In ancient times, the people living along the
banks of the river Nile developed sophisticated civilizations.
Ancient Egypt, stretching from the First Cataract to the
Mediterranean Sea, is probably the most well-known ancient
culture in this area. The Nubian's inhabited the area along the
river Nile from the First Cataract south to the Sixth Cataract.
The cataracts serve as markers of Nubia's borders. The First
Cataract, just to the south of Aswan, marks the northern
boundary of Nubia. The southern border, though it fluctuated
over time, lies near the Sixth Cataract. The eastern and western
borders are generally marked by the extent of the cultivated
fields on either side of the river. The cataracts also divide
Nubia into different zones, which differ from one to another
topographically. Nubia is generally divided into Lower Nubia,
Upper Nubia, and Southern Nubia.
The landscape in Lower Nubia is quite different from that
Upper Nubia. The Nile Valley in Lower Nubia is similar to the
Nile Valley in Egypt. The river here is broad and easily
navigated, with a wide floodplain available for cultivation.
Upper Nubia on the other hand, often presents a much harsher
environment. Based on topography, Upper Nubia and Southern Nubia
can be divided into five zones: (1) Batn el Hajar, (2)
Abri-Delgo Reach, (3) Dongola Reach, (4) Abu Hamed Reach, and
(5) Shendi Reach. Each of these zones, defined by cataracts,
display a different type of riverine environment.
The ancient region of Nubia was located in northeast Africa, in
what is now southern Egypt and northern Sudan. The first group
of Nubian people that we know much about, called the A-Group by
archaeologists, lived around 3500 BC, but there is evidence of
civilization in Nubia as far back as 8000 BC.
Because Nubians were great archers, the Egyptians called Nubia
"Ta-Seti," or Land of the Bow. The name Nubia came into use in
the Middle Ages.
Although it was a hot, dry land, ancient Nubia was a treasure
trove of gold, ivory, stone, and other riches, and therefore a
tempting target to foreign rulers. At times Egypt ruled Nubia;
at other times, various Nubian kingdoms flourished.
The great kingdom of Kush (or Cush) was located
in south Nubia.
The ancient Greeks called it Ethiopia. In the 8th century BC,
Kush -- led by King Piankhi (or Piye) and later his brother and
successor King Shabaka -- conquered Egypt. These Kushite kings
founded Egypt's 25th ruling dynasty. After Shabaka died,
Piankhi's son Shebitku became pharaoh; he was succeeded by his
But the Nubian Dynasty's reign in Egypt proved to be
short-lived. In the middle of the 7th century BC, Taharqa was
driven out of Egypt by the Assyrians. He and his cousin
Tanutamon, who succeeded Taharqa as king of Kush, tried but
failed to regain the Egyptian throne.
Around 592 BC, Egypt sacked Kush's capital, Napata. After that,
the city of Meroe became the capital of Kush. The kingdom lasted
for some 900 years more.
One notable Kushite ruler was the fierce one-eyed warrior queen
Amanirenas, who battled an occupying Roman army in the first
century AD. Her ambassadors were conducted into the presence of
the Roman emperor Augustus Caesar, and according to the Roman
writer Strabo, they "obtained all that they desired, and Caesar
even remitted the tribute which he had imposed." Queen
Amanirenas had won; the Romans withdrew from most of Nubia.
It seems Kush gradually went into decline, and crumbled
completely after the armies of Aksum (an kingdom of ancient
Ethiopia) conquered Meroe around 350 AD. New kingdoms arose in
Nubia, and these kingdoms started converting to Christianity in
the 6th century AD. Around 1400, Nubia began falling under the
control of Arab rulers, and many Nubians converted to Islam. But
much of Nubian culture has survived through the centuries, and
the Nubian language is still spoken today in Egypt and Sudan.
Nubian languages- group of languages spoken in Egypt and The
Sudan, chiefly along the banks of the Nile River between the
first and fourth cataracts (Nile Nubian), but also spoken in
enclaves in the Nuba Hills of western Sudan (Hill Nubian). Hill
Nubian is composed of Midobi and Birked, which are not closely
related. Some scholars divide Nile Nubian into three groups,
each containing one language (Northern, or Kenuzi; Central, or
Mahas; and Southern, or Dongola), while others group Northern
and Southern Nubian together. Although many scholars formerly
classified the Nubian languages as Hamitic or as
Sudanese-Guinean, most now place the Nubian languages in the
Eastern Sudanic subbranch of the Chari-Nile branch of the
Nilo-Saharan language family