Storage in Meroitic Palaces and Beyond

Wad Ben Naga’s location on the east bank of the Nile made it one of the most crucial settlements in Meroe, as its location enabled it to control trade routes and a plain located south of it (Onderka 2014, 83). The palace of Queen Amanishakheto, also known as Palace 100, is located at this site, which is what initially interested me in Wad Ben Naga because for my final project I am designing a palace for a Meroitic queen. As I read more about Queen Amanishakheto’s palace (many features of which are similar or identical to features of Meroitic palaces from other sites), it became clear that storerooms in particular were prevalent throughout the palace.

While storage and storerooms may not be the most glamorous aspect of palatial architecture, their presence in Queen Amanishakheto’s palace, other Meroitic palaces, and palaces beyond Meroe indicates how important they were to the functioning of a palace. Schellinger writes that Queen Amanishakheto’s palace was made up of 45 rooms, most of which were rectilinear in shape and many of which acted as storerooms (Schellinger 2017, 150) (Images 1, 2, and 3). Many of the doors on the western side of Palace 100 could be used to access storerooms (Schellinger 2017, 151), but not all storerooms had doors. Those which lacked doors doors were accessed via ladder, a common feature of Meroitic architecture that Schellinger notes could also be found at palaces in Jebel Barkal, Meroe, and Muweis (Schellinger 2017, 154).

Image 1: Wad Ben Naga, Palace 100 (Credit: Schellinger 2017, 405)

Image 2: Wad Ben Naga, Palace 100 (Credit: (Credit: Schellinger 2017, 404)

Image 3: Wad ban Naga, Palace 100 (Credit: Schellinger 2017, 403)

As integral as the storerooms themselves were to palatial architecture and understanding Meroitic palatial ways of life, the contents of the storerooms are also  revelatory about Meroitic society. What people choose to store and where they store it gives us insight into available materials, object usage, and priorities of the Meroitic people. In Palace 100, palatial members stored large quantities of jars, ivory, wood, and terracotta lions (Schellinger 2017, 154) in their storerooms (Image 4, 5).

Image 4: Palace 100 rooms labeled with objects found in them (Credit: Vrtal 2017, 75)

Image 5: Collection of storage jars found in Palace 100 (Credit: Vrtal 2017, 73)

Thinking about storage in terms of Meroitic palaces led me to also consider storage in light of Friday’s trip to the Providence Public Library. Storage of books is central to the functioning of a library (Image 6). Our tour leader took us through massive rows of shelves on the third floor on our way to the auditorium, where special collection holdings are to be stored. The guide mentioned how climate and light have to be controlled in order to prevent damage to the books. This makes me wonder if Meroitic palace members designed and kept their storerooms in a particular way to best accommodate the particular materials that they were storing; I will further research this and perhaps incorporate such accommodations into the storage rooms in my final project. I will continue to look into all aspects of storerooms as I move forward with my final project, as they seem crucial to architecture from this period (and particularly in Palace 100) as well as provide insight into Meroitic palatial life.

Image 6: Area under constriction in the PPL

-Lydia DeFusto


Onderka, P. (2014) “Wad ben Naga: A history of the site.” Sudan & Nubia, 18, p. 83-92.

Schellinger, S. (2017) An Analysis of the Architectural, Religious, and Political Significane of the Napatan and Meroitic Palaces. PhD Thesis; University of Toronto.

Vrtal, V. (2017) “Reconstructing the 1958-1960 Excavations in the Palace of Amanishakheto at Wad Ben Naga.”  Mitteilungen der Sudan archäologischen Gesellschaft zu Berlin e.V., 28, p. 69-80.