The site, which contains some 50 pyramids and over a hundred tombs scattered over the desert sands, is divided into three sections – the South, North and West cemeteries. The South and North cemeteries contain the royal pyramids of the Kushite Kings and Queens. The pyramids’ basic structure is a simplified model of the Egyptian one. There are no rooms or corridors, but instead were mostly built over sepulchral chambers. Bodies were buried without being mummified. Some of the antechambers have well-preserved hieroglyphics, though many reliefs have ended up in the British Museum and National Museum at Khartoum.
There are other exciting archaeological sites in the immediate area. A conglomeration of ruined temples and a Roman-inspired ‘kiosk’ remain at Naga – the ancient stronghold of the Kushite Kingdom. The two most intact temples, called the Amun and Apedemak contain strong elements of classic ancient Egyptian architecture whilst the kiosk is more Hellenic in style. A third temple is under excavation.
The remains of a large Kushite building dating from the first century AD can be seen in Musawarat, which scholars believe to be the old residence of the Kushite Queens.