Hidden beneath an ancient palace in what is now central Sudan, archaeologists have discovered the oldest building in the city of Meroë, a structure that also may have housed royalty.
The capital of a vast empire that flourished around 2,000 years ago, Meroë was centered on the Nile River. At its height, the city was controlled by a dynasty of kings who ruled about 900 miles (1,500 kilometers) of territory that stretched from southern
to areas south of modern-day Khartoum.
People of Meroë built palaces and small pyramids, and developed a writing system thatscholars still can't fully translate today. Although Meroë has been excavated off and on for more than 150 years, archaeologists are not yet clear on how it came to be. The city seems to have emerged out of nowhere. [Image Gallery: Ancient Rock Art of Sudan]
Search for an early temple
In the years leading up to World War I, John Garstang, a British archaeologist, discovered Meroë, uncovering an area filled with palaces and temples that he called the "royal city."
Many of his finds were never published, and over the past two decades, archaeologists have been going over Garstang's notes, publishing them and looking for clues as to Meroë’s origins.
"Architectural elements from what may have been an early Amun temple dating back to at least the seventh century were found during Garstang's excavations in areas later occupied by the Meroitic Royal City," writes David Edwards, of the University of Leicester, in his book "The Nubian Past: An Archaeology of Sudan" (Routledge, 2004).
Amun was an Egyptian god that the people of Meroë held in high regard.
If the temple exists, Grzymski said it would be the oldest temple in the city, a find that would offer clues to the religion of the civilization's first people. His team tried to find the structure using magnetometry, a technique that can detect archaeological remains by searching for anomalies in the magnetic field. The attempt was unsuccessful so in January 2012, they plan to launch a major dig to search for it. "The only way to search for this early Amun temple will be by excavating," said Grzymski.
It won't be a quick discovery; Grzymski said that he will take a yearlong sabbatical from the museum to search for the temple.
The research was presented in April at the annual meeting of the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE).