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 Monday, 20 January, 2003, 17:47 GMT
Black pharaoh trove uncovered
Black pharaoh [pic: Toulouse Museum]
The Nubian kings ruled 2,500 years ago

A team of French and Swiss archaeologists working in the Nile Valley have uncovered ancient statues described as sculptural masterpieces in northern Sudan.

The archaeologists from the University of Geneva discovered a pit full of large monuments and finely carved statues of the Nubian kings known as the black pharaohs.

The Swiss head of the archaeological expedition told the BBC that the find was of worldwide importance.

The black pharaohs, as they were known, ruled over a mighty empire stretching along the Nile Valley 2,500 years ago.

Breathtaking

The pit, which was full of ancient monuments, is located between some ruined temples on the banks of the Nile.

It had not been opened for over 2,000 years.

Inside, the archaeologists made a breathtaking discovery.

The statues of the black pharaohs are highly polished, finely carved and made of granite.

The name of the king is engraved on the back and on the feet of each sculpture.

The head of the expedition, Charles Bonnet, described them as very beautiful.

He told the BBC they were sculptural masterpieces.

They were important not just for the history of Sudan but also for world art.

Savagely destroyed

The Nubians were powerful and wealthy kings who controlled large territories along the Nile.

Their land was known as the Kingdom of Kush.

They controlled the valuable trade routes along the river but were eventually conquered by their neighbours from the north.

The ancient Egyptians made the pit into which the monuments and statues were piled.

Many of the sculptures were savagely destroyed, with smashed heads and broken feet.

Professor Bonnet says that this shows that the Egyptians were not content with simply conquering Kush.

They also wanted to obliterate the memory of the black pharaohs and their unique culture from the face of the earth.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Ishbel Matheson
"It hadn't been opened for over two thousand years"
See also:

04 Feb 00 | UK
17 Sep 02 | Middle East
05 May 02 | Middle East
15 Nov 00 | Science/Nature
13 Nov 00 | Scotland
17 Feb 00 | Middle East
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