Society for the Promotion of the Egyptian Museum Berlin

Naga - Excavation-Project

   
On the 1st of Dec. 2006 there was a feast in the desert. After 200 years the Amun Temple was rededicated a second time, this time not by a Meroitic king Natakamani and queen Amanitore but by the Sudanese minister for culture youth and sports as well as by the German ambassador in Khartoum. The general director of the State museums of Berlin as well as the representative of the German Research Foundation as well as the chairman and others members of the board of the 'Society' took part in the rebirth of the temple in Naga which was only made possible due to the financial support of the German Research Foundation and also the 'Society for the Promotion of the Egyptian Museum Berlin' as well as private sponsors.
 
The Berlin expedition is excavating, often with an international team, since 1995 in Naga. The large royal city located about 35 km distant from the Nile in the steppes is first mentioned in texts of the Meroitic period in the 3rd century B.C.
 
After the ancient city was rediscovered through the French men LINANT DE BELLEFONDS and CAILLIAUD in the year 1822 it was only in 1844 that a first scientific documentation of the ruins in Naga took place by Richard Lepsius during his Prussian expedition along the Nile valley.
Exactly 150 years thereafter the Egyptian Museum Berlin was given the excavation permission by the National Corporation of antiquities and Museums in Khartoum.
Nothing had chanced since the times of Lepsius' visit so that the archaeologist found an untouched city site of ca. 1,5km2 providing the opportunity to expose, excavate and restore according to the most modern and cautious methods .
 
 
The temptation to work at the same time on many of the various hills, temples, graves and palaces was great, however scientific discipline prevailed. Concerted effort was invested in a surface survey of the city and the excavation of the great temple of Amun resulting in a general plan of the site which serves as a basis for further investigation over the next decades and the recovery of the largest sanctuary at Naga.
 
 
 
 
The Amun Temple was build (ca. 50 B.C. until 50 A.D.) on an artificial hill placed against a natural terrace at the foot of Jebel Naga. The large temple once painted white was therefore visible throughout the large city. Twelve ram statues interrupted by a way station (kiosk) line the approach to the temple. All of the statues and their bases had collapsed anciently and were partly buried under the sand. However after excavation it was possible to restore, in part, the original appearance of the approach as most of the rams figures were refracted on their pedestals.
 
Hypostil behind the 21m wide and almost 10m high pylon of which only the stone gateway remains upright (the towers were build of brick and have collapsed) was completely filled with rubble and sand. Of the 8 columns which once stood in the hall only one remained upright over the centuries. The relief on this column was already published by Lepsius in 1845 in 'Denkmäler[n] aus Ägypten und Äthiopien'.
Since 2005 a Berlin restoration team ('Restaurierung am Oberbaum') is working together with the archaeologist in Naga and have used exemplary methods for the re-erection and reconstruction of 5 columns using only original material where available.
 
During the feast on Dec. 1st 2006 the guests were able to walk from the entrance gate to the sanctuary on the ancient stone plaster which lines the central path through the temple. A copy of the altar found during the excavation in 2000, decorated with delicate reliefs including the gods Horus and Thot and inscribed with the names of the king Natakamani and the queen Amanitore, was placed in the sanctuary in 2006 since the original has been moved for safe keeping to the Museum in Khartoum.
In another room the unique painted altar, discovered in 2000 showing two pairs of gods tying plants together, was once again exposed to view although; after the celebration, however, it was once again covered with sand in order to preserve the delicate paintings on plaster.
 
