Ancient Sudanese gold and the tomb raiders (1)


           The north of Sudan is the land of many great civilizations. The land in the Sahara desert around the Nile from the first cataract to the sixth cataract  was called  Ethiopia by the Greek ( the new Ethiopia was Abyssinia at that time). The monuments of the kingdoms Kush, Napata and Meroe are unique. The palaces, temples, statues and most important their pyramids show the greatness of these civilizations.  

            These kingdoms were rich in gold (until now the mining for gold is going on) and they had incredible collections of handicrafts. These treasures are displayed in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin-Germany and in the State Collection of Egyptian Art in Munich-Germany. The story of how these priceless collection  have reached these museums is interesting.

          In the nineteenth century, the competition between the European kingdoms was fierce in founding and expanding museums. Italy, France and Germany ruler were fighting to occupy the land in Asia and Africa and to steal the treasures from these countries to bring the best collections for their palaces and museums. The atmosphere was perfect for the tomb raiders and the adventurers to travel and try their luck.

The Tomb Raider

Giuseppe Ferlini is an Italian doctor who served in Sudan as a military doctor with the Egyptian occupation army in 1830. After short period of service in Greece and Egypt where he learned about the old mysterious ruins and pyramids in the Sudan. In 1834 he decided to quit his service and start his adventure to EXCAVATE for treasures in the Meroitic ruins to sell them in Europe.

He started to dig in Naqaa, Wad Ban Naqa and Musawwarat EL-Safra. The combat mate doctor became a tomb raider failed to find the treasures.

The Treasure

Ferlini decided to head toward Albajrawia. This is a royal cemetery. kings and queens of Meroe were buried there. The highest pyramid was number 6. It belongs to the great famous queen Amanishakhito. Her wars against the Romans and victories were unscripted on the wall of her pyramid. The tomb raider found this precious monument. He decided to demolish it. By inforcing the locals. They started from the top. And started to dismantle the pyramid in a brutal way to find the treasure.

THE europeans didn’t believe his story. The mysterious Africa the land of blacks couldn’t have this high quality jewelries. Ferlini wrote a catalogue to describe his adventure.


Here are some of the tomb raider confessions

“While I was resting in this manner, I was summoned by faithful servant; whereby my companion and I got up and I raced back, my heart filled with high hopes of some delightful adventure.

”Having climbed the pyramid, we found the servant laying on his stomach on the exposed surface. over an opening that had been uncovered. the blacks wanted to drag the servant aside, so that they could reach down ”.

Having sent for some other faithful servants, we let them continue the work in our presence. The exposed opening was founded of poorly laid stones and permitted us a dim view into a cavity and its contents(in the rubble filling of the pyramid).

We had the large that lay above it removed, exposing a rectangular chamber whose four walls consisted of large blocks that were parallel to the steps of outer surface of the pyramid. The chamber was roughly five high and six or seven feet square.

The Gold

The first thing we saw was a large object covered by white cloth of cotton or linen, but the ancient cloth fell into shreds at a mere touch. Beneath it there emerged a four sided be(Cataletto) or bier (bara)made of wood, supported by four smooth feet shaped like round staves, and with sides formed of numerous pieces of wood, alternating large and small, depicting symbolic figures.

Under this bier I found a bronze vase, which contained objects wrapped in cloths of the same type as the above-mentioned.On the floor of the chamber next to the vase lay bits of glass paste and stones strung on threads into chains, also amulets , little idols, a metal case, little turned boxes, a saw, a mallet, and numerous other objects.

I gathered everything I had found and packed into leather satchels and in this manner hid the gold from ARABS. At night I pulled out of the satchels the precious objects that I will describe in my catalogue, I studied them with my soul filled with joy, I admired the gold work, and upon seeing the quantity of it, I realized it had to exceed greatly all that which I knew was spread throughout the museums of Europe. The carved stones, I felt , not only equaled the best works of the Greeks, but even surpassed them

The fate of the treasure

Ferlini wanted to drew attention to his unique findings. Publishing catalogue about the gold brought him the concern of Ludwig 1 of Bavaria who bought some of the cache in 1840 adding ninety objects to the Royal antiquarian. Now (The Staatliche Sammlung Agyptischer Kunst, in Munich).

.The destruction of the precious pyramid in this brutal way shocked thee archaeologists. They are still excavating the site for more discoveries.

The GREAT SUDANESE KANDAKA AMANISHAKHITO 300 B.C fought the Romans. Her inscriptions are telling us how powerful she was. She was followed by Kandaka AmaniRenas who continued her war and defeated Romans.

The rest of the treasure stayed with a British agent in London.

Lepsius another treasures hunter learned about the GOLD. Hence he tried to convince the Prussian ruler to purchase it, but the ruler refused. Lepsius decided to start his famous expedition in the Nile valley (1942-45).



The Gold of Meroe by Karl-Heinz Priese

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