Buried Treasure

The tomb of a Nubian king in an unlikely resting place

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he burial chamber of a king of the Nubian empire, which stretched from Ethiopia to the Mediterranean Sea in the sixth century BC, is the jewel of the collection in New England’s only museum devoted only to African, Caribbean and African-American art. The crypt of Aspelta, ruler of the largest empire on the Nile until modern times, has made the implausible trek from near the Nile River in present-day Sudan to just outside Egleston Square in Roxbury, where the little-known National Center of Afro-American Artists is housed in a neo-Gothic Victorian mansion built in 1870 called Oak Bend. On the walls of the re-created burial chamber—the only one of its kind on display in the world—are hieroglyphics that were found there from the Egyptian Book of the Dead.

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Threatened by the construction of the original Aswan Dam, the burial tomb of Nubian King Aspelta, who ruled from 600 to 580 BC, was removed by archeologists from Harvard and the Museum of Fine Arts at the invitation of the Anglo-Sudanese government in 1916.

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