An Early Kingdom in the Land of the Bow

An Early Kingdom in the Land of the Bow: The A-Group, 3800-3100 B.C.
The first continuous agricultural tradition in Africa, the Sudanese-Saharan Neolithic, developed almost ten thousand years ago in country west of Nubia that is now desert. The Nile Valley in Egypt had been inhospitable, but in the seasonally dry channels of the Second Cataract, early farmers learned to manage parts of the river's annual flood. This knowledge could then be applied in Egypt's wide iloodplain, giving rise to the great sequence of Upper Egypt's early civilizations.
Upper Egypt soon grew wealthy and its culture expanded again into Nubia, where renewed southern contacts gave rise to the first of Nubia's trading cultures, called the A-Group. Incense, copper, gold, objects of shell, and semiprecious stones were traded northward in return for manufactured articles and probably agricultural produce.
Most surprising, evidence that early pharaohs ruled in A-Group Nubia was discovered by the Oriental Institute at Qustul, almost at the modern Sudanese border. A cemetery of large tombs contained evidence of wealth and representations of the rulers and their victories. Other representations and monuments could then be identified, and in the process, a lost kingdom, called Ta-Seti or Land of the Bow, was discovered. In fact, the cemetery at Qustul leads directly to the first great royal monuments of Egypt in a progression. Qustul in Nubia could well have been the seat of Egypt's founding dynasty.
The Land of Wawat: C-Group Lower Nubia, 2300-1550 B.C.
Life in Nubia between 3100 and about 2300 B. C. differed greatly from the prosperous times of A-Group. We know of only a few inhabitants and one substantial town, where copper was smelted for export.
About 2300 B.C., during the Egyptian Sixth Dynasty, a new culture appeared, which archaeologists call C-Group. Cattle played an important role in this culture, as they have in many other African societies since. Nevertheless, the C-Group was settled pemlanently along the Nile, from Aswan to the Second Cataract, and a closely related culture was established in northem Sudan, especially at Kerma, south of the Third Cataract. As Egypt fragmented politically, C-Group people entered the countIy to the north, as herdsmen and soldiers. They sometimes rose very high in Egyptian society and they played an important role in the struggles that founded the Egyptian Middle Kingdom, about 2050 B.C.
From biographies of Egyptian govemors at Aswan, about 2300 B. C., we leam that the peoples to the south were concentrated in four principalities. One, Wawat, later gave its name to all of Lower Nubia, the land between the First and the Second Cataracts. Another, Yam, may have been a predecessor of Kush. In the Egyptian period of disunity, about 2250 B. C., Lower Nubia had its own pharaohs.
C-Group is well known for its tightly packed cemeteries of high stone circles. Next to these circles were placed stelae, some with pictures of cattle incised on them, and pottery, some of Nubia's finest art. Three major cemeteries and a house of this culture were excavated by the Oriental Institute at Adindan and Serra East.
Kerma and the Rise of Kush, ca. 2000-1550 B. C.
Egypt conquered Lower Nubia about 1950 B. C., and retained it until about 1700. CGroup kept its cultural identity under Egyptian rule, but the land of Kush to the south and the Medjay people of the Eastem Desert remained independent. Kush, much influenced by the Medjay, became a major power in the south, and as Egypt fell into disunity again, about 1700 B. C., Kush took over Lower Nubia with its C-Group population and Egyptian garrisons. The allegiance of people and soldiers was transferred to the southem ruler who was represented as a pharaoh.
Most archaeology of the Kerma culture or early Kush is found south of the Second Cataract, especially at the great capital at Kemla, with its central temples, elaborate smelter, manufacturing installations, houses and enormous royal mound tombs. Its magnificent pottery was sometimes exported as far north as the Egyptian Delta, and sometimes carried north by travelling officials and soldiers.
The Ages of Egyptian Occupation
The Middle Kingdom, 1950-1700 B. C.
The New Kingdom, 1550-1 100 B.C
The two periods of Egyptian rule in Nubia were quite different. In the Middle Kingdom, Egyptian garrisons occupied fortresses and the native C-Group peoples were not profoundly changed by the imperial occupation.
