Meroe Visitor Center Opening

The Visitor Center at the Archaeological Sites of the Island of Meroe is opening for guests. The Visitor Center is the gateway to the archaeological heritage of the heartland of the Kingdom of Kush. The themes explored across the Visitor Center panels reveal the ancient history of Sudan, archaeological discoveries at notable Sudanese sites, and other aspects of Sudanese culture, history, and economy.

In what follows, we will give you a short virtual tour of two of the Center’s rooms.

 

Panels from the room dedicated to the archaeological site of Meroe

Panel discussing the political implications surrounding the relocation of the Kushite Necropolis.

Panel discussing the political implications surrounding the relocation of the Kushite Necropolis.

The necropolis was relocated from Napata to Meroe at the beginning of the third century BCE. Before Meroe became the site of the royal necropolis, the pyramids of Kushite rulers were constructed at El-Kurru and Nuri. These sites are located several hundreds of kilometers north of Meroe, near Napata. The royal cemetery’s move has been interpreted as the final and most visible step during a gradual shift in political and religious power from the Napatan region to Meroe. This marked the end of the Napatan period and the beginning of the Meroitic period.

Panels exploring archaeological research regarding the Royal City, iron production at Meroe, and other aspects of the Meroitic economy.

Panels exploring archaeological research regarding the Royal City, iron production at Meroe, and other aspects of the Meroitic economy.

The Royal City of Meroe was the Meroitic Empire’s political and religious core. The remains of several royal palaces, spacious residences for important officials, and sacred buildings for the Meroitic gods are located inside and outside a massive enclosure wall.

The Iron Working panel describes recent research at Meroe indicating that the site was mass-producing iron throughout the Napatan, Meroitic, and Post-Meroitic periods, making it one of Africa’s longest continuously operating iron production centers.

The Other Aspects of Meroitic Economy panel reveals economic activities that were not related to iron production which were being undertaken at Meroe. This panel focuses on international trade and agriculture.

Panel showcasing the various types of pyramids constructed across Sudan.

Panel showcasing the various types of pyramids constructed across Sudan.

Several types of pyramids were constructed over the centuries in El-Kurru, Nuri, Jebel Barkal, and Meroe. Kings and queens, and some members of the social stratum just below royalty (such as generals and wealthy traders), were buried in underground tombs, typically with three chambers. Pyramids were built on top of these tombs and were often bounded by walls and a small chapel.

Panel detailing aspects of Meroitic society and urban life.

Panel detailing aspects of Meroitic society and urban life.

Beginning in the third century BCE and lasting until the mid-fourth century CE, the city of Meroe became a capital town of the Kushite kingdom. Located in a strategic position, which allowed easy access to trade routes leading to the Red Sea, to Ethiopia, and further south into sub-Saharan Africa, Meroe’s importance predated the third century BCE. Meroe was a settlement for the royal family, the court, an administrative and religious center, and a dwelling place for the general public.

 

Panels from the room dedicated to Musawwarat and Naga

Panel introducing the site of Musawwarat es-Sufra.

Panel introducing the site of Musawwarat es-Sufra.

The ancient monuments at Musawwarat es-Sufra attest to a singular sacral site. Its main structures, such as the Great Enclosure, the Lion Temple and the Great Hafir, were built during the Napatan and (Early) Meroitic periods of the Kingdom of Kush, between the sixth and second centuries BCE.

Panels focusing on female rulers of Kush and on the Great Enclosure at Musawwarat.

Panels focusing on female rulers of Kush and on the Great Enclosure at Musawwarat.

The Female Rulers of Kush panel reveals that female rulers were a central part of Meroitic government during its Classical Period.

The Mystery of the Great Enclosure panel focuses on a monumental structure uncovered at Musawwarat, whose function has been difficult to ascertain. Today, most scholars think the Great Enclosure was a religious site, but there have been many other hypotheses put forward over time. Perhaps the most imaginative interpretation, the notion that the structure was an elephant training camp has since been abandoned. Scholars arguing this position have pointed to the ramps, the large reservoirs for water, and the ubiquity of representations of elephants in both formal sculpture, reliefs, and graffiti. Other interpretations saw the complex as a royal hunting palace, a hospital, a trading station, a pilgrimage site, a national shrine, or the main sanctuary of the god Apedemak. Despite the fact that a consensus has not been achieved, the idea that Musawwarat and the Great Enclosure were chiefly of religious significance seems the most commonly supported position today.

