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Atti della

Quarta Giornata di Studi nubiani

A Tribute to the nubian Civilization

a cura di Eugenio Fantusati e Marco Baldi

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Presentazione di Marco Mancini e Adriano Rossi ......................... v

Introduzione di Francesco di Gennaro ............................................ vII
Foreword by H.E. Amira Hassan Daoud Gornass .......................... IX

Contributori ..................................................................................... XI

E. Fantusati e E. Kormysheva, Quinta e sesta campagna di scavo ad

Abu Erteila: rapporto preliminare ............................................. 1
M. Baldi, The Awlib Temple Complex: a Review ........................... 49
M. Baldi, Il tempio di Hamadab: evidenza ed ipotesi interpretative 67
l. Bongrani, Considerazioni sullAfrica di Erodoto: geografia e
genti ..........................................................................................
S. DallArmellina, La ceramica di Abu Erteila: motivi decorativi e
pot-marks .............................................................................. 109
E. Fantusati, A Short Note on the Meroitic Bestiarium According
to the Late Roman Sources ....................................................... 125
E. Kormysheva, Religion of Nubia: V-II Millennia B.C. ................ 135
R. lobban, Sheep in Ancient Egypt and Nubia ............................... 153
A. Manzo, Note su alcuni rinvenimenti ceramici riferibili ai rap-
porti tra il Sudan orientale e lEgitto nel II millennio a.C. ....... 165
D. Michaux-Colombot, The Rulers Table in Lower Nubia during
Egyptian Middle Kingdom ....................................................... 185
J. Mirghani, Musawwarat Identified with Meroe ............................ 203
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Carta generale della nubia con indicazione dei siti citati nel volume.
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The AwLib TempLe compLex: A review1

mArco bALdi

Awlib lies in the wadi el-hawad, nearly 3 km to the east of the Nile
and 1 km to the north of Abu erteila2. Archaeological work at Awlib, lasted
from 2001 to 2003 by a team from the Gdansk Archaeological museum,
yielded a religious complex comprising a temple, a close square-plan build-
ing and an outer high altar (Fig. 1).
The temple, oriented Se-Nw, has a rectangular plan sized 46,27 24,23
m and has two entrances: on the eastern short side there is a monumental
gate highlighted by a pylon and preceded by a rectangular-stone paving; on
the southern long side there is a smaller doorway with a red bricks paving
maybe stressed with an arcade, which can be understood from the collapsed
column drums.
The partial preservation of the masonries and the collapsed material
allow the reconstruction of the original perimeter walls, made from adobe,
partly survived, with an external red brick facing. The wall was 125 cm
thick: 60 cm were made of mud bricks and 65 of red ones, which were used
to strengthen some strongly stressed parts of the walls.
According to a well-known meroitic custom, some red bricks show on
one face deep stripes that helped the mortar to adhere.

The author would like to express a deep gratitude and indebtedness to dr Agata Sander,
whose generosity and availability were fundamental for the making of this paper.
Literature often stressed the link between the two places, because of the supposed
common exploitation of the rich wadi and of a great hafir, ca. 250 m in diameter. See espe-
cially Lenoble 1987: 213.
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Fig. 1 Awlib, buildings (drawn by baldi after borcowski & paner 2005: figs. 2, 15).

The bricks were laid in alternate header and stretcher courses, which was
a very common method in the meroitic world; the dimensions of the bricks
slightly change throughout the building, but more ones size 85 170 350
mm. The perimeter walls were then covered with a 2 cm thick limestone
plaster, sometimes painted in polychromy.
The pylon and the columns were instead made of sandstone.
Foundation trenches 150 cm thick, the depth of which is undefinable
until now, were dug to support only the external walls, and filled with local
iron sandstone rubble in the bottom and bigger but irregular slabs in the
upper part. The surface tracts of the foundation materials were laid with
mud mortar, presumably in order to give a stronger bind and to limit the
The few remains suggest that there was a sandstone floor, whereas there
are no elements on the covering system.
during its life cycle the temple was renovated due to deterioration and
damages. Long tracts of the western and northern walls were especially
heavily damaged, presumably due to the driving rain, and they were re-
paired mainly using red bricks, recovered in a great quantity among the col-
lapsed material3. in some parts one can note the use of reemployed
sandstone blocks from other buildings.

