Relics stolen from Sudan heritage site

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A view of part of the Al-Kuru archeological site, more than 300 kms northwest of the Sudanese capital Khartum on March 24, 2014. Teams from both Sudan's Dongola University and the USA's Michigan University have been excavating the site uncovering this season a temple with 23 interior columns. It is not yet known when the columns were built, but it is believed they are linked to a near by cemetery which contains some graves which appear to date from before the start of the Napatan kingdom in 750 BC, according to Abbas Zarook, head of the joint mission. There are also the remains of pyramids linked to the family of Napata’s greatest king, Piankhi, whose tomb was recovered years ago by a different American archaeologist team. With financial support from Qatar, the Sudanese-American team is continuing to excavate the 17 pyramids. AFP Photo / Ashraf Shazly
The temple uncovered at the Al-Kuru archeological site, more than 300 km northwest of the Sudanese capital Khartum, is believed to be linked to a nearby cemetery containing graves that appear to date from before the start of the Napatan kingdom in 750 BC. AFP Photo / Ashraf Shazly

KHARTOUM, April 1, 2014 (AFP) – Three statues linked to royal burial ceremonies in Sudan’s ancient Napatan civilisation have been stolen from a museum near a UNESCO World Heritage site, an official said yesterday.

Their disappearance underscores the lack of protection afforded Sudan’s rich but under-developed archaeological heritage.

“They are small statues, about 10-15 cm high but it’s very significant because the Napatan kingdom is one of the important periods in Sudanese history,” Abdurrahman Ali, head of the country’s museums, told AFP.

He said the statues, dating from 450 BC, disappeared from a small museum at the Jebel Barkal heritage area in northern Sudan. The loss went undetected for three days.

An AFP reporter who visited the museum recently found it protected by one guard at the gate. Artifacts, including many small statues, were held in a poorly-lit room. Some were displayed openly on tables. Pyramids and other ancient sites are also poorly guarded and receive relatively few visitors in Sudan’s remote desert.

Officials last month announced that the Gulf state of Qatar is giving $135 million to support Sudanese archaeology over five years. Part of that money will go towards protecting the sites.

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