Glimmer of Sudan's rich cultural history

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Three ancient statues engraved with a little understood sub-Saharan language have recently been unearthed at the archaeological site of el-Hassa, approximately 120 miles north of the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. For the past six years, since the beginning of the conflict in Darfur in February 2003, Sudan has tended to feature in the news primarily as an area of war and atrocities. The recent discoveries provide, however, an insight into the richness of the country’s past and cultural history.

The statues represent three rams symbolising the god Amun and are engraved with a royal dedication in Meroitic script. The Merotic script is possibly the oldest written sub-Saharan language, dating from the Meroe period, between 300BC and AD450. The language is relatively unknown and experts are now attempting to decipher the inscriptions. The excavations, which are being financed by the French foreign ministry, began in 2000 and have since revealed substantial information on the reign of the king Amanakhareqerem, who is also mentioned in the inscriptions on the rams.

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