Ancient Gold Center Discovered on the Nile

Dan Morrison in Merowe, Sudan
for National Geographic News
June 18, 2007

Evidence of large-scale gold extraction in the ancient Nubian kingdom of Kush has been found along the Nile River, archaeologists will announce today (see pictures).

The discovery is part of a race to save as many antiquities as possible before a dam inundates a hundred-mile (160-kilometer) stretch of the Nile in northern Sudan.

The presence of gold in the African region "may have been one of the main reasons for the colonization of Sudan by the ancient Egyptians," said Salah Mohammed Ahmed, the head of Sudan's antiquities agency.

Spreading out from the Nile, ancient Nubia followed the river from southern Egypt deep into what is now northern Sudan (Africa map). In the time of the pharaohs, Nubian lands were the subject of numerous incursions from the north by the Egyptians.

Renowned for Gold

Archaeologists from the University of Chicago found more than 55 grinding stones at Hosh el-Geruf, about 225 miles (362 kilometers) north of the Sudanese capital of Khartoum (Sudan map).

Dated to between 2000 and 1500 B.C., the stones were used to grind ore, the team said. The ore then would have been washed with water to tease out gold flakes.

"Nubia was renowned for its gold deposits," said Geoff Emberling, a leader of the expedition.

After Egypt's New Kingdom (1539 to 1075 B.C.) conquered the southern Nubian kingdom of Kush, "they took in tribute hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds of gold each year."

The first recorded kingdom in sub-Saharan Africa, Kush was one of the first civilizations to take hold in the Nile River Valley.

The kingdom "was unusual in that it was able to use the tools of power—military and governance—without having a system of writing, an extensive bureaucracy, or numerous urban centers," Emberling said.

Before the Deluge, a Flood of Finds?

Continued on Next Page >>


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