A new protective shelter for the. Royal Baths at Meroë (Sudan) - PDF

A new protective shelter for the Royal Baths at Meroë (Sudan) At a glance In Meroë, the capital of the Kingdom of Kush in the middle Nile valley, an extraordinary hydraulic facility was built directly

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A new protective shelter for the Royal Baths at Meroë (Sudan) At a glance In Meroë, the capital of the Kingdom of Kush in the middle Nile valley, an extraordinary hydraulic facility was built directly next to the royal palaces: the so-called Royal Baths. Dating from around the turn of the first millennium, the complex of buildings is an outstanding example of cultural transfer between the African kingdom and the Hellenistic-Roman cultures of the Mediterranean. The central feature of the complex is a large basin with an elaborately decorated wall. The water entered the basin through several pipe openings in this wall, cascading down against a backdrop of sculpted figures, green-blue shimmering faience and colourful wall paintings. The unique ensemble will now be better protected by the new shelter and presented to visitors in a way that reflects its cultural and historical importance. 1 2 Fig. 1: View of the water basin of the Royal Baths with the decorated wall through which the water was piped in. Surrounding the pipe openings, the remains of sculpture, faience and painting can be seen. Fig. 2: Visualization of the new protective shelter, interior view of the basin Prozessionsweg The Kingdom of Kush, Meroë and the Royal Baths SUDAN Mediterranean Cairo EGYPT frontier of ancient Egypt Aswan and Nubia 1st cataract 500 km Nile 2nd cataract 3rd 4th 5th Napata 6th Meroë Khartoum Red Sea The so-called Royal Baths were discovered in 1912 by John Garstang of the University of Liverpool in the course of the first excavations at Meroë. The ancient city lies on the east bank of the Nile some 200 km north of the confluence of the White and the Blue Nile near the Sudanese capital Khartoum (Fig. 3, see also Fig. 20). Meroë developed over the centuries to becomes the residential city of the Kushite kings. For more than 1,000 years from around 900 BC to the early 4th century AD, this kingdom ruled the middle Nile valley, from Egypt s southern frontier near Aswan into the interior of Africa. The kingdom s previous capital lay The residential district of Meroë, the Royal City, is enclosed by a thick wall (Fig. 5). Beyond the city gate lies the temple of the chief god Amun, approached from the east by a processional way. Within the city wall are smaller sacred buildings along with two royal palaces and spacious residences. Directly adjacent to the palaces is the conspicuously large precinct of the Royal Baths. Sited on an enclosed, peripheral strip of land between the palaces and the city wall, the complex occupies a prominent but rather secluded location in the Royal City. Centuries after the palaces and the city wall were built, this strip of land, until then hardly used, was levelled and completely refashioned with the construction of the Royal Baths. on the 4th cataract at Napata, which was endowed with temples to the chief gods, palaces Fig. 3: The Kingdom of Kush in the middle Nile valley, with the major cities Napata and Meroë 3 and royal cemeteries. In the early 3rd century AD, Meroë, which lay further to the south Temple of city wall 4 in the Kushite heartland, grew in importance. Augustus From that time on, the queens, kings and princes were buried there in the cemeteries with the famous small, steep-walled pyramids Royal Baths city gate (Fig. 4), a clear sign of Meroë s new role as the Temple of Amun central city of the kingdom. Nile royal palaces residences pyramids processional way Fig. 4: The pyramids in the north cemetery of Meroë, burial place of the Kushite dynasty m Fig. 5: The Royal City of Meroë with temples, palaces, residences and the Royal Baths The Royal Baths Architectural design west enclosure wall city wall underground drainage channel exedra water basin garden north enclosure wall east enclosure wall The architectural design of the Royal Baths (Fig. 6) has no known parallel in the Kingdom of Kush. The centrepiece of the 30 m x 50 m complex is the virtually square water basin with an area of 7 m x 7 m and a depth of 2.4 m (Fig. 1). Shallow steps lead down into the basin (Fig. 7). It was surrounded on three sides by an ambulatory flanked by columns. On the fourth, south-facing side is the water inlet system concealed by a tall decorated wall. A few metres to the north of it an exedra was built with four ceremonial chairs arranged in a quarter-circle (Fig. 8). The basin and the exedra, the principal elements of the complex, were surrounded by a garden. There is evidence that this levelled 5 area was flooded with fertile river mud and 6 that plant pits were dug regularly around the basin. The garden was enclosed by corridors and adjoining rooms. open inlet channels Water was conducted to the basin from the south via open channels. Narrow, surface garden channels also ran