These five archaeological sites, stretching over more than 60 km in the Nile valley, are testimony to the Napatan (900 to 270 BC) and Meroitic (270 BC to 350 AD) cultures, of the second kingdom of Kush. Tombs, with and without pyramids, temples, living complexes and palaces, are to be found on the site. Since Antiquity, the hill of Gebel Barkal has been strongly associated with religious traditions and folklore. The largest temples are still considered by the local people as sacred places.
Outstanding Universal Value
Gebel Barkal and the Sites of the Napatan Region comprise five archaeological sites on both sides of the Nile in an arid area considered part of Nubia. Together they cover an area more than 60 km long. The sites (Gebel Barkal, Kurru, Nuri, Sanam and Zuma) represent the Napatan (900 - 270 BC) and Meroitic (270 BC - 350 AD) cultures of the second kingdom of Kush. They include tombs, with and without pyramids, temples, burial mounds and chambers, living complexes and palaces. They exhibit an architectural tradition that shaped the political, religious, social and artistic scene of the Middle and Northern Nile Valley for more than 2000 years (1500 BC- 6th Century AD).
The pyramids, tombs, temples, palaces, burial mounds and funerary chambers set in the desert border landscape on the banks of the Nile, are unique in their typology and technique. The remains, with their art and inscriptions, are testimony to a great ancient culture that existed and flourished only in this region.
Gebel Barkal has been a sacred mountain since New Kingdom times (ca. 1500 BC). The Egyptians believed that their State God Amon resided in this "Holy Mountain". Today, the mountain is locally named (Gebel Wad el-Karsani) after a Muslim sheikh (saint) buried near the 100m high, flat-topped sandstone rock. The mountain is closely associated with religious traditions, since the tomb of this sheikh is still being visited by the local people for blessings.
Criterion (i): The pyramids, palaces, temples, burial chambers and funerary chapels of Gebel Barkal and the Sites of the Napatan Region and their related relief, writings and painted scenes on walls represent a masterpiece of creative genius demonstrating the artistic, social, political and religious values of a human group for more than 2000 years.
The corbel vaults of the tombs of Kurru constitute a new building technique which influenced Mediterranean architecture from the 7th Century BC onwards.
Criterion (ii): In terms of their architecture the sites of the Napatan Region testify to the revival of a once almost universal religion and related language: the Egyptian old script and the worship of the State God Amon.
Criterion (iii): Gebel Barkal and the other sites of the property bear an exceptional witness of the Napato-Meroitic (Kushite) civilization that prevailed in the Nile Valley from the 9th Century BC to the Christianization of the country in the 6th Century. This civilization had strong links to the northern Pharaonic and other African cultures.
Criterion (iv): The typology of the buildings, their details and the layout of the ensemble of the pyramids of Gebel Barkal, Nuri and Kurru with their steep angles and decorated sides, together with the painted rock-cut burial chambers, represent an outstanding example of funerary architecture and distinctive art that prevailed over a long period of time (9th Century BC- 4th Century AD). The mounds of Zuma represent a continuation of some aspects of this burial tradition up to the 6th Century AD.
Criterion (vi): Since antiquity the hill of Gebel Barkal has been strongly associated with religious traditions and local folklore. For this reason, the largest temples (Amon Temple for example) were built at the foot of the hill and are still considered by the local people as sacred places.
The building materials and shapes of the pyramids, palaces, temples, burial chambers and funerary chapels have not been altered or modified. The relief, writings and painted scenes have equally preserved their original design, texture and color.
The high degree of intactness of the attributes expressing Outstanding Universal Value gives the serial site's great integrity. The archaeological buildings are only very slightly affected by modern urban extensions. However, careful monitoring of the developments around the property needs to be carried out, especially urban extension on the Desert side.
The five sites are located in an exceptional river and semi-desert landscape almost untouched by modern development.
Most of the pyramids of Gebel Barkal are still preserved in their original shape and height. The relief and paintings on the walls of temples and burial chambers are equally well preserved. Even the monuments affected by the action of nature and man still demonstrate the original pattern of human occupation of the territory.
The limited inadequate restoration interventions of the last century are easy to remove and replace by others according to modern scientific standards.
The material remains, such as the inscriptions (Mut Temple) and the paintings (Kurru), express the revival of a once almost universal religion and related language: the Egyptian old script and the worship of the State God Amon.
The scene preserved inside the rock-cut temple dedicated to the Goddess Mut and representing King Taharqa worshiping God Amon seated inside the flat topped mountain testifies to the sacred nature of this mountain.
The site is connected with the greatest Kings of the Middle Nile Region, whose political power extended up to the Egyptian Delta and Palestine. One of their famous rulers, Taharqa, is the only Sudanese sovereign mentioned by name in the Old Testament.
All these attributes in terms of design, materials, art, inscriptions, location and setting express the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.
Protection and management requirements (2009)
The property is protected by the Antiquities Protection Ordinance of 1905, amended in 1952 and recently in 1999. A Management Council has been established and a resident site manager has been appointed. He is assisted by a group of technicians.
A management plan was prepared in 2007 and approved in 2009. This plan still needs to be fully implemented.