These panels discuss the geographic and political position of Musawwarat and Naga, introduce the god Apedemak, and communicate key aspects relating to Kushite art and architecture, as revealed by structures from the site of Naga.

These panels discuss the geographic and political position of Musawwarat and Naga, introduce the god Apedemak, and communicate key aspects relating to Kushite art and architecture, as revealed by structures from the site of Naga.

The Apedemak: A New Supreme Deity panel discusses the rise in importance of this autochthonous lion-headed god. For centuries, the major temples of Kush had been built to honor the gods of the Egyptian pantheon, such as the supreme god Amun, who was closely linked to royal legitimation. With the shift of the Kushite kingdom’s political center to the south, however, the cults of the indigenous gods gained prominence. Paramount among these local gods was the lion-headed god Apedemak, whose first temple was constructed at Musawwarat.

The Beyond the Nile Valley panel reveals the political and geographic position of these two sites and discusses their similarities and differences. Beyond the Nile, Musawwarat es-Sufra and Naga are the two most prominent sites of the Island of Meroe. One interesting point of comparison between the two settlements involves the temples to the Kushite deity Apedemak. Musawwarat contains the earliest known temple of Apedemak, but the hieroglyphs at the temple tell us that the deity was lord of both Musawwarat and Naga.

The Naga’s Art and Architecture panel discusses the great variety of Meroitic art and architecture that is very well preserved in this nigh pristine landscape. A typical feature of the architecture of this site is the cultural and artistic synergy between local and external stylistic elements.

Panel discussing the area’s strategic position.

Panel discussing the area’s strategic position.

Because of the advantages conferred by its geographic position, the Island of Meroe was able to participate in both Nile riverine trade and terrestrial trade. This area linked the northeastern African interior with the Red Sea and the Mediterranean with sub-Saharan Africa. The Kushite trade routes to the Red Sea also connected them to the Near East. Kush therefore occupied a unique place—economically, geographically, and culturally—in the ancient world.

What to look out for…

We are excited to announce that the Meroe Visitor Center will soon be featured in a major travel publication. Stay tuned for more details!

Introducing the Visitor Center, Island of Meroe UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sudan

The Meroe Visitor Center will be the gateway to the archaeological sites of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Island of Meroe and to the archaeological heritage of ancient Sudan. Tourists arriving at Meroe, Musawwarat, or Naga will be given the information they will need to appreciate and understand this World Heritage Site, which is now rarely visited, as well as the nearby communities, and the surrounding environment that is dominated by the Nile River.

Meroe Pyramids

Between the mid-3rd century BCE and the mid-4th century CE, the Island of Meroe region was the center of power of the Kingdom of Kush, an important polity that had arisen in ancient Sudan during the 8th century BCE. The Kingdom had political and economic ties with the vast African continent to the south, with the Mediterranean World, and with Egypt, the Ancient Near East, and the Far East.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Island of Meroe is comprised of three distinct areas: the capital city of Meroe (which itself consists of an ancient town with temples, palaces, and necropoleis with scores of pyramids) and the settlements and religious centers at Musawwarat es-Sufra and Naga situated away from the Nile.

In addition to providing information about the three settlements of the Island of Meroe, the Visitor Center will also contain interpretive panels about other important Sudanese sites such as Hamadab, Abu Erteila, Berber, Dangeil, Wad Ben Naga, Mouweis, and Awlib.

Interpretive Panel introducing the site of Musawwarat es-Sufra

The Meroe Visitor Center is supported by the Qatar-Sudan Archaeological Project (QSAP) and by the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums (NCAM). Interpretive panels are being created by an international team comprised of scholars, heritage managers, and stakeholders based in Sudan, Germany, and in the United States, in coordination with the German Embassy and the United States Embassy in Sudan.

The Visitor Center is scheduled to open in the Fall of 2018.

