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Posted on Friday, November 25 - 2005

" On a cloudless morning in northern Sudan, the first rays of the sun cast a glow on Jebel Barkal, a small tabletop mountain perched near the Nile River. Jebel Barkal rises barely 320 feet above the surrounding desert but is distinguished by one prominent feature: a pinnacle jutting out fr..."

Nubian Sphinx - A five-foot-high ram statue graces the entrance of the Amun temple at Jebel Barkal. "For unknown reasons, the ram became an animal sacred to the Nubians. Sometimes Amun is shown as a man with the head of a ram," says Tim Kendall.

On a cloudless morning in northern Sudan, the first rays of the sun cast a glow on Jebel Barkal, a small tabletop mountain perched near the Nile River. Jebel Barkal rises barely 320 feet above the surrounding desert but is distinguished by one prominent feature: a pinnacle jutting out from its southwestern cliff face.If your imagination is keen enough, the isolated butte might resemble a crown or an altar, and the pinnacle an unfinished colossal statue—perhaps arearing serpent, its body poised to strike.Striding toward an excavation near the base of the pinnacle, archaeologist Tim Kendall pauses momentarily to admire what he calls the "little mountain with big secrets." Thousands of years ago, Jebel Barkal and Napata, the town that grew up around it, served as the spiritual center of ancient Nubia, one of Africa's earliest civilizations.  The mountain was also considered a holy site by neighboring Egypt, whose pharaohs plundered and tyrannized Nubia for 400 years. But in the eighth century B.C., Nubia turned the tables on its former colonizers.

Its armies marched 700 miles north from Jebel Barkal to Thebes, the spiritual capital of Egypt. There the Nubian king Piye became the first of a succession of five "black pharaohs" who ruled Egypt for six decades with the blessing ofthe Egyptian priesthood. What happened? asks Kendall. How did the Nubians, overrun by Egypt for centuries, crush their colonizers? And why did the priests of Thebes decide the black pharaohs had a mandate from heaven? Kendall has been searching for those answers for 20 years. They can be revealed, he believes, by cracking a code of geomorphological symbols at Jebel Barkal and by parsing hieroglyphic texts that refer to the mountain as Dju-wa'ab, or "Pure Mountain." "I feel as if I'm deciphering a mythological puzzle," Kendall says. "It's a real mystery story." Kendall is convinced that the physical form of Jebel Barkal is a clue. His research suggests that when Egypt's warrior-pharaoh Thutmose I set out to conquer the far reaches of Nubia in 1500 B.C., priests accompanying the armies took one look at Jebel Barkal and its pinnacle and believedthey......


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