The Museum’s collection of Nubian art owes its existence to the pioneering efforts of George A. Reisner, who was granted permission by the Sudanese government to excavate 11 sites in northern Sudan from 1913 to 1932. In accordance with the practice of the time, the finds were divided between the host country and the excavators. As a result, and through the generosity of the Sudanese government, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, possesses the largest and most important collection of Nubian art outside of Khartoum.
The Museum’s holdings afford a comprehensive overview of ancient Nubian art. From Kerma, the seat of a great Nubian civilization that reached its height from about 1700 to 1550 BC, comes the finest pottery ever manufactured in the Nile Valley. From the royal tombs of el-Kurru and Nuri come exquisite jewels and vessels of precious metal, faience amulets, and funerary figurines (shawabtys) of Taharqa that stand out for their size and quality. From Meroe come more exquisite jewelry, steles, and offering tables. And, from the temples and tombs at Gebel Barkal, ancient Napata, come the statues of the Kushite kings Anlamani, Aspelta, and Senkamanisken; the bark shrine of Atlanersa; and the stele of Tanyidamani with the longest known inscription in the Meroitic script used to write the ancient Nubian language. Scholars are still working to decipher it.