Death of the pyramid

The pyramid of Amanishakheto stood for nearly two thousand years, until an Italian looter blew it up.

The remains of the Pyramid of Amanishakheto
TrackHD, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The ancient rulers of the Kingdom of Kush were very impressed with the Egyptian pyramids to their immediate north, so they built their own. The Nubian pyramids, in modern Sudan, are much steeper than the Egyptian pyramids. They are also more numerous: there are twice as many Nubian pyramids as there are Egyptian ones. Like their northern cousins, the Nubian pyramids are arranged in large clusters like this one in Meroë:

Nubian pyramids
Valerian Guillot, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There would be even more Nubian pyramids, but for the destruction wreaked by an Italian looter and treasure-hunter named Giuseppe Ferlini. Consider the ruin at the top of this page. This pyramid housed the remains of Amanishakheto, a kandake (queen mother) of Kush around two thousand and twenty years ago. As recently as 1821, the pyramid looked like this:

Illustration of of the Pyramid of Amanishakheto
Cailliaud, Frédéric in 1826, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

But by 1834, the pyramid was gone. Ferlini, with a military detachment and a whole host of local workers, had removed the stones of the pyramid layer by layer in search of burial goods and treasure. At some point he purportedly used dynamite to speed up the process, although that may also have been the work of E. A. Wallis Budge, an English Egyptologist. And it wasn’t just this pyramid: Ferlini destroyed forty more in his quest for fortune and glory.

He did find some treasure in the end – Amanishakheto’s jewellery is now in the collections of German museums – but the greater architectural and historical treasure (the pyramids themselves) is now lost to history.

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