They were already a spread finding during the reconnaissance: see paner 1997.

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The fact that mud bricks were not used to renovate the structure maybe
was due to the driving rains, when adobe, perhaps originally preferred be-
cause cheaper, did not provide an efficient water resistance notwithstanding
the red bricks facade. materials as red bricks and a few sandstone pieces,
that had better water resistance, were therefore preferred for renovations.
it seems that the mud bricks masonry has been strongly affected by the wash
rather than rain, due to the ineffective drainage of the foundations.
At the same time the red bricks tracts seem to have been deteriorated at
the time of the original building and subsequently after having been reno-
vated: the used mud mortar was a very good binder for adobe but unable to
bind burned bricks. The building in fact collapsed mainly outwards, where
there was a higher concentration of red pieces. on the other hand this is a
common structural handicap in contemporary buildings in the area.
however, the southern perimeter wall is better preserved, which is also
due to the fact that it was less exposed to windblown rain from the north.
The adobe core is particularly well preserved, whereas the red bricks facade
suffered more deterioration.

Cults and Rituals

The Awlib temple shared the deeply syncretic nature of most Nubian
religious complexes, which often put up a great mixture of worships and
ceremonies adding to the rituals devoted to the main temple god.
we cannot deduce sure data from the building plan after the collapse of
most of the internal walls, due to the lack of foundations to support them
leaving no way of knowing their original arrangement. The comparison
with several meroitic temples however seems to suggest that the complex
was devoted to Amun, on the grounds of the building size, its breadth-width
ratio, and the presence of internal rooms, partly preserved, along its western
side; one could see a naos flanked by collateral rooms.
The knowledge of the original religious context essentially derives from
the sandstone wall blocks, incised or decorated in relief, that have all col-
An original representation of Amun has been hypothetically deduced
from a top of an atef crown on one block (Sander 2010: 156-57). Although
likely, this view cannot be shared for sure; the atef crown is often worn by

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Fig. 2 Awlib, Temple, decorated parietal blocks. Sandstone.

(by baldi after borcowski & paner 2005: fig. 7).

the different hypostasis of Amun4, but it was created in egypt in association

with osiris, who wore it in meroitic Nubia too, where it was sometimes
also the headgear of the kings (see Trk 1987: 17, figs. 74-76). The making
in relief and the size of the Awlib crown allow for a rough estimate of ca.
3,5 meters as being the original height of the figure, which suggests that it
decorated the external wall of one of the two pylon towers. on the whole,
it was therefore a scene with a great visual impact, and this could support
the supposed representation of the main temple god, that would have been
celebrated in the reliefs.
Several blocks show pictures from the egyptian book of the dead
linked to osiris and solar cults, to witness the syncretic nature of the Awlib
temple in addition to the proposed devotion to Amun (Fig. 2). it is significant
workmanship of the scarab, an animal that the egyptian tradition linked to
the solar cult (Fig. 2e). Apart from the stylistic differences, the Awlib icono-
graphical program finds its closer comparison in the Temple of el Kab, built

For example, see for Apedemak Temple in musawwarat es-Sufra, hintze et al. 1971:
pl. 79 column scene 24, pl. 93 scene 521, pl. 97 scene 623. For Apedemak Temple in Naga,
see Gamer-wallert 1983: 116.

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by psamtik i (663-609 bc) (borcowski & paner

2005: 59; derchain 1962), where the Sun worship
has a leading role.
The egyptian hieroglyphic writing of the name
Apedemak on several blocks suggests that also he
had a role in the temple, maybe as a guest deity;
the binomial with Amun, already known in the
meroitic world5, was linked to the glorification of
the royal house and to its divine legitimization
(wolf 2006: 246-47). A similar suggestion does not
however find enough elements at Awlib until now.
The temple, which suffered many plunders, has
yielded few ritual objects: a significant one is a Fig. 3 Awlib, Temple,
Libation tray. Sandstone.
four-petaled flower corner fragment of a sandstone (After Sander 2010: fig. 7).
offering basin (Fig. 3). it was used for a well-
known rite in the Kushite territory6, which was to grant the world order
through daily water offerings to the Nile god hapy.
The special attention on the Awlib basin is due to its particular stylistic
and iconographic nature. on my knowledge, meroitic libation trays gener-
ally only display the ankh-design, with the exception of the samples from
Awlib and Naga. The several Naga temples have yielded in fact more com-
plex basins where more ankh-symbols are set to the sides of a rosette and
sometimes flanked by four-petaled flowers, very similar to the sample from
Awlib. The Awlib basin makes unlikely that these particular trays were typ-
ical of the Naga temples and that they were only made in a local workshop
(Kroeper & wildung 2011: 90), but the stylistic analogy can offer a first
chronological suggestion.