 After the terrible struggles that ended Egypt's Second Intermediate Period, objects and many local customs became practically indistinguishable from those of Egypt. Much that underlay the tremendous elaboration of Egypt must have been present long before in Nubia, for the rapid, sympathetic, and understanding adoption of Egyptian culture in Nubia is unique in the ancient world. Egypt invested heavily in this change, building numerous temple complexes such as Abu Simbel that were at once centers of religion, culture, politics, and economy. In later centuries, this investment bore fruit as Nubia championed the pharaonic faith against forces of disruption, conquest and foreign rule in the Nile Valley again and again.
The Empire of Kush
Between 1100 and 750 B.C., little is known of Nubia, but after 750, a new Kushite kingdom appeared at Napata near the Fourth Cataract and rapidly expanded into a huge empire. To the south, Meroe was founded. To the north, Egypt had fallen into fragments under Libyan rulers, and the Kushites extended their control north of Thebes, the cult center of the god Amun in Egypt, who was also the most favored deity of Kush. Piye, most famous of Kush's pharaohs, united the Nile Valley from the Mediterranean to Meroe, creating one of Africa's greatest states. He and his successors are known as Egypt's Twentyfifth Dynasty. One, Taharqo, was a great builder, and the Kushite rulers led Egypt to its last age of outstanding achievement, which reached its peak in the sixth century B.C. But when Kush tried to stop the westward advance of Assyria in Asia, Taharqo and his successor Tanutamani were defeated and expelled from Egypt by 650 B.C. In Nubia and Sudan, Kush continued to be a major state for a thousand years.
Meroitic Nubia- ca. 200 B.C.- A.D. 300
The actual capital of Kush was established at Meroe quite early even though its rulers built pyramids near Napata until about 300 B.C. Meroe became a great city of large industrial complexes and great temples, with an inner city that contained palaces, a shrine with a large pool and columns that spouted water, and even an observatory. Numerous important centers were founded in the Isle of Meroe, and great templecomplexes dedicated to gods with both Egyptian and Meroitic names. The most important Meroitic deity was Apedemak, usually shown with a lion's head, who became one of the greatest state gods. The outstanding Meroitic industry known to us is iron. The site of Meroe still contains large heaps of slag, and recent excavations have unearthed parts of the furnaces used to smelt the metal.
In the north, Meroitic policy had been to assist revolts in Upper Egypt against foreign rulers, such as Persians, the Macedonian Ptolemies, and Romans. After an agreement with Rome just after 23 B.C., Meroitic settlers were able to live close to Aswan, beginning a new era of prosperity in Lower Nubia. Wealth derived from trade made possible some of Nubia's most delightful achievements in arts and crafts. The culture, like that of Kush's main center at Meroe, was pharaonic, and the representations on pottery and small objects were made in accordance with the what was considered proper in that tradition. These Meroites of Lower Nubia also constructed small brick pyramids, and equipped their chapels with stone sculptures and inscribed monuments.
X-Group Nubia
The Blemmyes, ca A.D. 250-500
The Noubadian Kingdom, ca. A.D. 350-550

With the Roman world in turmoil, and Meroe in decline, a people from east of the Nile known to the Greeks as Blemmyes and to the Arabs as Bedja, rapidly overran much of Egypt and Lower Nubia. Although expelled from Egypt, they were able to establish themselves in the region of Nubia ; ust south of Aswan. Although they continued the religion of the pharaohs, their rulers used the Greek forms of contemporary Roman Imperial titles. The Oriental Institute excavated near Kalabsha and recovered many fragments of decoration from one of the Blemmyes' most important holy places, as well as pieces of their unusual and beautiful pottery.
South of the Blemmyes, the Meroitic province of Lower Nubia collapsed by about A. D. 300, and by 375, the kingdom of the Noubades, now known as Nubians was established with its capital near the modern Sudanese Border. Great moundtombs of its kings at Qustul and Ballana contained much wealth, in crowns, jewels, and great weapons, including long African spear-swords, now in the Cairo Museum. The Oriental Institute's own excavations there discovered that the tumuli themselves were only part of larger complexes of chapels and sacrificial pits. Like the Meroitic rulers they supplanted, the Noubadians used pharaonic symbols and worshipped ancient gods. They joined with the Blemmyes in attacks on Upper Egypt in defense of the old religion against the newly dominant Christianity.


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