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National Geographic Features UA-Pima Discoveries Made During Excavation of Pyramid in Sudan

July 2, 2019

Tucson, AZ – Today and tomorrow, National Geographic reveals archaeologic discoveries recently made by a Pima Community College and University of Arizona team in Sudan.

Available today on and the “Overheard at National Geographic” podcast are an article and podcast, respectively, about the excavation of King Nastasen’s pyramid, one of more than 20 standing pyramids at Nuri.

Pearce Paul Creasman, Ph.D., director of the University of Arizona Egyptian Expedition, led the team, which included several staff of PCC’sCentre for Archaeological Field Training, as well as Pima graduate and UA student Daniel Montoya. The team surveyed, mapped and excavated the burial complex.

During the excavation, the Pima team found intact pottery, gold leaf, small statues (called “shabtis”), and other archaeological remains that suggest the tomb – three chambers dug through bedrock below the pyramid – may have survived largely intact.

“The work at Nuri, and Nastasen’s pyramid specifically, would not have been possible without the engagement of the Archaeology Centre faculty, staff, and students,” Creasman said. “The Centre is an essential partner in the work, making these discoveries, and advancing knowledge of the ancient world.”

The Nubian King Nastasen ruled the Kingdom of Kush from about 335-310 B.C., during Egypt’s 25th dynasty. Two of the three burial chambers have not been archaeologically excavated and now are under water. The team worked in Nastasen’s pyramid, a chapel attached to it, a long stairwell leading to the underground and underwater tomb, and within the tomb.

Creasman described the Pima team’s work for the expedition:

  • Helen O’Brien, archaeology centre program coordinator: primarily in charge of surveying and mapping in the field
  • Lea Mason-Kohlmeyer, archaeology centre lab specialist: critical in the excavation and recording of complex archaeological features and human remains
  • Cristin A. Lucas, former archaeology center staff now Research Specialist and Assistant Repatriation Coordinator at the Arizona State Museum: helped to establish the excavation’s master site grid
  • Mary Prasciunas, Ph.D., archaeology centre director and archeology discipline coordinator: facilitated the field work and processing of data

On July 3, the National Geographic Channel premieres a documentary covering several projects about ancient Nubia, including the Nastasen’s pyramid excavation.

The National Geographic, which is funding some of the work, sent a reporter into the field with the team.

Montoya used precision-mapping skills he learned at Pima to do his work. He graduated Pima with an Associate Degree in Anthropology with a concentration in Archaeology (and four certificates in archaeology field methods).

“Daniel Montoya has contributed widely but especially in data collection/processing and excavation,” Creasman said.

Work at the 160-acre site continues. The expedition is in collaboration with Sudan’s National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums. Other teams on the expedition were from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and University of Michigan.


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