through the garden to the exedra and to the edges of the basin. The point of origin and hence the source of the palace water for the supply system is still unclear. It can be assumed, however, that a device ex ist- ed to lift water to the necessary height above the groundwater table or the level of the Nile. Fig. 7: Steps into water basin, with lime plaster Walls documented by Garstang in Walls documented since 1999 Fig. 8: Exedra with four ceremonial seats m Fig. 6: Schematic plan of the Royal Baths, 2015 Area of the building complex Walls, reconstructed The Royal Baths Water management The principal supply of water to the basin was ensured, from the south, by a burnt-brick construction with an open water channel (Fig. 9). The channel is plastered with waterproof lime render which was reapplied twice during the working life of the Royal Baths. This principal inlet channel, on reaching the basin, splits into several branches whose water is conducted via covered pipes through the richly decorated show-wall to the rim of the basin (Fig. 12). From there the water gushed, possibly through spouts, into the basin, which was likewise completely plastered with waterproof lime render. outer west wall of the water basin imprint of logs As a special attraction a column may be imag- Fig. 9: The main channel to the Royal Baths, viewed from the south. In the background the present protective ined in the centre of the basin (Fig. 10). Water shelter marks the position of the water ba- was drawn up through an integrated pres- 8 7 sin. The ancient channel is open and plastered with sure pipe in the column drums and flowed waterproof lime render. from the top back down into the basin. The basin was drained by means of a massive underground channel that conducted the water westwards to the Nile (Fig. 6 and 11). In an impressive feat of engineering, the drain was laid at a depth of about three metres and passed under the foundations of the brickwork cover centuries-old city wall, which was approx. 5 m thick. On the floor of the very well preserved channel is a collared clay pipe 20 cm in diameter, laid in lime mortar. The channel s side walls are formed of solid sandstone blocks sandstone side walls upon which lay an elaborate brickwork cover. Fig. 10: The floor of the water basin with original lime rendering. On the floor lie the base and drums of a The imprint of logs testifies to an additional collapsed column with integrated pressure conduit. layer covering the construction. clay pipe Fig. 11: Underground drain conducting waste water from the basin westwards to the Nile. The central element is the clay pipe laid in lime mortar and protected by an elaborate brickwork cover and an additional layer of logs. The Royal Baths Decoration program Several water pipes are built into the elabo- moon (Fig. 14). In combination with water the rately decorated south wall of the basin (Fig. 1, native god was worshipped as a guarantor of 12 17). Water gushed into the basin against a fertility. colourful backdrop of wall paintings, faiences Along with this Egyptian motifs are also and small sculptures. The decor, like the architectural shown, such as the sa knot (Fig. 15) and the design of the Royal Baths, is without ankh sign (Fig. 16). These reflect the Kushite parallel in the Kingdom of Kush. kingdom s traditionally very close historical Here several different cultural traditions, and cultural ties with ancient Egypt, and symbolize foreign and indigenous, merged to form a protection and life. unique iconography striking testimony of In contrast the pan pipes are rooted in Graeco-Roman the Meroitic elite s contacts with and receptivity culture (Fig. 12 and 17). They are towards its northern neighbours around associated with the retinue of the Greek wine the turn of the first millennium. god Dionysus. The foreign instrument will The iconography for instance includes the have reached Meroë in the middle Nile valley genuinely Meroitic god Apedemak, represented and entered the cultural sphere of the as a lion with crown standing on a sickle Kushite ruling dynasty via Egypt, where it had 9 Fig. 12: Decorated wall above the water basin, section 10 pan pipe player the god Apedemak sa knot water outlets elephant ankh sign water outlet Fig. 13: Graphic documentation of the decorated wall showing the original colour scheme (1999) The Royal Baths Decor and meaning Fig. 14: Meroitic god Apedemak Fig. 15: Sa knot and rosette Fig. 16: Ankh sign become popular in the 3rd century BC dur- about the statue of a poet or philosopher complex mean? The imagery of water and ing the reign of the Ptolemies when the new (Fig. 18 a c), made at Meroë, is how lifelike wine, music and dance in a garden-like setting potentates accentuated the Dionysus cult as it is. The representation is not characterized and under the protection of deities is evocapart of their religious policy. by frontality and formalism: instead we see tive of prosperity, abundance and well-being. The manner of representing the human form a rather corpulent figure with an inner dynamism Whether cultic rituals or profane actions in 11 likewise betrays the influence of the Mediterranean sitting casually on a stool. the context of the Meroitic royal family took 12 world. What is particularly noteworthy What could the decor in the Royal Baths place here cannot be established for lack of Fig. 17: Musician with pan pipes a b c Fig. 18 a c: Statuette of a philosopher or poet, preserved height approx. 