The renowned news agency Bloomberg has warned about the risks that the ongoing conflict in Sudan poses to the country’s rich cultural heritage, which dates back thousands of years. The report highlights the efforts of Sudanese archaeologists, coordinators, academics, and volunteers in safeguarding this heritage. However, with the escalation of the conflict, fighters have looted museums and university archives, priceless repositories that have also been set ablaze.
Sudan is known for its ancient Nubian temples and boasts more pyramids than Egypt. It is also credited with being the birthplace of modern pottery-making techniques.
Since the conflict erupted on April 15 between the army and the Rapid Support Forces, hundreds of people have been killed and thousands injured.
Unfortunately, the looting and destruction of artifacts and various forms of cultural heritage in Sudan have also been a consequence. The “Heritage for Peace” organization, dedicated to preserving cultural heritage during times of war, has worked with dozens of volunteers and professionals to develop plans for evacuating museums and documenting the damage inflicted on precious sites throughout Sudan, including the desecration of pyramids across the country.
The organization has faced challenges in implementing safety measures and funding but has managed to station guards near archaeological sites and museums outside the capital, Khartoum.
As the fighting continues, there is particular concern for the safety of the Egyptian temple of Buhen in the far north of the country, as well as the tomb of Muhammad Ahmad, known as the Mahdi, who fought against British colonial rule in the late 19th century and established an Islamic state in Sudan.
The pressure to intervene in order to protect the country’s cultural heritage has intensified since the release of a video showing fighters from the Rapid Support Forces entering the biological archaeology laboratory at the National Museum in Khartoum and opening containers storing ancient human remains. Satellite imagery obtained by the Cultural Heritage Monitoring Laboratory, a coalition of experts from several American universities, revealed that buildings affiliated with the National Museum have suffered fire damage.
In Omdurman, the most populous city in the country, the organization reported that archives containing thousands of documents were looted and destroyed in a fire at the private Ahfad University, renowned as a center for Sudanese studies and independent thinkers. The historic Omdurman market, famous for its clothing and handicrafts, also faced destruction.
Despite volunteers struggling to gain access to most of the thirteen museums in the Sudanese capital since the conflict began, “archaeological sites and museums outside Khartoum remain protected thanks to local archaeologists, guards, and local communities,” stated the organization.
The report further revealed that the archaeological sites and pyramids in Meroe, the ancient walled city northeast of Khartoum where the conflict started, have remained intact. However, the status of the Sheikan Museum in El Obeid and the Darfur Museum in Nyala remains unknown, as both are located near some of the most intense battle zones.