Musawwarat es-Sufra

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Musawwarat es-Sufra
المصورات الصفراء
Apedemak temple in Musawwarat es-sufra 2018.jpg
Apedemak Lion Temple
Musawwarat es-Sufra is located in Sudan
Musawwarat es-Sufra
Shown within Sudan
Alternative nameMusawwarat es-Sufra
LocationMusawwarat es-Sufra, Northern State, Sudan
Coordinates16°24′57″N 33°19′25″E / 16.41583°N 33.32361°E / 16.41583; 33.32361Coordinates: 16°24′57″N 33°19′25″E / 16.41583°N 33.32361°E / 16.41583; 33.32361
Official nameArchaeological sites of the Island of Meroe
Criteriaii, iii, iv, v
Designated2011 (35th session)
Reference no.1336
RegionArab States

Musawwarat es-Sufra (Arabic:المصورات الصفراء al-Musawwarāt as-sufrā, Meroitic: Aborepi, Old Egyptian: jbrp, jpbr-ˁnḫ), also known as Al-Musawarat Al-Sufra, is a large Meroitic temple complex in modern Sudan, dating back to the early Meroitic period of the 3rd century BC.[1] It is located in a large basin surrounded by low sandstone hills in the western Butana, 180 km northeast of Khartoum, 20 km north of Naqa and approximately 25 km south-east of the Nile. Its MGRS coordinates: 36QWD3477214671. With Meroë and Naqa it is known as the Island of Meroe, and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011.[2] Constructed in sandstone, the main features of the site include the Great Enclosure, the Lion Temple of Apedemak and the Great Reservoir. Most significant is the number of representations of elephants, suggesting that this animal played an important role at Musawwarat es-Sufra.


Musawwarat es-Sufra was originally mentioned by Linant de Bellefonds in 1822, and then shortly thereafter by Frédéric Cailliaud. The first detailed description of the site was made by Carl Richard Lepsius. Archaeological fieldwork was conducted by the Butana expedition from the Humboldt University of Berlin under the leadership of Professor Fritz Hintze from 1960 until 1970. They re-erected the Lion Temple, collapsed in antiquity, and constructed a new roof. These investigations continued after a gap of a couple of decades and are ongoing.[3]

Lion Temple[edit]

The Lion Tenple is a single-chambered rectangular 14.21 m in length, 9.13 m in width and 4.7 m in height temple with pylon and six columns made of drums. Erected by King Arnekhamani and dedicated to Apedemak the temple beers inscriptions in Egyptian hieroglyphs and representations of elephants and lions on the rear inside wall as well as reliefs of Apedemak depicted as a three-headed god on the outside walls.[4]

Great Enclosure[edit]

The Great Enclosure is the main structure of the site. Much of the large labyrinth-like building complex, which covers approximately 45,000 m2, was erected in the third century BC.[5] According to Hintze, "the complicated ground plan of this extensive complex of buildings is without parallel in the entire Nile valley".[6] The maze of courtyards includes three (possible) temples, passages, low walls, preventing any contact with the outside world, about 20 columns, ramps and two reservoirs.[7][8]

There were many sculptures of animals, such as elephants and most of the walls of the complex bear graffiti and masons’ or pilgrims' marks both pictorial and in Meroitic or Greek script. [9] The scheme of the site is, so far, without parallel in Nubia and ancient Egypt, and there is some debate about the purpose of the buildings, with earlier suggestions including a college, a hospital, and an elephant-training camp.[3] According to the scholar Basil Davidson, at least four Kushite queens — Amanirenas, Amanishakheto, Nawidemak and Amanitore — probably spent part of their lives in Musawwarat es-Sufra.[10]

Great Reservoir[edit]

The Great Reservoir is a Hafir to retain as much as possible of the rainfall of the short, wet season. It is 250 m in diameter and excavated 6.3 m into the ground.[11]


  1. ^
  2. ^ UNESCO Island of Meroe.
  3. ^ a b UNESCO Nomination document p.43.
  4. ^ Gilda Ferrandino and Matteo Lorenzini; 3D Reconstruction of the Lion Temple at Musawwarat es Sufra: 3D model and domain ontologies; in: The Kushite World (2015). Proceedings of the 11th International Conference for Meroitic Studies;Vienna, 1-4 September 2008.
  5. ^ The Great Enclosure
  6. ^ Hintze, Fritz (1978). The Kingdom of Kush: The Meroitic Period. The Brooklyn Museum. pp. 89–93.
  7. ^ Zamani Project
  8. ^ Google Books Sudan: The Bradt Travel Guide p.131-2.
  9. ^ Graffiti of the Great Enclosure
  10. ^ Basil Davidson, Old Africa Rediscovered, Prentice-Hall 1970.
  11. ^ Claudia Näser; The Great Hafir at Musawwarat as-Sufra. Fieldwork of the Archaeological Mission of Humboldt University Berlin in 2005 and 2006. On: Between the Cataracts. Proceedings of the 11th Conference of Nubian Studies. Warsaw University, 27 August - 2 September 2006; In: Polish Centre of Mediterranean Aerchaeology University of Warsaw. PAM Supplement Series 2.2./1-2.


  • Basil Davidson Old Africa Rediscovered, Gollancz, 1959
  • Peter Shinnie Meroe, 1967

External links[edit]