March 30, 2013 11:03 AM
By Ian Timberlake
KHARTOUM: People power may have come to modern-day Egypt and not Sudan, but the unearthing of ancient pyramids in Egypt's southern neighbour shows that greater social equality existed there 2,000 years ago, a French archeologist says.
Three years of digging by a French team at Sedeinga, about 200 kilometres (120 miles) from the Egyptian border, has unearthed 35 pyramids that emphasise the contrast between the two ancient cultures, said Claude Rilly, director of the mission.
"Pyramids were so fashionable that everybody that could afford to build one, did," said Rilly, referring to the latter part of the Meroe kingdom, around 100-200 AD.
"So we have really a kind of inflation, what I call a democratisation of the pyramid which is without equivalent anywhere, especially in Egypt."
Sudan's remote and relatively undiscovered pyramids contrast with their grander and better-known cousins to the north.
Egyptian pyramids, built far earlier than those in Sudan, held the tombs of kings, the royal family and nobles -- but never the middle class, Rilly said.
Sudanese royalty also got their pyramids, but later so did many other lesser souls, said the 53-year-old archeologist, who began studying hieroglyphics when he was only seven.
"It reached layers of the population which have never been concerned by building of pyramids in Egypt," Rilly said. "This is really something new, which we didn't expect."
That is why there is such a large number. Sometimes they were built so close together, typically in a circular pattern, that there isn't enough room to squeeze between them.