A team of archaeologists ‘diving’ in the sweltering deserts of northern Sudan, once the land of Nubia, have discovered artifacts and ‘gold leaf’ in a 2,300-year-old submerged tomb belonging to a pharaoh named Nastasen who ruled the Kush kingdom from 335 BC to 315 BC.
A key difference between the pyramids discovered in northern Sudan and the more famous pyramids at Cairo in Egypt is that the pharaohs were buried beneath them, rather than within them. For this reason, George Reisner, a Harvard Egyptologist, first visited Nuri over a century ago and discovered burial chambers beneath Taharqa’s massive pyramid, the largest of 20 pyramids marking the burials of Kushite royal family.
Nuri pyramids. ( John Partridge )
Sometimes called the “black pharaohs,” this dynasty conquered Egypt in the 8th Century BC and ruled for almost a century. Reisner not only reported that he had found their water filled tombs, but he also noted the presence of a narrow, ancient processional staircase cut into the bedrock running deep below Nastasen’s pyramid at Nuri.
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- Nubia and the Powerful Kingdom of Kush
- 16 Ancient Pyramids, Burial Sites for a Vanished Kingdom, Found in Sudan
In 2018, the team located the 65-step stairway and began excavating, but when they got to around 40 stairs down they hit a water table - enters underwater archaeologist Pearce Paul Creasman - associate professor in the dendrochronology laboratory at the University of Arizona, who led the team into the subaquatic ancient tomb for the first time in at least 100 years.
Diving Deep Into The Desert
In a National Geographic article Creasman said “normal scuba tanks would have been too cumbersome” and this is why he decided to pump oxygen through 150-foot-long (45.72 meters) hoses from a gasoline-fed pump on the surface. With Fakhri Hassan Abdallah, an inspector with Sudan’s National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums , manning the air pump, Creasman entered the ancient abyss.
Creasman told BBC Newsday ,
There are three chambers, with these beautiful arched ceilings, about the size of a small bus, you go in one chamber into the next, it's pitch black, you know you're in a tomb if your flash lights aren't on. And it starts revealing the secrets that are held within.
And in this instance, those secrets Creasman risked his life to touch came in the form of fragments of ancient gold. According to Creasman, when he was making his way through the dark silt they… “Were still sitting there - small glass-type statues” which had once been leafed in gold.
A shabti found in the submerged chamber of a Kushite pyramid. ( Pearce Paul Creasman, Nuri Pyramids Expedition )
And while the water destroyed the glass underneath, “the little gold flake was still there”. Under normal circumstances all traces of gold leaf would have been stolen by grave robbers , but the rising water level made this particular tomb inaccessible, said underwater archaeologist Kristin Romey in National Geographic .
Seeking the Origins of Kush Gold Leaf
‘Kush gold leaf’ sounds like the name of a tea, or a brand of really strong hashish, both products associated with the Kush empire; however, while Creasman’s team might be slightly let down at not having found a collection of solid gold statues , the fragments of gold leaf are in themselves priceless in heritage terms.
The land of the Kush became one of the main gold-producing areas of the ancient world and its alchemists and craftspeople forged intricate and beautiful jewelry and they adorned their temples and statues with gold leaf. In 2007, The Guardian published an article announcing that archaeologists discovered “An ancient site where gold flakes were hand-ground from rare ores.”
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Gold leaf found in the tomb. ( Pearce Paul Creasman, Nuri Pyramids Expedition )
Located at Hosh el-Geruf, 225 miles (362 km) north of Khartoum in Sudan, the archaeologists first unearthed grinding stones made of a granite-like rock called gneiss, used to crush the ore and recover flakes of gold . Gil Stein, director of the Oriental Institute, told The Guardian, “This work is extremely important because it can give us our first look at the economic organisation of this very important but little-known African state - the Kush empire.”
Funded in part by a grant from the National Geographic Society, for more information and updates on archaeology at Nuri, visit the official expedition website at nuripyramids.org.
Nubian pyramids are pyramids that were built by the rulers of the ancient Kushite kingdoms. The area of the Nile valley known as Nubia, which lies within the north of present-day Sudan, was home to three Kushite kingdoms during antiquity. The first had its capital at Kerma (2500–1500 BC). The second was centered on Napata (1000–300 BC). Finally, the last kingdom was centered on Meroë (300 BC–AD 300). They are built of granite and sandstone.