90 cm comparisons. But the inspiration for an ensemble that is contemporary and at the same time preserves local traditions will have originated from the neighbouring dynasties, the Ptolemies in Egypt and the Hasmoneans in Palestine. The Royal Baths issue from a context characterized by relations with the outside world and openness to the new: Egyptian and Graeco-Roman forms and ideas are received in an African civilization and modified in combination with local traditions around the time of Christ s birth. This represents unique evidence of cultural transfer between Africa and the Mediterranean in antiquity. The ancient site of Meroë with the Royal Baths and cultural preservation boundary of buffer zone Nile boundary of core zone Royal Baths Meroë Royal City cemeteries with pyramids hafir and Sun-Temple ancient settlement of Hamadab 0 2 km Fig. 19: Meroë, Excavation of the water basin of the Royal Baths directed by John Garstang Fig. 20: The world heritage site of Meroë with the principal archaeological remains railway line and road Excavation of the Royal City of Meroë and the surrounding temple complexes by archaeologist John Garstang, University of Liverpool (Fig. 19) 1912 Discovery of an unusual building complex with water basin in the vicinity of the palaces of Meroë. The complex is named the Royal Baths. In subsequent years, partial excavation of the building and publication of preliminary reports, photographs and plan Resumption of field work and start of conservation work in and around the Royal Baths by the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) in Berlin in cooperation with the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums (NCAM) in Khartoum 2011 The Meroë region and two other sites in the Meroitic heartland Musawwarat es Sufra and Naga are inscribed on the UNESCO world heritage list as The Archaeological Sites of the Island of Meroë (Fig. 20). John Garstang recognized the need to protect the fragile remains of the Royal Baths from weathering in 1912/13. A short time later Herbert Kitchener, head of the British colonial administration in Egypt and Sudan, initiated the building of a basic shelter for the deco- Fig. 21: Aerial view of the Royal Baths site with the present shelters over the exedra and water basin rated wall. This first protective structure was replaced in the mid 20th century by two separate brick buildings covering the water basin and the exedra (Fig. 21). After more than half a century these two protective structures, because of design defects, now increasingly pose a threat to the ancient fabric. For this reason a new protective shelter is to be built over the core area of the Royal Baths to ensure the best possible protection of the archaeological remains and also to present them to visitors appropriately and conveniently under one roof. This project is among efforts being undertaken to safeguard world heritage at Meroë and preserve it for future generations. The ancient site of Meroë with the Royal Baths and cultural preservation The new protective shelter The new shelter was designed by the Berlin architect s office Kéré Architecture. The designs impressed the jury for the clear and tranquil concept of a discrete and self-contained building that at the same time respects the ancient site. In its overall conception the shelter will integrate harmoniously with the archaeological world heritage site of Meroë. Traditional building techniques and practices in conjunction with innovative technological solutions make it possible to build and operate the shelter using locally available resources. A naturally regulated indoor climate, natural lighting and suspended walkways ensure the best possible protection and presentation of the antiquities, enhancing the visitor experience offered by the site. Fig. 22: Conservation work on the exedra of the Royal Baths A precondition for the erection of a new protective structure over the Royal Baths is the safeguarding of the ancient fabric. The architectural remains essentially consist of a brick construction whose walls and channels are extensively plastered with lime render and colourfully painted. In many places several layers of plaster are preserved, indicating repeated renovation work as a result of intensive use. Likewise the sculptures made of local sandstone have a coat of fine plaster and are colourfully painted. Therefore, since the joint project between the DAI and the NCAM began in 1999, the archaeological investigations have been accompanied by regular conservation efforts by restorers from Berlin and Khartoum. These activities centre on the stabilization of the masonry bond and very fragile sandstone