Among the most significant cases, for the Naga temples see Kroeper & wildung 2011:
79 (for N200), Zach & Tomandl 2000: 141 ff. (for N500), Trk1997b: 502 (for Temple F);
for Lion Temple in musawwarat es-Sufra, see Trk 2002: 188 ff. See also Kormysheva
2010: 253-54.
in the meroitic era similar items are especially known in butana temples. For the sev-
eral samples in meroe see Shinnie & Anderson 2004: 232-34, figs.19, 99, 100; Trk 1997a:
125 (266-1), pl. 91. For Naga, see Kroeper & wildung 2011: 88 ff., figs. 99, 102, 181, 201.
For wad ben Naga, see vercoutter 1962: figs. 4-5. For el-hassa, see rondot & Trk 2010:
fig. 303. For examples in a funerary context, see dunham 1957: fig. 120 n. 21-3-550, fig.
128 n. 21-3-76, fig. 129 n. 21-2-690.

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Fig. 4 Awlib, outer altar. (After paner & Kolosowska 2005: 81).

The Outer High Altar: a Functional Interpretation

Another installation was brought to light at 46,8 meters to the east of

the pylon (Figs. 1, 4). it is also oriented e-w, but slightly outside the temple
axis. it presents a square-plan structure sized 5 5 m, bounded by red bricks
masonries 75 cm wide and filled in its core with rubble and brick sherds.
The filling is preserved up 20 cm from the ground; according to comparison
with a few known cases, the structure had a greater original height making
a sort of foundation of a platform which had to be the summit of the con-
on its western side there is a rectangular annex, which is broken along
the e-w extent. it is sized 3,6 m N-S 11,5 m e-w and divided into two
rooms bounded by red brick walls 56 cm thick, which are preserved up to
three courses. The bricks, sized 80 180 350 mm, were laid in alternate
header and stretcher courses; as well as the square-plan structure walls, they
were set up on iron sandstone foundations which are analogous to the temple
A similar architectural typology, likely an outer altar, has been always
discovered in a temple contexts and its role is under discussion.

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regarding the meroitic period (270 bc-mid-4th century Ad), we know

only few analogous temple altars, each one within the butana boundaries:
the Sun Temple in meroe (dated among third and last quarter of the 1st cen-
tury bc to the phase in question)7, probably devoted to Amun-ra; the Amun
Temple in Naga (late 1st century bc-early 1st century Ad) (Kroeper &
wildung 2011: fig. 38; Kroeper & Krzyzaniak 1998: 205-206, figs. 2-3, pl.
viii); towards the south the Temple 200 (end of the 1st century Ad)
(Kroeper & wildung 2011: fig. 78, 148), dedicated to the egyptian triad
Amun, mut and Khonsu in its identification with the autochthonous one
composed by Apedemak, Amesemi and an indefinable god; in a recent ex-
cavation season the French mission working at el-hassa brought to light a
similar structure in front of the Amun Temple, dated at the end of the 1stcen-
tury Ad (rondot 2012: 172, fig. 2).
Further Kushite comparisons are ascribable to pharaoh Taharqa (690-
664 bc), especially to his two Amun temples at Kawa (so-called Tem-
ple T) (macadam 1955: 57-58, pls. 6, 10-11, xLiv/a-e) and Sanam8, close
to the Fourth cataract. These witness an ancient tradition which was for-
gotten for centuries to the present evidence and was rediscovered by the
meroitic kings.
in addition to the above mentioned new constructions, the meroitic kings
restored the altar of Kawa, entirely made of sandstone. due to a good con-
servation and according to its plan very similar as the Awlib sample, this
altar provides insight into the original aspect of this architectural typology
(Fig. 5). A thirteen step stairway leads to the roof of a room, which has a
southern entrance on the ground floor; from the roof a further step leads to
the summit of the altar, which is the apex of a fulfilled square-plan structure.
evidence clearly suggests that each of these outer altars were an integral
part of the religious complex, but their exact role is still unclear. in Kawa,
according to the excavators hypotheses it was a dais upon which a throne
stood and at the same time the golden throne or stairway (macadam
1955: 57) that king Nastasen (second half of the 4th century bc) would have

