The Continuity of Religious Icongraphy

I found the discussion of Nubian pyramids in Dr. Watrall’s lecture very intriguing.  As Dr. Watrall stated, pyramids are considered to be the hallmark of Egypt and Egyptian culture, and that for the most part they were only built during the Old Kingdom.  However, thousands of years later in the Kushite Kingdom of Nubia, pyramids were once again built as royal tombs.

There are numerous Kushite royal necropoli scattered throughout Upper Nubia (what is now the Republic of Sudan).  And unlike the necropolis at Giza, there are hundreds of pyramids in Nubia built for both the Kushite royalty as well as the elites.  For example, at the royal cemetery of el-Kurru there are 54 pyramids which were built between 750 BC and 300 BC.  While these Kushite pyramids were not as large and grand as the Old Kingdom pyramids of Egypt, they served the same purpose–a burial place for the royals (and elites) and a site at which veneration of these individuals could occur.

What I found most interesting was the stylistic similarities between the Nubian and Egyptian pyramids.  Although separated by over 2,000 years, the art, iconography, religious texts, and language were almost identical to those found in Old Kingdom pyramids.  While it is clear that religious and iconographic traditions persisted for thousands of years in Egypt (and Nubia), it is difficult to comprehend such continuity.  As Dr. Watrall said, however, the interactions between the Egyptians and Nubians fostered a system of acculturation over thousands of years.  Additionally, the intermarriage of Egyptian and Kushite royal families certainly contributed to this continuity through time.

I think it is thought provoking that after thousands of years without pyramids the Nubians adopted and essentially “re-introduced” the building of these structures.  I wonder why they chose to restore this form and style of burial rather than others that were introduced into Egypt at a later period?

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About Julie Fleischman

I am a doctoral student in Physical Anthropology and also completed my Masters degree in Forensic Science at MSU in 2011.  My primary research interest is skeletal trauma, in both bioarchaeology and forensic anthropology.  To date, my research has focused on forensic anthropology methods and trauma analysis.

2 thoughts on “The Continuity of Religious Icongraphy

  1. I too think that what Dr. Watrall talked about today in lecture was very interesting. The word “pyramid” automatically triggers the image of Ancient Egypt, at least for me, and it wasn’t until I took this class that I realized ancient Egyptians may have influenced the design of other cultures structures, thousands of years later.

    It reminds me of something I saw while I was in Rome this summer for a study abroad trip. My class took a trip to Ostia Antica, and in order to get there we had to take the metro. Near the station is an ancient pyramid, built for Caius Cestius as his tomb. If I remember correctly, it was built around 10 BC, and it’s one of the best preserved monuments of ancient Rome that the city still has. If a city as far away as Rome could have copied the beauty of the ancient Egyptian pyramids, not to mention that many years later, it doesn’t seem quite as striking that Nubia, which is much closer to Egypt, would have copied the designs of the Egyptian pyramids. It would have been easy to pass on the knowledge of building the pyramids, because like you said, of intermarriage, the close distance, and the close interactions.

  2. I was also very intrigued by the discussion on the continuation of Egyptian pyramids in our class on Tuesday. Pyramids are such a famous symbol of the Ancient Egyptians and their culture. When most individuals think of Egypt, the first image that appears is the impressive pyramids. The types of pottery they used or how the exploited the Nile is normally not what come to mind first.

    It is so still hard to comprehend that the iconographic traditions and religious practices persisted throughout such a long period of time. Two thousand years is such a large span of time for similar ideology to persist through social changes. This fact is something that I have found very interesting throughout this class.

    The fact that pyramids were re-introduced is very thought provoking. Why would the Nubians choose to adopt these massive structures? Was it because of the impression that the pyramids give those who see them? Your last statement of “I wonder why they chose to restore this form and style of burial rather than others that were introduced into Egypt at a later period?” is exactly what I was thinking. It would be amazing to find out why this style of burial was brought back into the forefront of their culture.

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