Part of the cult installations at Hamadab was a freestanding altar about 20 m in front of the temple. It consists of a ramp with sandstone pilasters, a base and a 75 cm high podium of a mud-brick core with a white plastered red-brick facing of 1.88 x 1.45m. The altar was oriented towards the temple’s entrance and played an important role in rituals and assumed fire offerings. Such altars are known from other Meroitic temple precincts like at Kawa, El Hassa, Naqa or the “Sun Temple“ near Meroe.
The Hamadab altar was constructed in the 1stcentury BC. It was repeatedly rebuilt until it was abandoned in the 2nd or 3rdcentury AD, when street levels have sealed the altar.
A well in the temple’s forecourt is as yet the only known water supply inside the enclosed Upper Town. The well’s curb is ca. 1.5m in diameter and made of fired bricks. Its top is covered by stone slabs, some of which show grooves worn by the ropes for lifting water vessels. The well was installed around the 1stcentury BC and was continuously used as water source until the town’s latest periods (3rd/4thcentury AD).
The close historical correspondence of both well and altar indicates that the well was not only a fundamental infrastructural feature in town, but may have been part of the sacral installations in front of the temple.
Hamadab’s burial place is to be found in the vicinity of the Meroitic settlement. Information is hitherto known from geophysical prospection as well as from archaeological rescue work. To protect the cemetery from illicit actions, the model is not placed on the authentic location.
Some of the graves were simple sand pits whereas others had rectangular subterranean structures built of fired bricks and lined with mud plaster. Remains of scattered wood fragments may point to the use of coffins. The dead were buried either in a crouched position or extended on their backs. This co-existence of different funerary rites is typical for the time and illustrates the cultural heterogeneity of the multi-ethnic kingdom of Kush. Large storage jars, bowls and bronze cups with food and drink were given to the deceased. Further goods, like jewellery, signet rings and weapons were found within the graves as well as imported items such as cowrie shells from the Red Sea or glass vases from Roman Egypt which for their part testify to interregional trade contacts.
Besides the temple, another outstanding building within the enclosed town is a massive freestanding structure of about 20 x 20 m. This building has a unique layout design within the town, but it is comparable to other examples of representative architecture in Egypt and Sudan. Although it is comparatively small, it has some basic features of such palace-like structures.
In fact, the building’s ground plan is not perfectly square, but resembles a rhomboid with a deviation of 2-3° from the right angle. It is thus aligned with the town’s enclosure wall in this area.
Fired bricks and a smooth white lime plaster form its façade, whilst the massive inner walls are of mud brick and in average 1.9 m thick.
At least two entrances lead to the ground floor, one in the northern and one in the western wall. The doorways were 1.75 m respectively 1.45 m wide and also faced with red bricks. The entrances lead to the few accessible rooms on the ground floor, as most rooms are blind cells with no openings in their walls whatsoever.
The building was erected during the 2nd/1stcentury BC – in the course of the large building program of the Upper Town. Soon afterwards, it was abandoned and later overbuilt by building structures with thinner mud brick walls.
An interior staircase of fired bricks once led upwards to a second floor. The extraordinary well preserved bottom flight of steps of the U-turn staircase is a remarkable feature within Meroitic architecture. Painted wall plaster, faience and fineware vessels further indicate that the upper rooms were once elaborately decorated and equipped for a high living standard. As the Hamadab building reproduces the architectural features of residences and palaces on a smaller scale, it may have been the domicile of a higher authority to control the town’s communal, defensive or commercial matters.
Most of the rooms on the ground floor are small cells without any doors or windows. Their ceilings were most probably vaulted with so-called Nubian vaults made of mud brick. Remains of a collapsed vault were identified within the debris. Vaults in part explain the need for the thick walls.
More coming soon...