Trk 1997a: 111-12, fig. 13a. For a reconstruction of the altar, see hakem 1988: fig. 26.
in Sanam the outer altar is not set in axis with the edifice like in other quoted examples,
even if it shares the same orientation, but it is set along the northern side of the temple. one
cannot exclude that this meant an unique function: according to the reliefs on the close side
entrance, the altar was a stop structure for the god statue during the ritual procession (Trk
2002: 133).

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ascended to receive the

arch from god Amun
during the coronation
Although this the-
ory appears likely and
achieved success10, the
idea cannot be for sure
embraced because of
the lack of a similar
structure in the other
two Amun temples, in
Napata and pnubs ex-
tensively dug, where
Fig. 5 Kawa, Temple T, outer altar. Sandstone. 690- the coronation rituals
664 a.c. (After macadam 1955: pl. 10). took certainly place in
Napatan times (see
Trk 1997b: 215 ff.).
Although our knowledge of the coronation ceremonies of the meroitic
kings is still partial, if one accepts this hypothesis it could not be however
true for the above mentioned coeval temples. it would be in fact hard to
explain the erection at meroe of a similar altar in the Sun Temple rather
than it being built in the close-by Amun Temple, that was indissolubly
bound to the ruling dynasty and had a proper throne room. At the same
time the altar would appear unusual at Awlib, which was too close to the
capital to hold an independent coronation ceremony. moreover it would
be inexplicable the erection at Naga of two twin altars referred to two tem-
ples very close each other and functioning at the same time.
According to it and to the rarity of these outer altars, it is also unlikely
that they had a role when the king visited the temple11.

Nastasen stela, lines 24 ff., in eide et al. 1996: 471 ff.
Trk 1997a: 112. Nevertheless, in a subsequent paper, without quoting the idea be-
fore shared he proposed a different theory: the outer altar would have been the place where
the god statue received offering from faithful subjects during the ritual procession (Trk
2002: 242, 274-75).
on this theory see Kroeper & Krzyzaniak 1998: 206.

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A badly preserved relief on the western side of the lower podium of

the Sun Temple at meroe (Trk 1997a: pls. 77-81; 2002: fig. 39), could
suggest the role of these structures (Fig. 6). in a background which repro-
duces the real architecture of the complex, it is displayed a ritual act on
the altar, that is reachable through a ramp walked up by a prisoner followed
by a guard. Above the representation of the altar, the relief preserves re-
mains of a figure that was interpreted as a sacrificial fire (hakem 1988:
fig. 27); it would have been used for human victims according to some
scholars (Garstang & Sayce 1912: 48; Trk 2002: 223). Although this the-
ory is not supported by a sure evidence12, the triumphant nature of the over-
all scene, maybe after a military victory, could provide more insight to

Fig. 6 meroe, Sun Temple, Lower podium, western side. 3rd quarter of the 1st century bc.
(by baldi after hakem 1988: figs. 24, 27, 29).

support this idea. The relief was probably the visible part of a wider scene
that continued on the other sides of the podium, and it would have repre-
sented the rite of the destruction of the enemy; the supposed human sacri-
fice would have been the climax.
A man seated on a throne watches the ritual and seems be its receiver.
his attributes and the overall iconographical context would class him as a
deified non-ruling royal person (Trk 2002: 222-25). According to Trk,
this suggests, in the religious complexes including an outer altar, that there
was a close connection between the altar and the kiosk, from where the god
could watch the altar rituals.
it is however unclear if this interpretation can be given to every temple
that had an outer altar, especially in cases such as the Amon Temple in Naga
and in Awlib, where the altars are very far from the buildings. moreover
one cannot exclude that, when the outer altar was reintroduced by the

The possible evidence on human sacrifices in the meroitic temples was reviewed in Zach
2010; although the sources are uncertain, he presents elements only about impalement.