At the site of Naga there exists an inconspicuous heap of stones south of the ramp leading to the Amun Temple to which, until 2003, no-one paid much attention. Cailliaud and Lepsius recorded the visible surface remains of a temple in this area and it was assumed that this temple had been destroyed down to the floor level. A routine check of these scant remains by the Berlin expedition in 2004 resulted in surprising materials. More than one metre of the temple walls remain upright, covered by the stone debris of the fallen upper parts of the walls.
Further examination of the area in front of the temple exposed a raised altar with ramp leading up to it, followed by a small chapel ("kiosk") with intercolumnar walls and floral capitals all of which have collapsed outward, followed by the main temple itself.
Hundreds of loose relief blocks have been found in front of the pylon and along the inside and outside walls. Despite the fact that they are no longer in situ, it is possible to reconstruct most of the original decoration since the motifs have close analogies with the decoration of the Lion Temple. Various blocks from the pylon show the king (and the queen?) smiting the enemies. The iconographic details of the raised arms and raised fingers of the prisoners, the lion accompanying the ruler, the garment decorations of the king and the row of bound foreigners under the feet of the ruler as well as the stylistic execution, are strong arguments for a date of this temple immediately before or after the erection of the Lion Temple built under king Natakamani in the first half of the 1st century A.D.
The name of the builder of Temple 200 is mentioned in the hieroglyphic inscriptions on the blocks of the pylon, giving his names Neb-Maat-Rê and Amanikharekerema. For the moment it is not clear if Temple 200 is earlier or later than the Amun Temple which was erected during the reign of Natakamani, since the chronological position of king Amanikharekerema is not yet certain.
 
Due to the generous contribution of the 'Society' the Egyptian Museum Berlin was able in fall of 2005 to start a new project of restoration of a architectural monument in Naga know as the so-called 'Roman Kiosk' .
During a sondage in 2004 a collapsed architrave block from the western door of the building decorated with the head of the goddess Hathor was found which indicates that the chapel served as a "Birth House", where the ceremony of the "Divine Marriage' was celebrated. The offspring of this "Divine Marriage" is the king in his half divine, half human aspects. This seems to confirm that the small building should be identified as a chapel or "Birth-House" (mammisi) associated with the Lion Temple.
The restoration begun in 2005 follows a stringent philosophy: The romantic impression of a ruin will be preserved and therefore no missing parts will be reconstructed or added. The present preservation of the building was recorded in 2005 by the most modern technology with a laser-based scanner. Architectural elements which are in a delicate state of preservation will be replaced by exact replicas preserving their actual appearance in solid artificial stone. As a result, the Hathor Chapel will keep the aura of a "ruin" but in a stable, consolidated version.
As the southernmost city of the Meroitic empire, Naga with its Hathor Chapel is also the extreme outpost of the Greco-Roman world in Africa. The Chapel of Hathor stands as a symbol of the Sudan in its function as a bridge between Africa and the Mediterranean world and functions as a witness to the ancient dialogue between the south and the north.
 
The restoration begun in 2005 follows a stringent philosophy: The romantic impression of a ruin will be preserved and therefore no missing parts will be reconstructed or added. The present preservation of the building was recorded in 2005 by the most modern technology with a laser-based scanner (see below, 3D-View Hathor-Chapel). Architectural elements which are in a delicate state of preservation will be replaced by exact replicas preserving their actual appearance in solid artificial stone. As a result, the Hathor Chapel will keep the aura of a 'ruin' but in a stable, consolidated version.
© Bauer Praus GbR, Gundelfinger Straße 43 A, 10318 Berlin, Germany

 

As the southernmost city of the Meroitic empire, Naga with its Hathor Chapel is also the extreme outpost of the Greco-Roman world in Africa. The Chapel of Hathor stands as a symbol of the Sudan in its function as a bridge between Africa and the Mediterranean world and functions as a witness to the ancient dialogue between the south and the north.
 
At the end of the project in 2009, financed by the German Research Foundation, a small site museum is planned, hopefully, to be built in 2009 by our mission. It will illustrate the history of ancient Naga and display the numerous works of art discovered there, including portions of relief walls from Temple 200. Selected objects may be exhibited as long term loans in Berlin, and a temporary exhibition in Berlin in 2010 will celebrate the results of many years of fruitful co-operation between Sudan and Germany.
Continuous reports on the progress of the excavation are published in aMund the magazine for the 'Friedens of the Museum'

Overview

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