SFDAS excavations

Post-meroitic imperial tumuli between the fifth and the sixth cataract



Directed by Patrice Lenoble.

Team : Mahmoud el Sheikh el Tayeb, Ussama Abdelrahman el Nur, Mohamed Hassan Basha, Hassan Bandi, Abdelrahman Ali Mohamed.

El-Hobagi, on the left bank of the Nile, 70 km upstream from Meroe, was excavated between 1985 and 1990 by a Franco-Sudanese mission (SFDAS/NCAM) led by Patrice Lenoble. Nothing in particular could have distinguished these post-Meroitic princely tumuli from the hundreds of others in the region. Seven tombs were identified and two were excavated. Considerable material was unearthed, comparable to the latest Meroe pyramids: funeral banquet vessels, war weapons traditionally found in the Meroitic royal insignia (bows, arrows, spears, archer’s rings, swords) as well as bronze vessels engraved with various elements of the Meroitic iconography (uraei, frogs, lotus flowers, etc). A goblet bearing a Meroitic hieroglyphic inscription, found in this post-Meroitic context, enables us to observe that the use of this writing didn’t disappear when the centralized authority of Meroe collapsed, as it was believed, but with the arrival of Christianity.

The study of these graves, compared with the iconography of the tombs (pyramid chapels) or other royal Meroitic monuments (temples, palaces), gives us important information about royal rituals. We must therefore draw a parallel between the large number of weapons found in both of the graves and the scenes taken from royal Meroitic iconography: massacre of prisoners, scene of the submission of the Nine Bows (countries subjected to the royal power).

El-Hobagi is a major discovery as it contributes to show that the influence of this region hadn’t disappeared, as was long believed, after a hypothetical collapse of Meroe, but that a rich civilization of Meroitic influence survived for several centuries.

bibliography :

P. Lenoble, « El-Hobagi», in, Sudan Ancient Treasures, An Exhibition of Recent Discoveries from the Sudan National Museum (D. Welsby & J. Anderson éds.), The British Museum Press, Londres, 2004, p. 193-195.

P. Lenoble, « El periodo precristiano en el desierto y el Sahel nubios », in Nubia, Los reinos del Nilo en Sudan, catalogue de l’exposition à Barcelone et Madrid, Fundacion « La Caixa », 2003, p. 80-85.

P. Lenoble, « The division of the Meroitic Empire and the end of the pyramid building in the 4th c. A.D. : an introduction to further excavations of imperial mounds in the Sudan », in, Recent research in Kushite History and Archaeology. Proceedings of the 8th International Conference for Meroitic Studies (D. Welsby éd.), British Museum Occasional Paper n° 131, Londres 1999, p. 157-197.

P. Lenoble, « Les tumulus impériaux des 4e, 5e et 6e siècles de notre ère », Dossiers de l’archéologie, Hors-série n° 6, février 1997, p. 82-86.

P. Lenoble, « From pyramids at Meroë to tumulus at el Hobagi : Imperial graves of the Late Meroitic culture (Franco-Sudanese surveys and excavations between 1983 and 1990) », Kush n° 17, 1997, p. 289-308.

P. Lenoble, « Enterrer les flèches, enterrer l’empire. I, Flèches et carquois des tombes impériales d’el-Hobagi », Actes de la 8e Conférence internationale des Etudes nubiennes, Lille, 11-17 septembre 1994, CRIPEL n° 17/2, 1997, p. 135-152.

P. Lenoble, « A propos des tumulus d’el Hobagi et de Ballana-Qustul », MNL 25, 1994, p. 51-52.

P. Lenoble, R.-P. Dissaux, Abd el Rahman Ali Mohamed, B. Ronce et J. Bialais, « La fouille du tumulus à enceinte el Hobagi III, A.M.S. NE-36-O/7-N-3 », MNL 25, 1994, p. 53-88.

P. Lenoble, « Le rang des inhumés sous tertre à enceinte à el Hobagi », MNL 25, 1994, p. 89-124.

P. Lenoble et Nigm ed Din Mohamed Sharif, « Barbarians at the gates ? The royal mounds of el Hobagi and the End of Meroe », Antiquity, 66, 1992, p. 626-635.

J. Reinold et P. Lenoble, « El Hobagi 1989, Tumulus VI and 4 », Nubian Letters, 16, 1991, p. 3-4.

J. Reinold et P. Lenoble, « El Hobagi 1990, Tumulus III », Nubian Letters, 16, 1991, p. 5-6.

article published on 7 February 2018

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