Louvre Museum

Meroe, empire on the Nile

After years of preparation and several site visits, the Louvre Museum inaugurated a large exhibition on one of the most brilliant periods in the history of the Sudan: the Kingdom of Meroe. In 1997, the Institut du Monde Arabe was the first to schedule an exhibition in France exclusively dedicated to the Sudan (Sudan, Kingdoms of the Nile) that presented the Sudanese history from the Neolithic period up to Meroe. A dozen years later this new event confirms the revival of interest in or simply the discovery of the cultural richness of this country.

تمثال للملك المروي بالرمح، من تابو.

Discovered at the beginning of the 19th century by the French explorer Frédéric Cailliaud, the Meroe pyramids are the jewel of Sudan although they can only suggest the power of this kingdom that dominated the northern part of the country between 270 BC and 350 AD. The kingdom of Meroe is a very particular civilization in which African, Egyptian and Greco-Roman influences mingle. Its history remains in great part a mystery and the final key to deciphering its texts has not yet been found.

The museography of the Louvre puts great emphasis on the pieces from the museum of Khartoum which represents half of the objects shown, beside various objects from French national collections (Dobrée Natural History Museum in Nantes, Louvre Museum in Paris), British collections (Liverpool, British Museum), German collections (Berlin) and Dutch collections (Leiden).
Ceramics, inscribed stelae, jewellery, statuary and ornaments testify of the greatness of this period and everyday life of the Meroe Kingdom.

Organised by sections, the exhibition covers all the areas of daily life in Meroe from crafts to power administration, from religion to customs, all this in the light of recent research and discoveries, namely on the site of Muweis where excavations are led by Michel Baud, curator of the Nubia-Sudan section, Egyptian Antiquities Department at the Louvre Museum.

Located 50 km south of the capital Meroe, Muweis is a middle sized city of 16 ha which comprises two fairly dense residential areas, an industrial area and a city centre occupied by temples, civil buildings and palaces. Three seasons of locating, measuring, surveying and core sampling have enabled us to establish a global map of the site, an essential prerequisite for an exhaustive excavation which started in a temple, a palace and kilns.

This project marks a new cooperation between NCAM and the Louvre and reinforces the latter’s position as universal museum as well as living research centre in the field.

The exhibition catalogue, “Meroe, Empire on the Nile” encourages visitors to go further. It is a unique work, the first of this importance in France, which serves as a reference on the state of research on Meroitic civilization.
Members of the SFDAS have actively contributed to it by signing several articles thus reflecting the vitality of research within the team in the various areas of archaeology:

- Marie Evina, former grant-holder – “Une double tradition céramique”
- Vincent Francigny, researcher – “Nécropoles, tombes et au-delà”
- Coralie Gradel, researcher – “Méroé, royaume de relais commerciaux ?”
- Claude Rilly, director – “L’écriture et la langue de Méroé”
- Vincent Rondot, former director – “Les dieux de Méroé» ; «La maison du dieu : le temple” (with László Török)

Being especially concerned by this event, the SFDAS has contributed to it by taking care of the trip to Paris for some well-known figures from the Ministry of Culture and the Department of Antiquities of Sudan:

- Prof. Omer Hag El Zaki, member of the board of directors of the NCAM
- Dr Salah El Din Mohammed Ahmed, excavation director of the NCAM
- Prof. Youssif Fadel Hassan, chairman of the board of directors of the NCAM
- Mme Galia Gar El Nabi, deputy director of conservation of the Sudan National Museum
- Mme Iglal Mohammed Ossman El Melik, deputy director of conservation of the Sudan National Museum
- General El Zaki Ali Bushara, director of the New Modern Gallery in Khartoum

article published on 3 May 2012

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