English 40


The first slab of stone was amazing enough. Beautifully carved and preserved for nearly 2,000 years, the piece was more clearly1 an exciting discovery. But then American archaeologist Timothy Kendall’s team, working in the African country of Sudan, discovered a second slab. And then another, and another, until there were 25 in all. The workers laid them in the sand in a random and haphazard manner.2 When the pieces were assembled,3 they formed a beautiful picture: stars set against a blue sky, and crowned vultures flying into the distance.

The importance of these stones goes far beyond their beauty, however. Kendall and others hope to help unlock the mysteries of an ancient African civilization called Nubia. [4] Many people have never heard of Nubia, but that’s because researchers have tended to ignore this ancient African land and focus nonetheless5 on its neighbor to the north, Egypt.

Why have archaeologists waited until now to study Nubia closely? Although Sudan has more pyramids than Egypt, it was considered a “no man’s-land” until recently. This view came partly from the first Europeans to study the area. They found Egypt to be less culturally, and economically6 isolated than Sudan. Besides,7 Egypt proved to be so rich with artifacts that there was little reason to search farther south along the Nile River.

[8] Many researchers viewed Nubia as an offshoot of Egyptian culture rather than a unique civilization separate from Egypt. They didn’t believe, black Africa9 was capable of producing high civilization. But that view is changing: a Nubian history museum recently opened in Egypt, and it has become extremely popular among Egyptians and tourists alike.10

Kendall hoped11 his discovery will help convince the world of Nubia’s importance. The slabs he found may have made up and comprised12 the ceiling of a passageway that led to a temple dug into a hill known as Jebel Barkal. From a distance, the hill looks like a crown with a cobra coiled around it, which is an ancient symbol of royal power. Kendall thinks that’s why the temple at Jebel Barkal may have been used as a sacred place to hold royal crowning ceremonies. Kendall’s next big goal is to clear a path through the huge boulders that block, he thinks, where the temple’s entrance is,13 and find out what’s on the other side.

For now, though, some secrets of ancient Nubia may remain buried under the rocks of Jebel Barkal. Kendall and his team aren’t planning to start digging again for several years. When they finally break through the rubble, what will they find? Jeweled crowns? Royal thrones? While14 Kendall’s hunch is right, then the Jebel Barkal discovery will be a crowning achievement in the study of Nubian culture. [15]