Giuseppe Ferlini, the Treasure Hunter Who Demolished and Robbed the Pyramids of Meroë

Giuseppe Ferlini was an Italian combat medic turned explorer and treasure hunter, well known for having raided and desecrated several pyramids of Meroë.

Giuseppe Ferlini, the Treasure Hunter Who Robbed and Desecrated the Pyramids of Meroë

Giuseppe Ferlini was born in Bologna in 1797, and spent 18 years in his home country of Italy before he left home to escape the impossible coexistence with his stepmother. He travelled across Greece, and later migrated to6Egypt where he joined the Egyptian Army during the conquest of Sudan. Under the army, he stayed at Sennar and then at Khartoum where he heard rumors of hidden treasures.

Spurred by legends from local workers about hidden gold, Ferlini Later decided to desert the army and devote himself to treasure-hunting, determined to either “return home penniless, or carrying unprecedented treasures”.

Giuseppe Ferlini, the Treasure Hunter Who Robbed and Desecrated the Pyramids of Meroë

Along with an Albanian merchant named Antonio Stefani, who financed the equipment in exchange for half of the profits obtained, Ferlini organized an expedition that left for Meroë on August 10, 1834.

On getting to Meroë, Giuseppe Ferlini demolished a number of pyramids in his search for hidden treasures. This apparently was because unlike Egyptian pyramids, the structure of Kushite pyramids does not make access to the inner chambers possible.

At Wad ban Naqa, he leveled the pyramid N6 of the kandake Amanishakheto, (a Sudanese queen who ruled between 15 BC and 1 AD) starting from the top, and finally found some treasure composed of dozens of gold and silver jewelry pieces. Overall, he is considered responsible for the destruction of over 40 pyramids.

the Treasure Hunter Who Robbed and Desecrated the Pyramids of Meroë
The Great pyramid of Queen Amanishakheto before its destruction by Giuseppe Ferlini. From the book “Voyage à Méroé, au fleuve Blanc” by Cailliaud, Frédéric in 1826
Pyramids of Meroë
The Great pyramid of Queen Amanishakheto after its destruction by Giuseppe Ferlini in the 1830s. Photo: TrackHD/Flickr

Having found the treasure he was looking for, in 1836 Ferlini returned home. A year later he wrote a report of his expedition containing a catalog of his findings, which was translated in French and republished in 1838. He tried to sell the treasure, but at this time nobody believed that such high quality jewellery could be made in Black Africa.

It wasn’t until the treasures were validated by German Egyptologist ‘Karl Richard Lepsius’, in front of experts from the British Museum, who considered it a fake, and consequently, did not want any piece, that Ferlini got a chance to sell the stolen treasures.

The treasure’s collection was made up of 6 golden bracelets beautified with crystal and gems, a golden and crystal armlet and a necklace made of gems, ceramics and glass. Another necklace among the collection is made of 12 golden and crystal beads, 7 golden beads carefully beautified with crystal, a vase with two bronze supports, a perfume container with a wooden cover, a tiny statue for the god Amun made of gold and red agate, two golden statues of lions, a statue of a fox and another statue of the lotus flower, a chain made of seven pieces of gold containing carvings of a goddess, a golden chain containing a carving of a beetle, a six-piece golden chain containing the key-like emblem of the god Amun.

The stolen treasures were eventually distributed throughout Europe between sales, donations and auctions to try to recover the investment: part of these treasures were purchased by king Ludwig I of Bavaria and are now in the State Museum of Egyptian Art of Munich, while the remaining was bought by the Egyptian Museum of Berlin.

Giuseppe Ferlini, the Treasure Hunter Who Robbed and Desecrated the Pyramids of Meroë
Bracelet from the tomb of Amanishakheto in Nubia, now in Museum Berlin. Photo: Sven-Steffen Arndt/Wikimedia Commons

Ferlini died in Bologna on December 30, 1870 and was buried in the Certosa di Bologna. Today he is remembered for having destroyed forty pyramids.


Uzonna Anele
Uzonna Anele
Anele is a web developer and a Pan-Africanist who believes bad leadership is the only thing keeping Africa from taking its rightful place in the modern world.


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