A Look at the Italian Mission working on the Palatial Area
North of the Temple of Amun in Jebel Barkal (QSAP 34)
The area of the investigation originally proposed by the Italian Archaeological Mission in Sudan corresponds to a specific sector of ancient capital of Napata, about 325 km north of Khartoum: here, king Natakamani, the ruler of the Meroitic empire at the beginning of the 1st century CE planned an impressive, new royal district, decidedly leaving behind the older palaces built during the Napatan period in the 1st millennium BCE. The main edifice of the area is the Great Palace (B1500), built over a square base platform measuring 61 m each side, with four entrances and developed around a columned interior courtyard. Its architectural features – the high platform, the polychrome facades and the eclectic style – confirm the shaping role of the ancient royal city in the elaboration of a culture, which blended Nubian, Hellenistic and Egyptian features in an original and coherent frame.
The presence of such an impressive royal palace in Napata testifies also to the creation of a complex architectural system of buildings, the majority of which are chronologically coherent with the main palace, and form with it a unique expression of Meroitic town planning in Napata.
Previous investigations showed that the area in the circumference of the Great Palace had been perfectly designed and organized to serve the palace. The edifices investigated during the previous seasons (for instance, the pavilion B3200, or the Edifice of the Basins, B2200) are part of this system, together with other still ‘silent’, i.e. unexplored, buildings. For this reason, the last campaigns focused also on some structures surroundings the Palace, which are probably connected both to the Royal Area and to the earlier temple area. In particular, during the seasons
2014/15 and 2015/16, two buildings (B 2300 and B 1800) have been brought to light: their measurements are not easily recognizable, but their architectural elements let us suppose that they were monumental buildings, possibly two kiosks, related to the Royal Palace. In fact, some capitals were found, which are characterized by fine decorations and, in particular, Hellenistic or Egyptian stylistic influences.
During the last two seasons (2016/17 – 2017/18) the work has been conducted in the south-western corner of the Palace and revealed interesting results: when the excavation reached deeper levels, unexpectedly, the presence of pre-existing structures underneath the Natakamani-phase were revealed. suggesting the existence of at least 4 different occupational phases of this monumental building.