 

 
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Creating a Sustainable Tourism Plan

In January 2014, following the convocation of the Workshop Towards Sustainable Tourism at Meroe, which took place in Khartoum, Sudan, a number of management objectives were developed, aimed at protecting the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Archaeological Sites of the Island of Meroe.

The Island of Meroe is the heartland of the Kingdom of Kush, a major power in the ancient world from the 8th century BCE into the 4th century CE. Meroe became the principal residence of the ruler, and from the 3rd century BCE onwards it was the site of most subsequent royal burials. It also has evidence for industrial activities, particularly iron-working. [The Archaeological Sites of the Island of Meroe] testify to the wealth and power of the Kushite state and to its wide-ranging contacts with the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern worlds: this is the meeting place of the Pharaonic and Classical worlds and Sahelian Africa.
— UNESCO World Heritage Site Nomination File
 
Title Page of the  Sustainable Tourism Plan

Title Page of the Sustainable Tourism Plan

 

In pursuit of achieving these management objectives, CSRM was commissioned to produce a Sustainable Tourism Plan. The main scope of this plan was to guide the development of a tourism program for the Island of Meroe World Heritage Site that would preserve the cultural and natural resources of the region, be a catalyst for social and economic benefits to its inhabitants, and provide visitors with an enjoyable and educational experience.

Management Zones

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Archaeological Sites of the Island of Meroe is composed of three different archaeological sites located several tens of kilometers away from each other. One of these three sites has been further divided here into two management zones.

Island of Meroe World Heritage Site Management Zones

Island of Meroe World Heritage Site Management Zones

The three archaeological sites are:

  •  The Meroe Town Site, located near the village of Begrawiya, by the Nile. The Meroe Town Site is further subdivided into two management zones: the Meroe Royal Pyramid Management Zone and the Meroe Royal City Management Zone.
  •  Naqa, a settlement located 30 km away from the Nile.
  • Musawwarat es-Sufra, a ritual site located roughly 25 km away from the Nile.

The management zones were established by considering the following:

  • The locations of archaeological sites and other areas of cultural importance
  • The distribution of natural resources and natural features especially relevant to the human use of the site
  • Infrastructure, including roads, trails, sources and distribution networks for electricity, water, and communication, sanitary facilities, and existing visitor amenities
  • Traditional use areas, which are places within the World Heritage Site that have special importance for local populations; this importance might be religious, social, or economic

Interpretive Themes

An interpretive program was established for the World Heritage Site. The program encompasses all of the projects and activities that are used to make the public aware of the site. Interpretive themes are the backbone of an interpretive program. With the aid of interpretive themes, the program helps visitors make their way through the site in an informed manner; after they have left, it guides visitors to further information, including to ways in which they can learn more about the site or help support it.

Guiding visitor experience through the use of interpretive themes engenders a deep level of engagement that provides an opportunity to convey an understanding of the site that visitors can take with them and use in many ways, from contemplating their place in human history, to making lifestyle choices, to informing their political opinions.

One important interpretive theme relates to religion. The Meroites made Apedemak their chief god, thereby solidifying their religious and regional identity. The earliest known temple to Apedemak is at Musawwarat (Photo credit: Dr. Cornelia Kleinitz).

One important interpretive theme relates to religion. The Meroites made Apedemak their chief god, thereby solidifying their religious and regional identity. The earliest known temple to Apedemak is at Musawwarat (Photo credit: Dr. Cornelia Kleinitz).

An essential objective of an interpretive program is to communicate in a lasting way the concepts, or themes, that are central to that site’s character and importance. Good themes capture a site’s most salient qualities and history, but they are also memorable and relatively easy to grasp, even during a short visit. The themes chosen were most important to an overall understanding of the site’s significance.

Some of the more important themes communicated to visitors had to do with the character, political structure, economy, religion, and culture of local political entities, such as the Kingdom of Kush (which spanned the first millennium BCE and the first few centuries CE), and with its relationship with neighboring powers, like Egypt.