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meroitic kings after a secular gap, its function had changed with respect to
its original introduction. At the same time, due to the interaction between
the different elements of the sacral complex, the altars role could be
changed according to its specific position: in Kawa and meroe it was set
between the temple and the kiosk, whereas in the two Naga samples the
altar was located behind the kiosk.
in Awlib, where the position of the possible kiosk is yet unknown13, the
picture provided in this paper until now, intentionally focuses on the Kushite
land, finds further elements that allow a comparison with the egyptian
The osiris cult suggested by the reliefs on the Sun temple indicates the
possible use of the outer altar for mortuary rituals; nevertheless the great
distance from the temple and its eastward orientation, by virtue of which
the altar moreover turns its back to the building entrance, allow to assume
that the structure was assigned to the solar cult, which is also suggested by
the iconographical programme. This plan reminds some egyptian custom
which in complexes which had open sky altars, that, if oriented eastwards,
could hold offerings to the Sun (see Arnold 2003: 8-9).
it must be noticed that no thesis was suggested for the outer altar in the
Amun Temple in Naga. An evaluation of this altar by excavators would be
very useful because it is the closest known corresponding sample to the
Awlib one, by virtue of its distance from the building, eastward orientation
and imperfect alignment with the edifices axis. it has been instead consid-
ered as auteil solare a similar structure set inside the temple; it is never-
theless oriented westwards and decorated by scenes representing the
egyptian motif of the Union of two Lands, rather than the solar cult (Kroe-
per 2010: 234). in my opinion this role assigned to the Naga inner altar is
therefore probably incorrect.
As regards the Awlib sample, the comparison with the egyptian temple
architecture and the linked rituality indicate a further possibility on the func-
tion of the outer altar. According to a few ptolemaic and roman complexes14,
it could have been a cult terrace, as the final stage of the sacral procession

considering the distance of the altar from the temple it is nevertheless very likely
that the possible kiosk was set between two structures, like in Naga Amon Temple.
See Arnold 2009: pls. vii for the monthu Temple in medamoud), ix (for the Amunra-
monthu Temple in Karnak), xi (for the monthu Temple in el-Tod).

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starting from the temple. This can be confirmed by the unusual setting of
the structure that ascends to the summit, ramp or stairway, which allowed
for direct access coming from the building, and by the long distance from
the edifice, that is sufficient to permit the complete course of the procession.
in this way, the god could turn his eyes away from complex towards a
greater potential public than the few priests who could enter the sacral area.
According to this theory the Awlib outer altar would have been one of the
several versions of contra-temples known in meroitic Nubia.
currently there are no in the meroitic land contra-temples built accord-
ing to the egyptian pattern, as architectural structures set close to the sacral
building and devoted to popular worship. Those who could not visit the
temple were allowed to enter these structures, where they could meet the
god to pray and make offerings15.
in Nubia, the intermediation between the gods and popular worship was
instead accomplished through cult images that were easily visible, in the form
of external reliefs on temple walls16 and royal (Trk 2002: 265 ff.) or divine
statues17. The Awlib altar would have therefore assured a strong impact for
popular worship, because it allowed for a direct contact with the believers.
if this theory corresponds to the truth, there are not elements to say if wor-
shippers were present during the procession, so assuring their attendance,
even if passive, or if they were only visiting the statue later on.
however, it is best to be very careful when suggesting that the Awlib
altar played a similar role, exclusively or sharing the Sun worship, because
it would be the only known case in meroitic Nubia.

An Unclear Building

To the south-west of the temple, sandstone foundations of another build-

ing, oriented Se-Nw, were brought to light. A structural remain of 31 25
m is still visible, whereas the north-western side was strongly damaged by
the passing of cars.
For the egyptian contra-temples see especially Guglielmi 1994.
See especially the reliefs on the external walls of Apedemak Temple in Naga: Gamer-
wallert 1983.
An emblematic case is given by the enclosed area, behind the rear wall of the Amon
Temple in Naga, holding a ram preceded by two offering altars: Kroeper & wildung 2011:
91-93, fig. 106. For the similar case of el-hassa, see rondot 2012: 174.