and above all on the layers of plaster and paint. These have to be cleaned, any gaps between the brickwork and the rendering have to be filled, defects have to be remedied and finally plasterwork edges have to be bonded to the ground once again. The conservation programme is already far advanced. While the new protective shelter is under construction, the decorative wall, exedra and sculptures will be protected by temporary structures. Fig. 23: Visualization of the interior of the new protective shelter The shelter The guiding principles Protection of the site The foundation combines strip and point footings depending on the archaeological situation. The internal structures and visitor walkways are suspended from the roof girders, allowing minimal interference with the site. (Fig. 26, 34) Simple construction The building is designed mainly to be built with material available on the local market and with the help of unskilled workmen. The use of heavy equipment is not required. (Fig. 35, 36) east enclosure wall entrance Natural climate concept 17 A solid outer wall of mud-bricks, the clamshell 18 roof construction, the zoning of the inte- rior and natural convection allow for natural air conditioning. (Fig. 25, 27, 37, 38) Natural lighting Daylight enters the interior through translucent panels and covering and is dispersed by reflectors under the roof girders. This guar- antees constantly low-intensity, indirect natural lighting. (Fig. 28, 37, 38) Optimal presentation north enclosure wall exedra garden area city wall The simple shape of the building maintains the authenticity of the site. Visitors will have an optimal view of the architecture and facilities of the Royal Baths and a small exhibition. Fig. 24: Axonometric projection, view from north The shelter The design concept excavation sections gardens functional area Fig. 25: Zoning of the interior The interior under the shelter will be divided into excavation sections, garden areas and a small functional segment. The gardens are a reminiscence of the ancient garden around the water basin and the exedra. Additionally the two garden areas serve as climate buffers, reduce the entry of dust, provide extra light for the interior and may be used as relaxation areas. waste air is discharged through the roof construction interior climate remains constant with natural air-conditioning warm air is cooled and filtered in the garden Fig. 27: Interior climate plan The building is continuously ventilated without using elaborate technology that requires servicing, but instead exploiting convection. Solid mud-brick walls, the clam-shell roof construction, and the gardens as buffer zones allow for an inert temperature and humidity control. Using convection, fresh air enters through aeration slits above floor level into the garden areas inside the building. The gardens act as climate buffers, cooling the air. Additionally dust can settle here before reaching the excavation sections. In the hotter roof section the wind causes a suction effect, drawing the warm air up from the interior out of the building. As a result, fresh air is drawn into the ground-level area Fig. 26: Visitor route visitor walkways with exhibition areas The primary support structure of the building consists of solid mud-brick walls and roof gird- ers of steel. All interior structures including the visitor walkways are suspended from the roof girders. Additionally the walkways are fixed to the ring beam. This allows flexible positioning without interfering with the archaeological remains and gives visitors an optimal view of the archaeological remains. The exhibition includes finds from the ancient decor as well as information panels. Fig. 28: Lighting plan reflectors translucent panels Lighting will be provided by daylight entering the interior through the roof construction and the gardens. The roof girders carry translucent semi-cylindrical panels through which light can pass. Underneath these are white plastered panels which diffuse the daylight evenly throughout the interior, preventing damage to the ancient wall paintings. The shelter The design Fig. 29: Elevation from west north enclosure wall exedra exedra garden area Fig. 30: Longitudinal section entrance Fig. 31: Elevation from south city wall garden area walkways water basin entrance east enclosure wall entrance Fig. 32: Transverse section water basin m Fig. 33: Plan of the protective shelter The shelter The construction 6. z-shaped concrete struts 1. strip or point footings 2. ring beam laid as wall socle 5. ring beam to receive roof girders 3. precast concrete ventilation pipes 4. outer wall of mud bricks with lime plaster Fig. 34: Foundations Fig. 35: Outer walls The foundations are in the form of strip or point footings, depending on the given archaeological situation. A ring beam mounted on the footings means that ancient wall struc- tures can be straddled thanks to widely spaced foundations. The distance to the ground will be closed with precast concrete stones, in the ga
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