Unlike the Egyptian Pyramids which supposedly served as tombs and where the Pharaohs were ‘buried’ inside of the monuments, the Pyramids of Sudan have a key difference: the tombs of the pharaohs were placed beneath the structure, instead of inside them.
And it is beneath these ‘forgotten pyramids’ where a group of archeologists exploring the hot desert of Sudan has made a mind-boggling discovery
Thousands of years ago, the land of Nubia was home to the Black Pharaohs and a collection of ancient pyramids that although not as big as the Egyptian ones, are equally fascinating.
Some of these pyramids were explored, partially at least, by archeologists several decades ago.
One of these pyramids, belonging to Nastasen, was explored around a century ago. It was forgotten and buried by the sands.
Exploring the Pyramid
Packed with diving gear and their must-have archeological tools, archaeologists wanted to take a peek inside the tombs of the ancient Pharaoh.
But, make no mistake, the mission is much more difficult than it sounds.
To get to the tombs, the archaeologists had to overcome a number of obstacles.
The biggest one was water: In order to access the passageways and chambers beneath the pyramid, researchers had to dive through mud-filled water.
Luckily for them, the tomb that they were now exploring was already entered into by George Reisner, a Harvard Egyptologist that had visited Nuri a century ago.
The interior of the ancient burial that had briefly been excavated by Reisner and his team-
Reisner had visited Nuri, located on the west side of the Nile, discovering a burial chamber beneath the pyramid of Taharqa, the largest of the 20 pyramids that served as tombs for the Kushite royalty.
His discovery changed the way we see the Nubian Pyramids and revealed new mysteries that were waiting to be revealed. Reisner and his team also succeeded in mapping more than 80 royal Kushite burials, a quarter of which are topped by Pyramids, reveals archeologist Kristin Romey, who details their journey in an article by National Geographic.
It was thanks to Reisner’s work that archeologists knew that many of the burials were filled with water, making traditional archeological excavations an impossible task.
Reisner and his team excavated Nastasen’s pyramid briefly.
According to his notes, one of his team members entered the tomb making his way to the final chamber.
There, he managed to dig a small pin in the corner, eventually collecting small figurines to be used in the Pharao’s afterlife. The items were collected, and Reisner and his team left. The tomb was eventually forgotten, at least briefly, as it was buried under the golden sands of Egypt.
That is until recently when archaeologist and National Geographic grantee Pearce Paul Creasman decided to follow Reisner’s footsteps, and enter the tomb.
It was precisely in the pyramid belonging to Nastasen, and after accessing a submerged tunnel and three chambers filled with water, that underwater archeologists discovered a trusted-trove of artifacts inside the submerged tomb of a Pharaoh called Nastasen, ruler of Nubia and the Kush Kingdom from around 335 BC to 315 BC.
After making it through a staircase leading to the tomb of Nastasen, archaeologists encountered an underground water table.
To go further, they needed to put on their diving gear and work some underwater archeology.
Packed with oxygen tanks and archeological tools, they wanted to see what the tomb was like.
Led by Creasman, the team made their way into the unknown.
“There are three chambers, with these beautiful arched ceilings, about the size of a small bus, you go in one chamber into the next, it’s pitch black, you know you’re in a tomb if your flashlights aren’t on,” Creasman revealed in an interview with the BBC News. “And it starts revealing the secrets that are held within.”
“Creasman and I both trained as underwater archaeologists, so when I heard that he had a grant to explore submerged ancient tombs, I gave him a call and asked to tag along,” she wrote. “Just a few weeks before I arrived, he entered Nastasen’s tomb for the first time, swimming through the first chamber, then a second, then into a third and final room, where, beneath several feet of water, he saw what looked like a royal sarcophagus. The stone coffin appeared to be unopened and undisturbed,” revealed archeologist Kristin Romey, in an article on National Geographic.
Water levels were high, and were a result of what experts described as the “rising groundwater caused by natural and human-induced climate change, intensive agriculture near the site, and the construction of modern dams along the Nile.”
Nonetheless, the scientists made their way into the tomb, eventually surfacing with fragments of gold foil that once covered figurines inside the ancient tomb.
The third and final chamber beneath the pyramid is where experts believe the Pharaoh is buried.
Creasman and Romey accede the chamber in their diving gear and floated just above the 2,300-year-old undisturbed sarcophagus of Nastasen.
Now, packed with experience, and knowing what to expect, their aim is to return to the site in 2020 and attempt to excavate the burial chamber in what they themselves argue is an audacious and logistical challenge.
To learn more about the Nubian Pyramids and their priceless treasures visit nuripyramids.org.