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The outline of the foundations, that supported both internal and external
walls, indicates a central square-plan room18, 10 10 m broad, surrounded
by an ambulatory and by a sequence of rooms aligned along the building
sides. each side presents a rectangular room flanked by two smaller ones,
rectangular too but with opposite axes, and by square-plan corner environ-
ments. This recourse to the same pattern for each visible side, for a total of
ten recognizable rooms, suggests that the vanished part fellow the same
way, giving to the original building a square-plan for a total of sixteen side
it is impossible to reconstruct the links between the rooms due to the
collapse of the walls that did not leave a single brick standing. This was
due to both wind and rain erosion, but it is also likely that destruction was
partly caused by the spoliation of material that had to be reemployed and
by excavation of pits for christian burials.
The little collapsed material yielded mud and red bricks, that confirm
that both of them were used in masonry work. The heavy spoliation, does
not allow nevertheless to plausibly understand the original arrangement and
building technique; one cannot even exclude the use of combined mason-
ries, well-known in the meroitic world and found at the Awlib temple too,
after the width of the foundations, 1 m thick, which is unusually the same
for partition and perimeter walls.
Although analogous foundations do not allow for sure to assign the ed-
ifice to an only building phase, nor contemporaneity with the temple, the
symmetric plan shows that the structure was born from a single project, and
therefore all its components are likely to be coeval. At the same time, the
great width of the foundations and the overall size of the edifice suggest a
high social level context.
The plan, which is very singular respect meroitic known palaces19,
does not seem to meet the requirements of a palatial building, such as of-
ficial spaces and a rigid internal differentiation between the rooms. more-
over the hand and wheel-made pottery, sometimes painted, represents the
only manufactured good found inside the perimeter of the structure, and

i think it was a room bounded by walls, rather than a court, by virtue of wide foun-
dations which more likely supported masonries rather than column or piers eventually linked
to an arcade.
For a recent resume on the topic, see baud 2010: 241 ff.

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exclusively belongs to an utilitarian production, for cooking and for food

in nine out of ten recognizable rooms, the excavators observed the bur-
ial of pots, especially jars and pithoi, some of them unusually set far from
the walls; they were presumably used for the conservation and for heating
and cooking of food, judging by ash, charcoal and animal bones recovered
inside some jars21. Although the pottery cannot provide sufficient evidence
of a date, but it is generally thought to reside in the meroitic classic phase
(from the 1st to 3rd century Ad), it appears very probable an utilitarian but
no ceremonial link with the temple.
it was supposed a close affinity of this building with the edifice called
m251-253 (borcowski & paner 2005: 54-55, 59), that is set beside the
Sun Temple in meroe and dated, on the basis of architectural, metrological
and archaeometrical inquiries, to the last quarter of the 1st century bc
(hinkel 1986). Some scholars consider this structure to be a priesthood
house (Sayce & Garstang 1910: 67; hinkel 1985: 218; hinkel, dominicus
& hallof 2001: 116-28), maybe from a comparison with the priesthood
houses inside mortuary temples in New Kingdom22 and ptolemaic egypt
(see otto 1905: 283 ff.); more likely it had a ceremonial role bound perhaps
to the visits of the king in particular occasions (Trk 1997a: 115). This
role is suggested by the monumental character, the inclusion inside a
temenos, the orientation of its main gate towards the processional way, and
the location on the right side of the start point of this way, according to the
traditional place of the ceremonial palaces23.
According to these elements, a comparison with the Awlib building
seems be excluded, notwithstanding a partial planimetric and dimensional
el-Tayeb & Kolosowska 2005; daszkiewicz, bobryk & Schneider 2005. For cooking
a well-known system in the meroitic kingdom provided that the vessels were inserted one
within the other, and the heat from the charcoal in the lower container allowed the cooking
of the food in the upper one. For the evidence in nearby Abu erteila, see baldi 2013: 239;
Fantusati 2013: 226, fig. 3.
el-Tayeb & Kolosowska 2005: 149-50. The same custom was noted at Abu erteila
and in other palaces in the meroitic and christian phases. For the meroitic era, for hamadab,
see wolf et al. 2009: 248-49; for musawwarat es-Sufra, see eigner 2002: fig. 2 (nos. 7-12),
7; in Lower Nubia, for Gezira dabarosa, see hewes 1964: 178, fig. 2. For the christian
epoch, see Adams 1994: 209.
For example, see vandier 1955: figs. 377 (for medinet habu), 415 (for Amarna).
For the Karnak case, that is emblematic on the egyptian custom which probably in-
spired the meroitic kingdom, see oconnor 1989: 82 ff.

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affinity24 and similar construction dating. The structure in Awlib was prob-
ably a service structure: a warehouse, a kitchen or both. it seems therefore
more likely the comparison with the so-called western palace in Faras (Grif-
fith 1926: 21 ff.), which, despite of its conventional name, was a warehouse.

