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Documenting an Ancient Kingdom In Sudan

by AMNH on

From the Field posts

In November 2011, Museum Curator Alex de Voogt, Postdoctoral Fellow Vincent Francigny, and Research Associate William Harcourt-Smith set out on a Constantine S. Niarchos Expedition to Sudan. Over the course of two weeks, the team traveled some 2,000 kilometers and visited about 20 archaeological sites dating from the ancient kingdom of Meroë. 


Meroë was an independent kingdom of Nubia, centered in the north of Sudan and contemporaneous with Greek and Roman domination of the Mediterranean world. While Meroites were influenced by their Egyptian neighbors, they had a distinct political state, writing system, and religion. Archaeologists have only been able to translate a few Meroitic texts, so researchers must use other clues from the past to learn about this ancient civilization.

One of the 2011 Niarchos expedition's main goals was to document depictions of animals at archaeological sites. The animal representations they detailed in the field—ranging from elephants to frogs—will be compiled with images from artifacts in existing museum collections to create a "bestiary" for Meroë. This bestiary will be an organized catalog of animals, giving insight into how different species were used and ultimately leading to further research questions about religion, environment, and other subjects.

The expedition team also investigated other topics, including paleoanthropology, board games, and zootherapy—the use of animals in medicine.

This 2011 Constantine S. Niarchos Expedition was generously supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.