December 18, 2008
Ancient Discoveries In Sudan
Archaeologists unearthed three ancient statues, engraved with a hard to understand sub-Saharan language, believed to honor the god Amun.
The ram statues are the first discovery of a complete royal dedication in Meroitic script. Previous statues were found only in fragments.
Experts believe Meroitic is the oldest written sub-Saharan language; they date it back to the Meroe period of 300BC to AD450.
Archaeologist Vincent Rondot noted the statues were "an important discovery", but he said the inscriptions were hard to interpret.
"It is one of the last antique languages that we still don't understand," he said.
"We can read it. We have no problem pronouncing the letters. But we can't understand it, apart from a few long words and the names of people."
Three weeks ago, the statues were discovered at el-Hassa, a site close to Sudan's 50-odd Meroe pyramids, located 120 miles north of the capital Khartoum.
Experts are trying to solve the ancient text, by deciphering the inscriptions. They are relying on previously found fragments to help their thousands year old puzzle.
"It is absolutely essential to understand it... We only need to read the last words remaining on the inscription," said Rondot.
The French foreign ministry paid for the archaeological dig.
The historic site is providing additional information and context on the reign of a little-known king, Amanakhareqerem. His name is mentioned in the inscriptions on the rams.
"Before we started the dig we only had four documents in his name. We don't even know where he was buried," Rondot said.
"We are beginning to understand the importance of that king," he said.
Image Caption: Aerial view of the Nubian pyramids at Meroe in 2001 (Wikipedia)
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