Deeply influenced by the Egyptians, Nubian kings built their own pyramids a thousand years after Egyptian burial methods had changed.  In Nubia, pyramids were built for the first time at El Kurru in 751 BC.  The Nubian style pyramids emulated a form of Egyptian private elite family pyramid that was common during the New kingdom.  There are twice as many Nubian pyramids still standing today as there are Egyptian ones.  40 of the pyramids were partially demolished by Italian treasure hunter Giuseppe Ferlini in the 1830s.  The Nubian pyramids are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 
Sudan tomb diver reveals pharaoh's secrets
Pearce Paul Creasman and his team were the first people to go into the tomb for 100 years and, in that time, it has become harder to access because of the rising water level.
Mr Creasman told BBC Newsday that this was the first time underwater archaeology had been carried out in Sudan, the location of the ancient royal burial site of Nuri.
He found pottery figurines and gold leaf.
"The gold offerings were still sitting there - these small glass-type statues had been leafed in gold. And while the water destroyed the glass underneath, the little gold flake was still there," he told Newsday.
He believes these offerings were for Nastasen, a minor pharaoh who ruled the Kush kingdom from 335 BC to 315 BC.
This gold leaf would have been taken by thieves if it weren't for the rising water level making the tomb inaccessible to most, underwater archaeologist Kristin Romey writes in the National Geographic.
Mr Creasman told the BBC that the team "dug as far as we could" down a 65-step stairway which led to the tomb entry but "we got about 40 stairs down until we hit the water table and knew we wouldn't be able to go any further without putting our heads under".
Normal scuba tanks "would have been too cumbersome", he said, so instead they used a hose that pumped oxygen from the surface on the dive in January.
He described what he found as "remarkable":
"There are three chambers, with these beautiful arched ceilings, about the size of a small bus, you go in one chamber into the next, it's pitch black, you know you're in a tomb if your flash lights aren't on. And it starts revealing the secrets that are held within."
The tomb is part of the ancient site of Nuri which is spread across more than 170 acres in northern Sudan.
These pyramids mark the burials of Kushite royals who are sometimes referred to as "black pharaohs". The Kush kingdom lasted for many hundreds of years and, in the 8th Century BC, it conquered Egypt which it ruled for almost a century.
One difference between the pyramids in Sudan and the much more famous pyramids in Egypt is that the kings were buried below them, instead of inside.
Underwater archaeologists find treasure beneath pyramids of Egypt’s black pharaohs
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When we think of pyramids, we naturally think of Egypt. But did you know that Sudan has more pyramids? It does, and underwater archaeologists just discovered treasure beneath them buried with Egypt’s black pharaohs.
Situated in a sandy desert of Sudan not far from the Nile, 20 such pyramids rise from the landscape in Nuri, an ancient burial site where the tombs of Egypt’s black pharaohs are located.
For a brief period of just over 100 years from 760 B.C. to 650 B.C., the black pharaohs ruled Egypt.
Unlike other Egyptian rulers, the Nuri kings were buried underneath pyramids instead of inside them. Think of them as giant headstones rather than tombs.
The tomb is beneath the sand.
Now, what does this have to do with underwater archaeology? Well, after excavating a staircase down to the first chamber of the tomb belonging to Nastasen, the last king of Nuri, the team hit the underground water table, which means if they want to see what’s inside the tomb they would need to take a swim.
Led by underwater archaeologist Pearce Paul Creasman, who is specially trained for such expeditions, the team brought in air pumps with long hoses attached to provide oxygen so they would not have to carry cumbersome air tanks on their backs.
Creasman installed a steel chute they could swim through without having to worry about rocks falling on top of them in case of collapse. And once he got inside, he got a good look at a tomb not seen for nearly a century since Harvard archaeologist George Reisner first briefly excavated the site before abandoning it because of the water, which had only been knee deep at the time. One of Reisner’s team members even dug a pit and extracted artifacts in the third chamber.
“There are three chambers, with these beautiful arched ceilings, about the size of a small bus, you go in one chamber into the next, it’s pitch black, you know you’re in a tomb if your flashlights aren’t on,” Creasman told BBC News. “And it starts revealing the secrets that are held within.”
Fellow underwater archaeologist Kristin Romey joined Creasman and wrote about their exploration of the tomb for National Geographic.