Demographic Evaluation

A demographic evaluation was undertaken to understand the flow of visitors to the four management zones. It was discovered that visitors to the World Heritage Site belong to one of four distinct demographic groups, each of which have different needs, interests, and expectations. These groups are: foreigners who have traveled to Sudan expressly to visit archaeological sites and to learn about Sudanese culture, foreigners who temporarily reside in Sudan (expatriates), Sudanese citizens from Khartoum or other cities or villages in Sudan, and Sudanese students of all ages who come to the site on class outings.

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Visitors by Age and Continent of Origin.jpg

Demographic breakdown by age and geographic origin

Information about people who visited the four management zones was collected in four ways. These were: (1) through infrared sensors at the Meroe City Management Zone and at the Royal Pyramid Management Zone, (2) through a Geographical Positioning System (GPS) study undertaken by Dr. Cornelia Kleinitz at the Musawwarat es-Sufra Management Zone, (3) through survey forms collected from visitors to the Royal Pyramid Management Zone, and (4) through anecdotal information gathered from discussions with stakeholders.

Acknowledgements

Preparing the Sustainable Tourism Plan was a collaborative effort that involved support, guidance, and commentary from the following: Dr. Jane Humphris (University College London Qatar), Dr. Cornelia Kleinitz (Humboldt University), Dr. Karla Kroeper (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung), Dr. Hans-Ulrich Onash (Deutsches Archäologische Institut), Mrs. Alexandra Riedel (Deutsches Archäologische Institut), Dr. Silvia Schoske (Museum Ägyptischer Kunst München), Prof. Dietrich Wildung (Museum Ägyptischer Kunst München), Dr. Pawel Wolf (Deutsches Archäologische Institut), Dr. Simone Wolf (Deutsches Archäologische Institut). 

Doug Comer Announced as Member of the 2018 World Heritage Evaluation Panel.

The 2018 inscriptions on the World Heritage List have just been announced by the World Heritage Evaluation Panel. Through the authority of the World Heritage Convention, this panel reviews the nomination dossiers of and recommends World Heritage Sites to the World Heritage Committee. Long-standing policy dictates that the composition of this panel remains anonymous until after new inscriptions are announced. This year, Douglas Comer, Chair and President of US/ICOMOS, was a panel member. The panel consists of approximately thirty (30) invited ICOMOS members from around the world. They represent an extraordinary and diverse mixture of expertise and experience.

 
The 2018 World Heritage Evaluation Panel

The 2018 World Heritage Evaluation Panel

New UNESCO World Heritage Sites for 2018

The 42nd session of the World Heritage Committee has come to a close and the newly inscribed UNESCO World Heritage Sites have been revealed! 

Of the twenty inscriptions, thirteen are cultural properties, three are natural properties, three are mixed properties, and one property saw significant modifications to its boundaries. Of the thirteen newly inscribed cultural properties, five are located in Europe, three in Southwest Asia, two in Central Asia, two in East Asia, and one in Africa. Of the three newly inscribed natural properties, one is located in Africa, one in East Asia, and one in Europe. Of the three mixed properties, two are located in North America and one in South America.

Finally, it was the Bikin River Valley, a natural property located in the Russian Federation, that saw significant modifications to its boundaries.

Full list of newly inscribed UNESCO World Heritage Sites:

1.     Aasivissuit – Nipisat in Denmark

2.     Al-Ahsa Oasis in Saudi Arabia

3.     Ancient City of Qalhat, Oman

4.     Archaeological Border complex of Hedeby and the Danevirke, Germany

5.     Caliphate City of Medina Azahara, Spain

6.     Göbekli Tepe, Turkey

7.     Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region, Japan

8.     Ivrea, Italy

9.     Naumburg Cathedral, Germany

10.  Sansa, Buddhist Mountain Monasteries, Republic of Korea

11.  Sassanid Archaeological Landscape of Fars Region, Iran

12.  Thimlich Ohinga Archaeological Site, Kenya

13.  Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai, India

14.  Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains, South Africa

15.  Chaine des Puys - Limagne fault tectonic arena, France

16.  Fanjingshan, China

17.  Chiribiquete National Park – “The Maloca of the Jaguar”, Colombia

18.  Pimachiowin Aki, Canada

19.  Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Valley: originary habitat of Mesoamerica, Mexico


Did you know?

Percentage of World Heritage Sites by Region 

Percentage of World Heritage Sites by Region 

 

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