Overview of the Archaeology of the Site
The oldest architectural vestiges at Jebel Barkal date from the mid-Eighteenth Dynasty and are associated with blocks inscribed for a “Thutmose” (III or IV). The Barkal stele of Thutmose III indicates that the Egyptians had a fortress here called “Slaughter of the Foreigners”. Block 287 of the Red Chapel of Hatshepsut suggests that even Thutmose I visited the site in his year 2, identified it as the source of kingship, and called it “Southern Sanctuary” (i.e. the name of Luxor Temple, which had not yet been built). Supposedly there was already an oracle of Amun there that predicted that Hatshepsut would be “king.”
Much more abundant are late Dynasty 18 remains, for the stones are all classic talatat blocks, bonded by mortar. These form the foundations of most of the temples used throughout the remainder of the site’s history. The presence of talatat suggests that the Thutmosid Amun sanctuary was substantially altered by Akhenaten, and that after his death, his buildings – like those at Karnak and elsewhere - were dismantled and used in the construction of new Amun temples. Fragments of pre-Napatan buildings built with talatat appear all over the temple precinct (B 200-sub, B 300-sub, B 700-sub, area between B 500 and B 800/900, in front of B 500). The nucleus of B 500), founded on talatat probably by Tutankhamun or Horemheb, was much enlarged by Seti I and Ramses II, who also built Level I, B 1200. Ramses’ reliefs on the south wall of Abu Simbel actually depict the king at Jebel Barkal.
After Ramses II, all construction at the site seems to have been suspended, and after Dynasty 20, the site seems to have been abandoned and the temples allowed to fall to ruin. No reconstruction began until the early eighth century BC, when the Egyptian temples were all restored by the Kushites, who added a second “northern” Amun temple (B 800/900), presumably to honor Amun of Karnak. The site henceforth became the primary cult center of Kush. It possessed an important oracle and was the place where the king came for his coronation and to celebrate the important New Year’s festival.
Between 1916 and 1920, G. A. Reisner cleared six temples and two palaces:
B 200: the temple of Hathor, Tefnut, and an unknown third goddess
B 300, the temple of Mut, Hathor, and Sekhmet
(all these goddesses were aspects of the “Eye of Re”)
B 500, the Great Temple of Amun of Napata
B 600: possibly the temple of the living king, or the king’s ka
B 700: the temple of deceased kings, Dedwen, and the Osirian forms of Amun
B 800/900, the temple of Amun of Karnak
B 1200, the New Kingdom and Napatan Palace
B 100, the early Meroitic palace
Two other badly ruined temples, B 1100 and 1150, exist in the Reisner concession and remain unexcavated. These were built directly below the pinnacle and would have filled the empty area behind B 1200. As will be shown below, textual and other evidence reveals these temples to have been those of the royal uraeus goddesses. B 1100 was the Pr-wr (“Great House”) of Nekhbet and was probably rock-cut, and B 1150, built in front of it, was the Pr-nsr (“House of Flame”) of Wadjet. Both temples were also associated with the goddess of the crowns Weret-Hekau.
East of Reisner’s concession lies an area of unexcavated buildings. This seems to consist primarily of Meroitic temples and a large palace (B 1500) of King Natakamani and Queen Amanitore (first century AD). This and other structures have been the focus of an archaeological mission of the University of Rome "La Sapienza" since 1976, alternately under the direction of Prof. F.Sergio Donadoni and Prof. Alessandro Roccati.