“Creasman and I both trained as underwater archaeologists, so when I heard that he had a grant to explore submerged ancient tombs, I gave him a call and asked to tag along,” she wrote. “Just a few weeks before I arrived, he entered Nastasen’s tomb for the first time, swimming through the first chamber, then a second, then into a third and final room, where, beneath several feet of water, he saw what looked like a royal sarcophagus. The stone coffin appeared to be unopened and undisturbed.”
The water was much deeper now, what Romey writes is the result of “rising groundwater caused by natural and human-induced climate change, intensive agriculture near the site, and the construction of modern dams along the Nile.”
The mission is mostly to test the equipment and lay the groundwork for future excavations, but they do explore the chambers and even find Reisner’s pit that may still contain treasures.
Underwater archaeology, screenshot via YouTube (see below)
“Swimming through a low, rounded, rock-cut doorway, we enter the third chamber,” Romey wrote. “The stone sarcophagus is dimly visible below us—a thrilling sight—and we spot the pit that was hastily dug by Reisner’s nervous worker a century ago.”
As it turns out, Reisner and his team definitely missed out on finding more.
The excavation of Nuri, a royal burial site via YouTube (see below)
“As we excavate Reisner’s pit—filling plastic buckets with sediment, swimming them out into the air-filled second chamber, dumping the sediment onto a screen and sifting for artifacts—we discover paper-thin foils of pure gold that likely once covered precious figurines that long ago dissolved in the water,” Romey described.
“The gold offerings were still sitting there – these small glass-type statues had been leafed in gold,” Creasman said. “And while the water destroyed the glass underneath, the little gold flake was still there.”
The findings prove that there is still much for archaeologists to discover and learn at Nuri. They also demonstrate that these tombs may be untouched by looters.
“Those gilded figurines would have been easy pickings for looters, and their remains are a sure sign that Nastasen’s tomb has been essentially untouched,” Romey wrote.
That’s a good thing for an archaeological team to know because it means future excavations could produce more priceless treasures and reveal more secrets of Egypt’s black pharaohs.
And unlike archaeologists of the past, modern archaeologists have the technology to go where they could not.
“I think we finally have the technology to be able to tell the story of Nuri, to fill in the blanks of what happened here,” Creasman said. “It’s a remarkable point in history that so few know about. It’s a story that deserves to be told.”
Indeed, it certainly does. Reisner wrote off the black pharaohs as racially inferior and ignored their accomplishments. Now archaeologists can tell their story properly and restore their rightful place in history as powerful rulers of the Egyptian empire.
See the underwater archaeology from National Geographic below:
July 30, 2019
Yamnaya Migrants Wiped Out Polish Family 5000 Years Ago?
"Researchers have shed light on a mysterious 5,000-year-old mass grave in Poland. Despite being killed brutally, the victims were buried carefully. Ancient DNA has revealed the mass murder to be that of a large family. The new research results shed light on a particularly violent era in European prehistory of which little is known." Source: Science Daily (May 2019).
". 'We do not know who was responsible for this massacre,' according to University of Copenhagen archaeo-geneticist Hannes Schroeder. 'But it is thought-provoking that it occurred 5,000 years ago, as the late Neolithic Period was transitioning into the Bronze Age. During this period, European cultures were being heavily transformed by Yamnaya cultures migrating from the east. It is easy to imagine that these changes somehow precipitated violent territorial clashes.'"
Interview below discusses the Yamnaya culture:
"The iconic sarsen stones at Stonehenge were erected some 4500 years ago. Although the monument’s original purpose is still disputed, we now know that within a few centuries it became a memorial to a vanished people. By then, almost every Briton, from the south coast of England to the north-east tip of Scotland, had been wiped out by incomers. It isn’t clear exactly why they disappeared so rapidly. But a picture of the people who replaced them is emerging." Source: New Scientist (subscription site).
"The migrants’ ultimate source was a group of livestock herders called the Yamnaya who occupied the Eurasian steppe north of the Black Sea and the Caucasus mountains. Britain wasn’t their only destination. Between 5000 and 4000 years ago, the Yamnaya and their descendants colonised swathes of Europe, leaving a genetic legacy that persists to this day. Their arrival coincided with profound social and cultural changes. Burial practices shifted dramatically, a warrior class appeared, and there seems to have been a sharp upsurge in lethal violence."
