader would, in addition, entertain himself viewing the photos of the treasure that clearly show the marvellous drawings and inscriptions on every piece of the collection.

Dr. Ali believes that the treasure can be retrieved in the future if and when Sudan fulfils the UNESCO's related conditions and agreements in this respect.

In the meantime, he hoped, the museum authorities may allow the people of Sudan to see the treasure on display at the National Museum here in Khartoum.

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