Traveling to Dongola requires flying to Khartoum,
renting a truck or Land Rover, and driving about 300 miles
north. From Khartoum, the route to Dongola ("Dunqulah"
on the map) crosses the desert. The paved road ends at a truck
stop in a place called Tamtam, and from there it is only an
unpaved track through the sand; occasionally the truck's wheels
will get stuck in the sand and have to be dug out. After crossing
the desert, you arrive at the Nile River and at a town called
Debba, and then the route continues along the Nile (and eventually
across it) to Dongola and Tombos.
The Third Cataract's rugged terrain and treacherous
rapids formed a natural northern gateway to the fertile Dongola
Reach, and thus an important strategic point of control for
Nubians and Egyptians. It was also close to the urban center
of Kerma, whose rulers successfully challenged Egypt's Pharaohs
for control of Nubia in 1650 BC. The presence of Kerman, Egyptian
and Napatan sites in close proximity at Tombos and Hannek
makes this area an excellent place to assess the degree of
Egyptian influence on Nubian civilization and the later emergence
of the Napatan Pharaohs.
Here you see an overview of Tombos before we began
excavating. Right now it doesn't look like much, but 3000
years ago ten pyramids of Egyptian Nobles rose towards Re,
the son god, promising immortality for their inhabitants.
A short distance away we discovered a cemetery of shaft tombs
and underground chambers where the middle class occupants
of Tombos were buried.
In the middle class area, we found several shaft tombs and
one tomb with a series of underground chambers. The burials
on top had been badly disturbed by ancient looters, presenting
us with a ghoulish topsy-turvey mass of bones. But down at
the bottom, the looters got tired, and left us around a dozen
intact burials rich in finds that give us important clues
to the religious beliefs, health and wealth of the colonists.
As soon as Pharaohs stopped being buried in Pyramids, around
1550 BC, wealthy nobles began to include mud brick pyramids
as a part of their tombs. In the upper class part of the cemetery
at Tombos, we found the remains of two pyramids, one of which
we have partially excavated. Inscribed funerary
cones tell us that this pyramid was the tomb of the noble
couple Siamun and Weran. Although modest compared to the huge
royal pyramids of the Old and Middle Kingdom, Siamun and Weran's
pyramid is large by Noble's standards. The pyramid itself
was 23 feet to a side, and stood over 30 feet tall. Its chapel
would have been elaborately painted, unfortunately only fragments
were found. The large courtyard contained smashed dishes and
hearths - remnants of funerary feasts. We dug four meters
down the shaft without finding the burial chamber, whose secrets
will have to be revealed another time.
Siamun and Weran's tomb was as large as the largest private
pyramids in Nubia, so our tomb owners were important players
in colonial society.
courtesy of The General Libraries, The University of Texas