"Britain's Answer To Tutankhamun" Discovered -- An Undisturbed Grave Of An Anglo-Saxon Prince
"Buried between a pub and a supermarket, archaeologists have unearthed an incredible burial chamber that’s being touted as Britain's answer to Tutankhamun’s tomb. Granted, it’s perhaps not got the glitz and glamour of the Egyptian pharaoh's tomb, but this chamber is already proving to be one of the biggest archaeological discoveries ever unearthed from the Anglo-Saxon era, offering unprecedented insight into the period's people, craftsmanship, and culture." Source: IFL Science.
"The ancient burial chamber was first discovered in 2003 during some roadworks near Southend in Essex, UK. After years of painstaking work, archaeologists from Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) have now revealed that the chamber most likely belonged to a young Anglo-Saxon prince from the late sixth century CE, making this the earliest known Christian Anglo-Saxon burial."
Medieval Warrior Woman Found In Viking Grave Was No Viking
"When archaeologists discovered the remains of a woman in a Viking graveyard in Denmark, an axe near her skeleton told them that she may have been a fighter. But closer examination of both the weapon and her burial revealed something unexpected: She was no Viking." Source: Live Science.
"Rather, the woman was Slavic, and likely came from a region in Eastern Europe that is now Poland, representatives of Poland's Ministry of Science and Higher Education said in a statement."
Note: About thirty 9th - 10th century women's graves which contain weapons have been discovered in Scandinavia. According to Science In Poland, these graves "are most often equipped with axes, less frequently arrowheads or spears. In addition to real weapons, in numerous women's graves there are also miniatures of weapons in the form of, for example, small shields, axes or swords. It is a mystery for researchers whether it means that those women were warriors. The old Icelandic texts, especially the so-called legendary sagas, in addition to the warlike and beautiful Valkyries, also mention dragons, trolls and. flying carpets."
The Newgrange Megalithic Passage Tomb
"The Megalithic Passage Tomb at Newgrange was built about 3200 BC," according to Nowth.com, a great site about the prehistoric megaliths of Ireland. "The kidney shaped mound covers an area of over one acre and is surrounded by 97 kerbstones, some of which are richly decorated with megalithic art. The 19 metre long inner passage leads to a cruciform chamber with a corbelled roof. It is estimated that the construction of the Passage Tomb at Newgrange would have taken a work force of 300 at least 20 years."
"Newgrange is the best known Irish passage tomb and dates to c.3,200BC. The large mound is approximately 80m in diameter and is surrounded at its base by a kerb of 97 stones. The most impressive of these stones is the highly decorated Entrance Stone [see next video]." Source: World Heritage Ireland.
"A tomb such as Newgrange would lead one to suppose that it must have been destined as the final resting-place of a leading or kingly family (passage-graves were collective tombs) but in the absence of the kind of evidence that has proved so informative in other lands, notably in Egypt, we can only speculate about the matter." Source: Newgrange.com.
Diving Deep into the Desert
In a National Geographic article Creasman said &ldquonormal scuba tanks would have been too cumbersome&rdquo and this is why he decided to pump oxygen through 150-foot-long (45.72 meters) hoses from a gasoline-fed pump on the surface. With Fakhri Hassan Abdallah, an inspector with Sudan&rsquos National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums , manning the air pump, Creasman entered the ancient abyss.
There are three chambers, with these beautiful arched ceilings, about the size of a small bus, you go in one chamber into the next, it’s pitch black, you know you’re in a tomb if your flash lights aren’t on. And it starts revealing the secrets that are held within.
And in this instance, those secrets Creasman risked his life to touch came in the form of fragments of ancient gold. According to Creasman, when he was making his way through the dark silt they&hellip &ldquoWere still sitting there – small glass-type statues&rdquo which had once been leafed in gold.
And while the water destroyed the glass underneath, &ldquothe little gold flake was still there&rdquo. Under normal circumstances all traces of gold leaf would have been stolen by grave robbers , but the rising water level made this particular tomb inaccessible, said underwater archaeologist Kristin Romey in National Geographic .
Of Sailors and Pirates
The list of theories goes on and on and some entries even involve the participation of pirates and sailors. Captain Kidd was theorized to have buried some of his treasure on Oak Island. Meanwhile, others believe that Captain Blackbeard admitted to stashing something there when he claimed to have hidden it “where none but Satan and myself can find it.”
