Archaeological Sites of the Island of Meroe, Sudan

The best preserved relics of the Kingdom of Kush

By UNESCO World Heritage

Location (2011) by Archaeological Sites of the Island of MeroeUNESCO World Heritage

Located between the Nile and Atbara rivers, the Island of Meroe is the heartland of the Kingdom of Kush, a major power in the ancient world from the 8th century BCE to the 4th century CE. Meroe became the principal residence of the rulers, and from the 3rd century BCE onwards it was the site of most royal burials.

Meroe Pyramids (2011) by Archaeological Sites of the Island of MeroeUNESCO World Heritage

The property consists of three separate site components, Meroe, the capital, which includes the town and cemetery site, and Musawwarat es-Sufra and Naqa, two associated settlements and religious centres. 

Southern Cemetery (2011) by Archaeological Sites of the Island of MeroeUNESCO World Heritage

The Meroe cemetery, Musawwarat es-Sufra and Naqa are located in a semi-desert, set against reddish-brown hills.

West Cemetery (2011) by Archaeological Sites of the Island of MeroeUNESCO World Heritage

The pyramids at Meroe are outstanding examples of Kushite funerary monuments, which illustrate the association with the well preserved remains of the urban centre of the Kushite capital city, Meroe.

Immerse yourself in the heart of an ancient city and discover Meroe, the ancient capital of the Kushite Kingdom, in the Nile Valley in Sudan, here.

Pyramids (2011) by Archaeological Sites of the Island of MeroeUNESCO World Heritage

The architectural remains at the three site components illustrate the juxtaposition of structural and decorative elements from Pharaonic Egypt, Greece, and Rome as well as from Kush itself, and through this represent a significant reference of early exchange and diffusion of styles and technologies.

Great Enclosure - Musawwarat es-sufra (2011) by Archaeological Sites of the Island of MeroeUNESCO World Heritage

The site of Musawwarat es-Sufra, known to the Kushites as Aborepe, lies around 40 km south of Meroe. Constructed in sandstone, one of its features, the Great Enclosure, comprises individual buildings, store rooms, workshops, kitchens, walled enclosures, and ramps. 

Apedemak (lion) temple (2011) by Archaeological Sites of the Island of MeroeUNESCO World Heritage

The Lion Temple in Musawwarat es-sufra is situated about 600 m southeast of the Great Enclosure. It is a typical Meroitic one-roomed temple, dedicated to the lion god Apedemak, an indigenous Kushite god.

Column and Elephant (2011) by Archaeological Sites of the Island of MeroeUNESCO World Heritage

The site encompasses a wide range of architectural forms, including pyramids, temples, palaces, and industrial areas that shaped the political, religious, social, artistic and technological scene of the Middle and Northern Nile Valley for more than 1000 years (8th century BC-4th century AD).

Apedemak Lion Temple - Naqa (2011) by Archaeological Sites of the Island of MeroeUNESCO World Heritage

The Lion (Apedemak) temple, here in Naqa, is considered a classic example of Kushite architecture. Apedemak was a lion-headed warrior god worshipped in Nubia.

The front of the temple is an extensive gateway, and depicts Natakamani and Amanitore on the left and right exerting divine power over their prisoners, symbolically with lions at their feet. 

Naqa (2011) by Archaeological Sites of the Island of MeroeUNESCO World Heritage

The Kiosk is a small rectangular sandstone structure preserved almost to its roof level, standing a few metres to the east of the Lion Temple.

The Kiosk (2011) by Archaeological Sites of the Island of MeroeUNESCO World Heritage

Architectural and decorative elements show Pharaonic Egyptian, Hellenistic and local artistic influences and the building is thought to be a shrine to the goddess Hathor. 

Temple of Amun - Naqa (2011) by Archaeological Sites of the Island of MeroeUNESCO World Heritage

The Amun Temple stands to the east of the Kiosk. It is built of sandstone, red brick and mud brick. It is approached from the west by a long ramp which is lined on each side with six ram figures and is interrupted in the centre by a sandstone kiosk.

UNESCO site (2011) by Archaeological Sites of the Island of MeroeUNESCO World Heritage

The Archaeological Sites of the Island of Meroe was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2011 under Criteria: (ii)(iii)(iv)(v).

Integrity (2011) by Archaeological Sites of the Island of MeroeUNESCO World Heritage

The treasure hunting of Ferlini in the 1830s was very deleterious to some of the pyramids in the Meroe cemeteries. Inappropriate interventions which reduced the integrity of the site have not occurred since then.

Northern Cemetery (2011) by Archaeological Sites of the Island of MeroeUNESCO World Heritage

The Archaeological Sites of the Island of Meroe reflect the interchange of ideas and contact between Sub-Saharan Africa and the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern worlds, along what was a major trade corridor over a very long period of time. 

The interaction of local and foreign influences is demonstrated by the preserved architectural remains and their iconography.

Wall relief (2011) by Archaeological Sites of the Island of MeroeUNESCO World Heritage

The property with its wide range of monument types, well preserved buildings, and potential for future excavation and research, contributes an exceptional testimony to the wealth and power of the former Kushite state and its extensive contacts with African, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern societies.

The Kushite civilization was largely expunged by the arrival of Christianity on the Middle Nile in the 6th century CE.

Colonnade of rams (2011) by Archaeological Sites of the Island of MeroeUNESCO World Heritage

The three site components selected represent the capital city of the Kushite kingdom, Meroe, with its associated extensive burial grounds of pyramid tombs, and the kingdom’s two largest hinterland centres, Musawwarat es-Sufra and Naqa. 

Together they provide evidence of the size, and influence of the Kushite civilization at the height of power.

Credits: Story

This exhibit was created by the UNESCO Office in Khartoum.

More on the Archaeological Sites of the Island of Meroe and World Heritage: whc.unesco.org/en/list/1336


Photos: UNESCO Office in Khartoum, Ron Van Oers/UNESCO, Valerian Guillot, Retlaw snellac, TrackHD, Christopher Michel, Mauro Gambini, Nina R, Hans Birger Nilsen and Laurent de Walick.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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