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 The Pre-Kerma Culture

In 1070 B.C., Upper Nubia would again become independent and by 760 B.C. all of Nubia would be united under King Kashta, from the first to the sixth cataract. This period was known as the Napata period, as the Nubians took to burying their Kings at the former Egyptian stronghold, taking it as their own. The Nubians would go even further, in 743 B.C., the Kushite King Piye invades Upper Egypt seizing control of it from the Egyptians. His successor Shabaqo would establish the 25th Pharaonic dynasty by uniting both Upper and Lower Egypt under Kushite rule, establishing the Empire of Kush. However, about a hundred years after its establishment, under Pharaoh Taharqo the Empire intervened in the area of modern Syria in opposition to the Assyrians. The Assyrians responded by invading Egypt and driving the Nubian king out of Egypt and forcing him to withdraw back to their homeland and return the dynasty to Napata  

 In 590 B.C., they would again have to move their capitol, when an Egyptian army sacked Napata. This time, to the city of Meroe situated near the sixth cataract, well away from northern aggression. Napata would still remain an important religious center for the Nubians but the royal necropolis was also moved to Meroe ushering in the Meroitic period of Nubian history. For several centuries thereafter, the Kushite Kingdom centered in Meroe developed independently of Egypt. While still preserving the Pharaonic traditions like the raising of stelae to record the achievements of their reigns and erecting pyramids to contain their King's tombs.
The city of Meroe was ideally situation at the convergence of a network of trade routes that ran along the White and Blue Niles. Meroe became East Africa's most important center of trade. The civilization thrived on trade with Egypt and the Greco-Roman World, in addition to Arab and Indian traders along the Red Sea. The Kushite Kings even managed to create an irrigation system that was capable of supporting a higher population density during this period then had been or would be possible in the future. The Nubians also developed a new Meroitic script based on the Egyptian writing system to better represent the indigenous spoken language of its people. Despite mostly peaceful relations with it neighbors, Nubian ambitions in Upper Egypt provoked the Roman Army in 23 B.C. to move south against them razing Napata to the ground. The Romans however abandoned the area as being unfit for Roman colonization. During the 2nd century A.D., a tribe known as the Nobatae that occupied the Nile's west bank in Northern Kush integrated themselves first as mercenaries then as a military aristocracy into the Meroitic Kingdom. Introducing Camelry as a weapon of war into the Nubian culture. However the fortunes of the Kushite Kingdom would come to an end in the 4th century A.D., when it was overwhelmed by the kingdom of Aksum that had developed in Abyssinia (or modern Ethiopia) to the southeast.
The site of Kerma, about 10 miles (16.5 km) south of the Third Cataract, and about 350 miles (580 km) upstream (south) from Aswan, is known to have been that of the largest city in the Sudan during the period about 2000-1500 BC. Although we do not yet know its ancient name, Kerma was the probable capital of the first Nubian state to call itself Kush, and there is every reason to believe that this phase was the latest of a major town that had already existed here continuously for two or three thousand years. This isolated but highly fertile region of the Nile Valley, between Sai Island and the Fourth Cataract, was uniquely suited for human settlement, independent cultural evolution, and state formation. It was on a wide low-lying plain, which the Nile irrigated with multiple channels, creating many islands. In antiquity greater rainfall stimulated seasonal growth of grasses in the plains and enabled the residents to raise cattle on a grand scale. Whatever king could achieve political power over this district could control all river traffic between Egypt and the lands to the south - traffic from which he could collect tolls, receive gifts, and amass great wealth
In 1986 the expedition of the University of Geneva, Switzerland, under the direction of Dr. Charles Bonnet, was excavating at the ancient city site of Kerma, which dates to about 2500-1500 BC. Beneath the cemetery of this city, about 1.5 mi (2.7 km) east of the Nile, they found ruins of a second, older town, dating from about 3500-2700 BC. This town is now called the "Pre-Kerma settlement" and its culture the "Pre-Kerma." Mixed with these remains were traces of an even older town, which have yielded carbon dates stretching back to about 4800 BC.Between 1995 and 1998, 5000 sq. m. of the Pre-Kerma town were cleared, revealing part of a complex plan including the remains of some 50 round houses, which could be identified only by their surviving patterns of post holes. The average house plan was just over 13 ft. (3-3.5 m) in diameter, but several were over 23 ft.(7-7.5 m) in diameter, suggesting that they were used for important community functions or were occupied by important persons. Such houses are very similar to a type of rural African dwelling still used in the Sudan. These are round, with conical roofs, and were made of vertical posts and woven mats, sometimes covered by layers of mud plaster. It was the vertical posts whose holes survived in the ground. Some of the structures, however, were only 3-4 ft. ( 1 - 1.3 m) in diameter, suggesting their likely use as pens for young animals, such as one still sees today in the Sudan.Two other buildings in the Pre-Kerma town were rectangular in plan. Comparing these with seemingly similar structures in use today by rural Sudanese nomads, we can suggest that they might have been elevated platforms used to store animal fodder.
There were also double lines of holes, suggesting where fences had been built as animal corrals. The modern fences of the Sudanese nomads are built in exactly the same way.Although no imported Egyptian pottery or other material has yet been found in the Pre-Kerma settlement, there seems little doubt that the ivory and other African products found in contemporary Egyptian sites were procured originally from the people of Upper Nubia. Such goods would also have passed through the hands of the A-Group Nubians. Rock drawings of very early ships of this period have been found scratched in the boulders of the Second and Third Cataracts, which would seem to prove that between 3500 and 2900 BC there was at least limited direct river traffic between Egypt and the northernSudan.

 
 

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