On the 1st of Dec. 2006 there was a feast in the desert. After nearly 2000 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 together with the chairman and oth-er members of the board of the 'Society for the Promotion of the Egyptian Museum Berlin e. V.' took part in the rebirth of the temple in Naga which was only made possible due to the fi-nancial support of the German Research Foundation and also the 'Society' as well as private sponsors.
The Naga expedition is excavating, often with an international team, since 1995 in Naga. Af-ter long years with the Berlin Museum the Naga-Project was transferred in 2013 to the State Museum of Egyptian Art in Munich. Once or twice a year the excavation team continues its work 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 changed since the times of Lepsius' visit so that the archaeologist found an un-touched city site of ca. 1,5 km2 providing the opportunity to expose, excavate and restore ac-cording 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 gen-eral 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 built (around the mid-1st century 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 an-ciently and were partly buried under the sand. However after excavation it was possible to re-store, in part, the original appearance of the approach as most of the ram figures were refract-ed on their pedestals.
The hypostyle behind the 21m wide and almost 10m high pylon of which only the stone gate-way remains upright (the towers were built 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 up-right over the centuries. The relief on this column was already published by Lepsius in his 'Denkmäler aus Ägypten und Äthiopien' which were published between 1849 and 1859.
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 recon-struction 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 pavement 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 Thoth and inscribed with the names of the king Natakamani and the kandake 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 again covered with sand in order to preserve the delicate paintings on plaster.
An inconspicuous heap of stones existed south of the ramp leading to the Amun Temple to which, until 2003, no-one paid much attention. Cailliaud and Lepsius recorded the visible sur-face remains of a temple in this area and it was assumed that the building 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 meter 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 in the end 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 at Naga. Various blocks from the pylon show the king 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 Amanikhareqerema. Temple 200 is dated later than the Lion temple and the Amun Temple which were erected during the reign of Natakamani. King Amanikhareqerema is supposed now to have reigned at the end of the 1st century A.D.
Due to the generous contribution of the 'Society for the Promotion of the Egyptian Museum Berlin e. V.' the Naga team was able to start a new project of restoration in fall of 2005 of the chapel in Naga known 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 should be preserved and therefore no missing parts were reconstructed or added. The pre-sent 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 have been replaced by exact replicas preserving their actual appearance in solid artificial stone. As a result, the Hathor Chapel keeps the aura of a 'ruin' but in a stable, consolidated condition.
© 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 ex-treme 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.
Until 2009 the Naga Project was funded by the German Research Foundation, aided by dona-tions of the Society of the Promotion of the Egyptian Museum Berlin e. V. as well as private sponsors. Also funds of the Foreign Office for restoration work contributed to a great extend to the project.
Selected objects are exhibited as long term loans in Berlin (see the relief panels of Temple 200 in Level 0 of the Egyptian Museum), and a temporary exhibition in Munich and Berlin in 2011 has celebrated the results of many years of fruitful co-operation between Sudan and Germany.
Continuous reports on the progress of the excavation until 2013 are published in aMun, the magazine for the 'Friends of the Museum'. For the ongoing excavation see now naga-project.com
of the State Museum of Egyptian Art Munich.