A labelled map of the north pyramids at Meroe, and a Google Maps satellite view on a phone!

Let’s continue our series on the pyramids of the Black Pharaohs at Meroe in the Sudan.

Now that we have seen all these pictures and photographs of pyramids, by Cailliaud, Lepsius, and others, the question arises… is there a list, with a map attached showing the layout of the pyramid field?

In fact I see references to “pyramid XI”; or “N. XI” or even “Beg. N. XI”.   But … nowhere do I see a map.

One reason that I looked at Reisner was to see if he gave a map of the pyramids, with numbers on.  But as far as I could tell, he does not.

Well, I have spent this day looking through the literature, and, finally, I have discovered a map with the numbers on.  Here’s an excerpt of it:

Zoomed-in portion of the map of the North pyramids at Meroe, showing Beg. N. I-IX

I’ll give the full map at the end, for it is large, and unless you zoom in, you won’t realise that it has the Roman numbers on it.  Nor do all these monuments stand full height; the vile Ferlini demolished some, right down to the ground.

The cryptic numbers become clear.  “Beg.” means Begarawiyah, the modern village nearby, while “N” means the north pyramid field at that location.

The map comes from a 1923 article in the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, by G. A. Reisner.[1]  Plate XIV is a “Plan of the North Cemetery, Begarawiyah”.  In fact it is a map of the pyramid field, showing the pyramid locations, and also the trenches which expose the stairs to the burial chambers, and other fore-buildings.

Here’s Reisner’s map.  You’ll have to click on it, and then zoom and zoom to get the detail; but it is there.

Meroe: a map of the north pyramid field, by G. A. Reisner, 1923.

Now for practical reasons that diagram has north at top right.  But this afternoon I was playing with Google Maps on my smartphone.  And I found … that you can see Meroe on Google Maps!  Which is quite remarkable, when you consider that Google won’t allow you to access Google Apps from within Sudan!

Anyway, just for fun, here’s what I saw when I searched for Meroe!

Google maps satellite photo of pyramids at Meroe

These are days of miracles and wonders. I can testify that, when I began adding content to the web in 1997, just accessing the JEA was a feat attainable by those few who could convince a research library to grant them access to a paper copy. Something like this was unthinkable. We must remind ourselves sometimes how fortunate we are!

And isn’t it a shame that the ordinary people of Sudan itself are cut off from all this, just because of political differences among the mighty of this world?  Nobody benefits from this.  I could wish that Britain, as the colonial power, could do something about this, surely needless, restriction on a former colony.

  1. [1]G. A. Reisner, “The Meroitic Kingdom of Ethiopia: A Chronological Outline”, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, volume 9 (1923), 34-77.  JSTOR link here.

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