Dating the Complex

Several heterogeneous elements allow to date the Awlib sacral complex

to the meroitic period. its architectural nature suggests a chronological range
which can be made clearer thanks to pottery and wall reliefs. during surface
reconnaissance, before excavation work, it was assumed that the structure
belonged to a Napatan phase, on the grounds of the egyptian hieroglyphic
writing on some collapsed sandstone blocks (hintze 1959: 176; Zach &
Tomandl 2000: 136). There are no elements to confirm it, and on this basis
it is however groundless, considering the recurrent use of the egyptian writ-
ing on meroitic official monuments, although in a gradually lesser way25.
The combination of different materials used in masonry, which was car-
ried out during the presumed original building phase, followed a custom
spread during the meroitic era. moreover, although the internal arrangement
of the Awlib temple is unclear, the comparison with coeval sacral complexes
suggest that the various collapsed sandstone blocks, found internally and
externally to the eastern, southern and northern sides of the building, orig-
inally made up the room gates, as well as the pylon and side entrance.
in the meroitic world the foundations were often made of red bricks,
which had a more regular form and ensured a better water drainage. Never-
theless, the use at Awlib of iron sandstone does not permit to define a dating,
because this choice was mainly determined by its availability in the area and
by the consequent saving, so it has been employed in many different periods.
however, the collapsed sandstone fragments offer meaningful chrono-
logical suggestions, which appear to confirm a dating within the meroitic
epoch. The paleographic inquiry indicates a late ptolemaic writing style,
as especially confirmed by a detailed study of the name of Apedemak
(hallof 2009).

m251-253 is sized 32 32 m.
For example, see rilly 2010, especially pp. 151-53.

3 Baldi_Layout 1 08/03/14 11.16 Pagina 63

if the iconography comes from the egyptian book of the dead, as men-
tioned above, the stylistic nature of the decorated blocks depicts a long-
lived and little differentiated meroitic tradition. Some details allow however
to give a more limited date range, as negroid facial features and birds that
show a solar disc instead of head, according to a pattern that was unknown
in egyptian art.
At Awlib a singular element is the three-pronged lower end of the was
scepters. it is a very rare solution notwithstanding the recurrent character
of this motif in the Nubian and egyptian temple iconography, where the
lower end is usually two-pronged. The only known three-pronged versions
in a temple context are at Naga, in Amun and Apedemak temples, both built
by Natakamani and Amanitore, and in Sa island, also dated to the meroitic
period26. This gives a significant clue but does not offer a sure dating, be-
cause this representation, even if rare, was made later on other materials
too: for example it appears in a so-called pot-mark on a bronze oil lamp
as grave good of king Takideamani (140-155 Ad) (Sakoutis 2009: fig. 2.2).
A further sandstone architectural fragment displays the lower part of a
cartouche, written in egyptian hieroglyphics, where one can see the last
sign and the partly overlaid one . it is very likely the coronation name
of kandake Amanitore , although the bad preservation of the
cartouche. The full conservation of an only sign, and the few samples that
bear for sure the Amanitore coronation name in egyptian hieroglyphics, do
not allow for a successful paleographic inquiry, nevertheless the comparison
with the other known examples would seem to credibly support this thesis27.
At a later date, when the area certainly lost its sacral role, it was occa-
sionally occupied, as suggested by the remains of hearths at different levels.
during the christian era it was used, like Abu erteila, as a burial area, prob-
ably for nomadic people, as the basic pit tombs, without grave goods and
recurrent orientation of the bodies, would seem to confirm.
The elevation of the area respect to the surrounding plain, affected by
frequent floods, justifies the setting of the religious complex, the later buri-
als and the present dwellings. Nevertheless, the nearby territory was en-
riched by the river Nile, the course of which was closer respect nowadays

communication in Sander, forthcoming.
See especially the cartouche on an altar found at wad ben Naga (Lepsius 1849-1859:
v, bl. 55).

3 Baldi_Layout 1 08/03/14 11.16 Pagina 64

and by the wadi el-hawad and seasonal rains, that also feed the hafir. This
allows to not exclude that a settlement was here and that agriculture played
an important role, even if the archaeological researches did not overcome
beyond the sacral area.


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