There was also a theory that suggested Spanish sailors had hidden their treasure in a secret location of the island. While these ideas may be intriguing, there is no proof to support any of them. However, the theory we’re about to reveal to you is by far the most engaging. Are you ready? Check this out.
Were The Nuri Pyramids Previously Excavated?
George Reisner, a Harvard Egyptologist, visited Nuri between 1907 and 1916 to excavate the burial chambers beneath Taharqa’s pyramid.
His team mapped Nuri’s funerary monuments which included more than eighty Kushite burials however his field notes suggest that many tombs were already inundated with groundwater from the Nile, making excavation unsafe or impossible. This is great for historians because it means that grave robbers couldn’t easily access the tombs and there’s more chance of discovering the sarcophagus, a mummified body, gifts, drawings and who knows what else.
Panoramic from The Nuri Pyramids, Sudan
Reisner never published the results of his work and had offhandedly (and wrongly) dismissed the Kushite kings as racially inferior and their accomplishments as an inheritance of older Egyptian traditions. He wrote, “The native negroid race had never developed either its trade or any industry worthy of mention and owed their cultural position to the Egyptian immigrants and to the imported Egyptian civilization.”
However, from his studies at Jebel Barkal, Reisner discovered the Nubian kings were not actually buried in the pyramids but under them. He also found the skull of a Nubian female (who he thought was a king) which is in the collection of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard.
Dive team at the Nuri Pyramids
11,000-year-old mine in the underwater cave found by archaeologists
The underwater caves along the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico contain a sprawling labyrinth of archaeological relics inside them, maybe unlike anywhere else on Earth.
Preserved in a vast network of flooded caverns, these flooded cenotes hold a treasure trove of Mayan secrets, but you can also find ancient objects dating back to far more distant prehistoric episodes, As a recent discovery revealed.
Researchers announced in a new study the discovery of what may be the oldest known mine in the Americas (alongside other claims to the title), uncovering the remains of a subterranean ochre mine dating back to 12,000 years ago.
“The underwater caves are like a time capsule,” says expert diver and micropalaeontologist Ed Reinhardt from McMaster University in Canada.
“There is clear evidence of ochre mining which would have taken place thousands of years ago.”
In dives during 2017, Reinhardt and fellow researchers explored caves along the eastern coastline of Quintana Roo.
Caves in this region have long been known to contain the skeletal remains of ancient peoples who inhabited the caverns thousands of years ago, back when lower sea levels meant the caves were dry and accessible.
As to why ancient individuals would enter these deep and dangerous labyrinthine passages has remained unclear, but now we appear to have an explanation.
“The cave’s landscape has been noticeably altered, which leads us to believe that prehistoric humans extracted tonnes of ochre from it, maybe having to light fire pits to illuminate the space,” says diver and archaeologist Fred Devos from the Research Centre of the Quintana Roo Aquifer System (CINDAQ) in Mexico.
Inside the caves, the team found a range of evidence of prehistoric mining activities, including digging tools, ochre extraction beds, navigational markers, and ancient fireplaces.
The researchers suggest mining evidence in three submerged cave systems spans about 2,000 years of operation – from 12,000 to 10,000 years ago.
The sites, called La Mina, Camilo Mina, and Monkey Dust, may be the oldest known examples of ochre mining in the Americas, but the team thinks cave exploration and ochre mining in the region may date back even further, based on other skeletal evidence dated to 12,800 years ago.
For some reason, the miners in this site stopped their ochre extraction about 10,000 years ago.
As to why, the researchers are unsure, as the cave would still have been accessible at that point.
It’s possible, they say, that the miners moved on to other deposits in other caves – and with 2,000 kilometres of known cave systems to explore in the region, we might find more evidence of this ancient mining in the future.
What is certain is that it must have taken unimaginable bravery to delve for hundreds of metres into these jagged caves, with only a lit torch to shine a path in the buried darkness.
That they ventured into the dark like this in such conditions tells us something about how important the ochre pigment must have been in ancient Palaeoindian rituals and customs, that they were willing to risk their lives for their prize.
“Imagine a flickering light, in the middle of deep darkness,” says team member James Chatters from Applied Paleoscience in Washington State, “that at once illuminates the red-stained hands of the miners as they strike the ground with hammers made out of stalagmites, while it lights the way for those who carry the ochre through the tunnels until they reach sunlight and the forest floor.”