The nature and development of Meroitic architecture
Ali, Ahmed Mohammad
University of Cambridge
Division of Archaeology
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Ali, A. M. (1971). The nature and development of Meroitic architecture (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.11448
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The foundation of the scientific studies of the culture and history of Meroe began at the beginning of this century. The excavation by Gars tang of the town of Meroe showed the scope of Meroitic culture from its beginning to its final years. The excavation conducted by Wellcome near Sennar when added to the knowledge gained during the early Nubian surveys and the excavation of Karanog showed the geographical extent of this culture. The work of Reisner laid the foundation of Meroitic chronology. Finally, Griffith's decipherment and studies of Meroi tic language laid the foundation of another aspect of Meroitic studies, i.e. the stt1dy of the script and language of Meroe which is not the field of this present work. The work of these founders had been preceded by a longer period of exploration which started with the accounts of the early 19th. century travellers. The German expedition led by Lepsius in 1842 was able to document and supplement these earlier accounts and paved the way for a scientific approach to the study of Meroitic culture, fe r its own sake. The work of Lepsius was utilized by Reisner in his chronological reconstruction and by Griffith in his lj_nguistic research. After Lepsius, the only effort made in the field of Meroitic studies resulted from the accidental discovery of several stel~e found at Gebal Barkal. The conclusion derived from the study of these inscriptions was an unfavourable view of a declining and debased copy of an Egyptian civilization (Erman 1907: 200). However, following the conquest of the Sudan in 1899 several exploratory journeys were carried out and their findin gs on the Meroitic remains contributed towards the formulation of more moderate view (Ward 1905, Budge 1908, Breasted 1908/9, Scott-Monc1"eif 1909, Crowfoot 1911, Maspero 1912). At the same time these jorneys were a st1�ong contributary factor in bousing interest in the culture and antiquities in the Sudan and in particular, in the Meroi tic phase. As a matter of fact, it was upon this interest that the excavations of Garstang, Wellcome, Griffith and Reisner were based, though none of these four was himself to publish a final report of his work. As a result Meroi tic studies advanced relatively little, and it is but recently that interest in Jveroe and its cultuI'e has began again. The aim of this study is to follow the architectural evolution by discussing the various types of architecture . f& 6~1MS~~ and then, by choosing particular examples, ~a historical perspective can be built up by the study of the various periods of architectural activity. It has great relevance to two important problems. The first concerns the presentte of two different cultures: the so-called 'Napatan' and 'Meroitic' with a considerable hiatus separating them and still connected with this first problem, the question of the existence during the latter culture of two contemporary independent kingdoms which should have resulted in a further cultural differentiation of some kind. In both respects there is a marked degree of cultural continuity in which I find it very difficult to justify the presence o f either a hiatus or a duplication of culture at any one time. As a matter of fact, while the evidence for cultural continuity is overwhelming there is a marked absence of such evidence to indicate other wise. In view of the above considerations, I am proposing the exten~ion of the term 'Meroitic' to include the period from Taharqa to the end of the royal burials at Begrawiya North cemetery. rrhe period before 'I'aharqa, following Reisner's suggestion, can b e termed as the "Ancestral P hase of El Kurru" which includes the so-called "Ethiopian" or the "Kushite" of the 25th. Dynasty of Egypt. I have divided too Meroitic period into three periods; however, as so oft en happens with any scheme of periodization, the dividing line between any two periods is difficult to define. Nevertheless, the prominent p art of the Early Meroitic Period is the reigns between Taharqa and Malenaqen. The Mi ddle Meroi tic Period includes the important reigns from Amani-nete-yerike to Nas tasen and also .Arnekhamani to Tanyidemani. The Late Meroitic Per iod starts in the first century B.C. and coneludes with the end of the kingdom in the fou r th century A. D. The second outstanding problem is one's standpoint ' - of view on the affinities of Meroitic culture and the interpretation of the Egyptian elements. This study has shown that the explanation for the use which the Meroites made of Egyptian cultur al form must come primarily from within the Meroitic cultural province rather than from Egypt of any period. On the other hand, instead of seeing the Meroitic culture as a long period of one thousand years of continuous decline and cultural degeneration, one can say that although Egypt formed a continuous source of cultural contact and inspiration, one cannot belittle the vigour and independence of the indigenous culture in this period � .Although, no doubt, there were periods of decline as well as periods of vitality and cultural change. Finally, it should be noted that this study is concerned primarily with monumental and court architecture. In the Mero it ic heartland the general lack of information on lower class architecture makes this preference unavoidable and provides no basis for comparison with the much fuller Lower Nubian evidence. Consequently I have allowed limitation of space and time to exclude from the lis.t # sites north of Faras, although some are mentioned in the course of discussion. In any case the majority seem to have come into existence late in the Meroitic Period and their exclusion does not affect the main argument.
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.11448