Pyramid Graffiti

Boat graffito
Graffito of a cargo boat on pyramid Ku. 1 (graffito P9). Photograph by Bruce Beyer Williams.

The subjects of graffiti on pyramid Ku. 1 at El-Kurru are quite different from those in the temple. Most of the graffiti on the pyramid represent boats, some of which are quite elaborate. A few other pyramid graffiti are animals, including camels, and some are “monograms,” stylized letters in different scripts that represented the initials of saints or archangels.

It is always challenging to know exactly when an ancient graffito was made. We know that the graffiti on Ku. 1 were carved sometime between its construction around 325 BCE and its large-scale collapse in the 9th or 10th century CE. But comparison with boat representations elsewhere in the Nile Valley suggests that the Kurru boats were carved at the later end of that time, during the medieval Christian period of Nubia, perhaps in the 9th or 10th century.

Why would boats have been carved on the face of the pyramid by Christian pilgrims? Perhaps most medieval pilgrims traveled to El-Kurru by boat.