The sites are guarded by a military force from the Police of Tourism and Antiquities. Detailed topographic maps have been prepared showing clearly the boundaries of the property. A buffer zone which would provide a better protection to the property is still to be established on the five components of the property. This buffer zone is only partially established. A consultant company is preparing the design and cost for the fencing and basic infrastructure on the sites. A museum for the history of the region has been established within the compound of a tourist village at Sanam in cooperation with a local investor.
The Management Council will attract foreign partners to contribute to the ongoing efforts for the preservation of the archaeological heritage of the sites. There is still a considerable potential for research on the five components of the property.
Gebel Barkal and the other sites bear exceptional testimony to the Napatan, Meroïtic and Kushite civilizations that existed along the Nile between 900 BC and AD 600. The Amun temple at Gabel Barkal is a main centre of what was once an almost universal religion and, together with the other sites, represents the revival of Egyptian religious values.
The sites are on both sides of the Nile, in an arid area, considered as part of Nubia. The pyramids and tombs, being also part of the special desert border landscape, on the banks of the Nile, are unique in their typology and technique. The remains are testimony to an ancient important culture which existed and flourished in this region only.
Gebel Barkal is a natural hill 100 m above the plain surrounding it. Ever since antiquity the hill has played a special role in the religious life and folklore of the people of the region. Although a natural feature, because of its cultural significance it is considered to be cultural heritage. Excavations and surveys of the hill and its surroundings have revealed nine temples, all at the foot of the hill and facing the Nile, palaces, administrative structures, pyramids and other kinds of tomb. The largest of the temples is that dedicated to the god Amon. Many of the temples are decorated and have carved hieroglyphic inscriptions. Unlike the temples, which are built from stone, many of the palaces were made from earthen, sun-dried bricks. The necropolis - the field of pyramids - is part of the royal Napatan-Meroïtic cemetery. Many differences exist between these pyramids and their more famous Egyptian models. The Napatan-Meroïtic pyramids reach the maximum high of 30m and have a different construction and stone-finishing technique. The most important difference is their function. Unlike the Egyptian pyramids, which were built to enclose and hide the burial chamber, the Napatan ones are commemorative monuments to the deceased, buried in a hypogeum underneath. In front of the pyramid a small temple was built, for offerings. The 30 explored tombs are accessible by stairs and most of them are decorated, whether with paintings or engravings. The Gebel Barkal site has vast archaeological areas that have neither been excavated nor studied.
The Napatan cemetery of El-Kurru is situated 20 km from Gebel Barkal. It includes several royal tombs and royal family members' burials. In the cemetery, in use between the 9th and 7th centuries BC, there are different types of tombs, from the most simple, covered with a small tumulus, to the most elaborate with a pyramid on top. Of these 34 tombs were excavated between 1916 and 1918. The cemetery of Nuri contains 82 tombs. Most of the tombs have pyramidal superstructures. The first burial in Nuri is from 664 BC and the last from around 310 BC. The tombs contain one, two or more burial chambers, some decorated, others plain. Other structures at Nuri include funerary chapels, a church and houses.
Sanam is situated in the modern town of Meroë. The site includes a residential area, never excavated, and a vast 'popular' cemetery with more than 1500 burials and a large temple. An enigmatic structure, called 'the Treasury' because of some finds, is the largest structure on the site: its function is unknown. Zuma is a vast unexplored burial field, covered with small tumuli. It represents the period between the end of the Meroïtic culture in the 4th century AD and the arrival of Christianity to Nubia in the 6th century.
Archaeological excavations at Gebel Barkal have not reached yet the earliest strata. In the vicinity of the site, excavations revealed human activity from the 3rd millennium BC. For the Egyptians of the New Empire, Gebel Barkal was a holy place: they made it a religious centre, and probably an administrative one as well. The best represented period in the region is the Napatan-Meroïtic. Napata or Gebel Barkal was the capital of the Kushite kingdom, probably already at the end of the 9th century BC, and kept its religious and administrative role until the 4th century. Kurru and Nuri are the two royal cemeteries and Sanam has a Napatan cemetery and a large unexcavated, town. Remains from the post-Meroïtic period have been found at El Kurru, Zuma and other sites. Christian period remains are found in the whole region. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Archaeological excavations at Gebel Barkal have not reached yet the earliest strata. In the vicinity of the site, excavations revealed human activity from the 3rd millennium BC. For the Egyptians of the New Empire, Gebel Barkal was a holy place and they made it a religious center and probably an administrative one as well.
The best represented period in the region is the Napatan- Meroitic.Napata or Gebel Barkal, was the capital of the Kushite kingdom, probably already at the end of the 9th century BC,and kept its religious and administrative role until the 4th century. Kurru and Nuri are the two royal cemeteries and Sanam has a Napatan cemetery and a big, not yet excavated, town.
Remains from the post Meroitic period are found El Kurru, Zumma and other sites. Christian period remains are found in the whole region.
History of excavations starts with 1842-45 exploration and documentation by Prussian expedition headed by Karl Richard Lepsius. In 1912-13 an expedition from the Oxford University, directed by F. L. Griffith, excavated at Sanam. The most important archaeologist for the archaeology of Sudan was George Andrew Reisner who excavated on behalf of the Harvard University and the Boston Fine Art Museum, from 1907 till 1932.
Recently excavations are being carried out by different local and foreign expeditions.
Source: Advisory Body Evaluation