What country has the most pyramids? Surprisingly, it isn’t Egypt. It’s Sudan—where rising floodwaters are threatening the famous burial site of the Kushite Kings.
This summer, two weeks of heavy rainfall in Ethiopia caused the Nile River to rise about 57 feet in August—its most severe flooding in almost 100 years. Flash floods struck much of neighboring Sudan, destroying over 100,000 homes and tragically taking more than 100 lives. Authorities declared the country a natural disaster area, and then the floods inched farther—into the Island of Meroe, a spot once at the heart of the Kingdom of Kush.
Does the name “Kush” ring a bell? The Bible tells us that Kush, or Cush, was Ham’s oldest son and Noah’s grandson. Moses’ wife is also called a Cushite in the Bible. Cush means black. Bible scholars often consider Cush to be the ancestor of the dark-skinned people that lived in Ethiopia in Bible times. In the Old Testament, Cush usually refers to southern countries where the children of Cush made their homes. The Kushites also spread through Arabia, Babylonia, and Persia, and to western India.
Kushite kings ruled from the 8th century B.C. to the 4th century. And the kings of Kush are buried in pyramids—the most extraordinary pyramids you have (maybe) never heard of. The Meroe Pyramids were built in Nubia, one of the first civilizations in Africa. Rich Kushite people were buried in the pyramids for almost 600 years.
For a long time, people overlooked the Kush archaeological sites. Many thought they were just part of ancient Egypt. But in the late 20th century, Swiss archaeologist Charles Bonnet discovered that Kush rose to power when Egypt declined. At one time, the Kushite kings even ruled in Egypt. They wore Egyptian-style clothes (kilts and belts) but also donned some unique Nubian bling—necklaces with charms shaped like rams’ heads and crowns decked with renderings of two serpents. Eventually, Assyrian forces drove the Kushites back to their homeland, Nubia.
Sudan already had plenty of problems before floods arrived. The country is deeply in debt, and Sudanese people struggle to get enough fuel, bread, and medicine to live. Sudanese money becomes less valuable as time goes by.
Now people set up sandbag barricades and pump water out of parts of the submerged historical site. The situation is under control for now, but workers are watching for more water.