The past is a different place, if you dig deep
Kush obviously needed a team of spin doctors, or perhaps a tourism ministry
IT’S every archeologist’s dream to make a discovery that turns history on its head. This opening announcement on The Black Pharaohs leads us on a journey of discovery. Our destinations are the sand dunes and date palm- shaded settlements along the Nile in the ancient kingdom of Kush, the region now known as northern Sudan.
At the glorious peak of its 3000- year history, the Nubian kingdom of Kush had about 300 pyramids and was home to fabulous goldmines. But it is Egypt that continues to be considered the colossus of the ancient world. Kush obviously needed a team of spin doctors, or perhaps an active ministry of tourism, as its gilded neighbour grabbed all the glory.
This 2004 doco is from the BBC’s Time Watch series, a collection of six programs that reassesses history. In this case, our knowledge and appreciation of the epic story of Kush’s rise to power appears to have been compromised by a lack of archeological and documented proof.
Kush was an evolved and agriculturally rich civilisation but many historians believed it was no more than a minor trading partner of Egypt, a vassal province rich in gold and resources. However, in one recent discovery, seven statues up to 2.7m tall and inscribed with the names of Kushite kings were uncovered by archeologists in a pit in Kerma, south of the Third Cataract of the Nile. Two of these so- called black kings, Taharqa and Tanoutamon, also ruled Egypt from about 760BC to 660BC.
Vivian Davies of the British Museum believes he can put the history books right through a series of further significant finds; he points to a set of recently uncovered heiroglyphs that, he says, prove the invading kings of Kush held court over Egypt for a flourishing century.
By use of clever digital magic, we see the pyramids and palaces of Kush as they would have looked in their golden heyday. But more compelling than these re- creations are scenes of archeologists toiling in the field, sharing with viewers the minutiae of their continuing finds.
We are shown rows of shell beads that once adorned the fine costumes of Kushite soldiers and burial cham- bers long stripped of their mummies and jewelled treasures but embellished with preserved heiroglyphs of rulers with cobra crowns and scenes of life along the Nile.
Out there in the difficult heat and seemingly limitless desert sands, archeologists from the British Museum and their colleagues appear to work with no sense of time or urgency. Each spadeful of sand, pebble or shell could hold the key to another mystery of the ancient world.
Push for Kush: Archeologist Derek Welsby at work in northern Sudan