Meroitic stela

From Hamadab, Sudan
Kushite period, about 24BC

One of the longest known monumental texts in Meroitic

This stela is one of a pair found at Hamadab a few kilometres south of Meroe in Sudan, the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Kush. They stood either side of the main doorway into a temple.

At the top of the stela are the remains of a relief panel depicting the Kushite rulers Queen Amanirenas and Prince Akinidad. On the left they are shown facing a god, probably Amun, whilst on the right they are facing a goddess, probably Mut. Below this is a frieze depicting bound prisoners.

An inscription in Meroitic cursive script is carved on the lower part of the stela.

Meroitic was the indigenous language of the Kingdom of Kush. It is one of the few ancient languages yet to be deciphered. The alphabet consisted of 15 consonants, four vowels and four syllabic characters but the meaning of the words is not known.

In this inscription, the names of Amanirenas and Akinidad are recognisable. It is thought that Amanirenas was the Kushite ruler during the Kushite conflicts against the Romans in the late first century BC. This inscription may commemorate a Kushite raid on Roman Egypt in 24 BC.

A number of Roman imperial statues were taken during this raid, possibly including a bronze head of Augustus which was found in Meroe and is now held in the Museum’s collection.

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More information

Bibliography

Nigel Strudwick, Masterpieces of Ancient Egypt (London, British Museum Press, 2006)

Dimensions

Height: 236.5 cm

Museum number

EA 1650

Gift of John Garstang in 1914

Location

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