The archaeology of Nubia

New Kingdom
In 1500 BC, Egypt conquered all of Nubia
, forging a great empire that stretched all the way from the Euphrates in Syria to the 5th Cataract of the Nile. For over 500 years, Egypt's wealth made the Pharaohs of the New Kingdom, like Tutankhamun, the most powerful rulers on the face of the earth. They built huge monuments throughout Egypt and Nubia, such as the famous temple of Abu Simbel
Following the collapse the Egyptian New Kingdom, by the early first millennium BC the kingdom of Kush re-emerged in its own right as a great power in the Middle Nile. Between 712-657 BCE, Sudanese kings conquered and ruled Egypt, as the XXVth Dynasty. After losing control of Egypt, the Kushite Empire survived in its homeland for nearly 1000 years - until c.300-350 CE - at its greatest extent controlling as much as 1,000km of the Nile valley
Third Intermediate Period of kush kingdom
Third Intermediate Period. When Kashta came to power in Kush, Egypt was in political turmoil. This era is designated, the Third Intermediate Period (Dynasties 21-25, ca. 1070-656 BC). In Kashta's time, Egypt was fragmented into at least 11 independent kinglets and principalities, including: 3 in Upper Egypt and 2 in the Delta, as well as 5 Libyan tribal chiefdoms and a principality, also in the Delta. Centered at Sais in the western Delta was a great chiefdom of Egyptianized Libyans, whose ruler was entitled, "Great Chief of the West."
In expanding Kushite control through Lower Nubia, Kashta might possibly have penetrated north of Elephantine and extended his political influence even into Upper Egypt. While Kashta never entered Egypt, he did claim the traditional kingship of Upper and Lower Egypt, perhaps even establishing indirect friendly relations with Thebes (for which there is no clear evidence). Kashta's son and successor, Piye (ca. 753-713 BC), also claimed the title, "King of Upper and Lower Egypt." He brought Thebes under his direct protection and established a military force in the area. He also had his sister, Amenirdis I, installed as priestess-designate in the Temple of Amun at Karnak with the title, "God's Wife of Amun." This was an important political move, since the God's Wife of Amun was traditionally the daughter or sister of the legitimate king of Egypt or Thebes, and it suggests that Piye had been designated as the heir-apparent of the last Theban king. Apparently, Piye also claimed the allegiance of the petty kingdoms of Hermopolis and Heracleopolis, while the great chiefdom of Sais held the loyalties of the various polities in the Delta.
First Military Conquest. In ca. 732 BC, the chiefdom of Sais began military operations in Upper Egypt to make the kingdoms there suzerain. As a result, the Kingdom of Hermopolis joined the Saites in besieging Heracleopolis and threatening Thebes. Piye, residing at Napata, responded by ordering his army in Thebes to attack and lift the siege of Heracleopolis and to resecure the loyalty of Hermopolis. He then sent a second expeditionary force from Kush to Middle Egypt to halt the Saite advance. He departed Napata for Thebes, where he celebrated the New Year's Festival and the Feast of Opet (by which he reaffirmed his spiritual claim to the Egyptian kingship). Thereafter, at the head of his army, Piye drove the Saite-led coalition to Memphis. He besieged that city which fell to him in a bloody conflict, after which each of the coalition kings finally surrendered to him and acknowledged him as their overlord.
The record of this campaign was recorded on a victory stela found at the Temple of Amun at Napata. Copies of the text were also erected in the sanctuary of the Temple of Karnak and probably in the Temple of Ptah at Memphis. According to the text, Piye's conquest was a religious crusade against Egyptian rebels on behalf of Amun. After he effected the surrender of all the petty dynasts, Piye he had himself crowned King of Upper and Lower Egypt in a traditional coronation held at the Temple of Ra at Heliopolis.
The crowning of Piye in ca. 732 BC marked the beginning of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty of Egyptian history. In capturing Egypt and adding it to his own kingdom, Piye united the entire Nile Valley into one state from Meroe to the Mediterranean Sea--for the first time in history (. He generously appointed four of the former kings as governors of their territories to rule for him in Egypt, including the troublesome Great Chief of the West in Sais. He then returned to Napata in triumph loaded with the spoils of his campaign and with tribute from his new vassals.
Second Military Conquest. Piye's reunification was short- lived. Because he maintained Napata at his political capital, he was unable to govern Egypt effectively from so far up the Nile River. He did not learn the lesson of history that had been apparent to the Upper Egyptian kings of the First, Twelfth and Eighteenth Dynasties, which was that a united Egypt could only be effectively governed from the north, not the south. With Piye residing at such a great distance away, his governors, who were the former kings that fought against him, lost no time in rebelling against his authority and declaring a measure of independence. The Great Chief of the West in the city of Sais even declared himself King of Upper and Lower Egypt, founding the Twenty-sixth Dynasty. Evidently, Piye was willing to accept this situation, so long as the Delta dynasts continued to recognize his overall authority or did not attempt to expand into Upper Egypt.
In ca. 713 BC, Piye was succeeded by his brother, Shabako. In a tradition new to the Twenty-fifth Dynasty, the inheritance of the throne was transmitted not from king to king's son directly, but from king to brother to king's son (. Shabako, intent on consolidating Kushite authority in Egypt, invaded Egypt in his second regnal year and reconquered it. By ca. 712 BC, he was residing in Memphis, which he designated his residence and royal capital. He took more effective control of Egypt than had his brother; he removed the disloyal governors of the Delta, some of which were executed, and he replaced them with his own Kushite governors.
Shabako apparently also campaigned on the Sinai frontier in order to secure it from migrating bedouin, and he engaged in a modest amount of royal building projects in Egypt. Among other things, he had the ancient Memphite Theology (detailing the cosmogony of the god Ptah) copied from papyrus to a slab of basalt and erected in Memphis.
Outside of Egypt at this time, the neo-Assyrians were consolidating their empire in the Near East. The principalities and kingdoms of Phoenicia, Israel, Judah and Philistia (i.e., the territories adjoining the Egyptian frontier) were suzerain to the Assyrians, albeit contentious and rebellious against them. Shabako, cautious and wary of the Assyrians--and perhaps as a means of ingratiating himself with them--maintained a policy of neutrality and non-interference. Thus, when the rebellious ruler of Ashdod fled to Egypt to avoid capture by the Assyrians, Shabako extradited the Philistine ruler back to them.
 Shebitku, the son of Piye, succeeded his uncle on the throne ca. 698 BC, perhaps after a two-year coregency with Shabako. By this time, the hereditary rulers of Sais seem to be back in power, as were other Delta princes. Shebitku maintained his predecessor's policy of a modest amount of royal building projects, mostly in Memphis and Thebes. However, he departed from Shabako's overly cautious foreign policy and adopted a new and more aggressive posture against Assyria. Around 701 BC, when Judah and the Philistine cities rose up against the Assyrians in a coordinated revolt, Shebitku provided them with military assistance in the form of troops for their allied forces. He also dispatched an Egyptian army led by his brother, Taharqa, to halt the Assyrian reinvasion of Phoenicia and Palestine. However, the Assyrians defeated the allied force and accomplished their objectives before the arrival of the Egyptian army. The Egyptians withdrew back to Egypt, unwilling to battle the Assyrians alone. Because of Egypt's assistance to the rebellious states, for the first time, she came into direct political and military conflict with Assyria.
Taharqa succeeded his brother as pharaoh in ca. 690 BC. He ruled for twenty-six years, the first sixteen of which were filled with brilliant achievement. He was a prolific builder in Memphis and Thebes, especially at the Temple of Amun at Karnak. He also rebuilt or erected anew temples and shrines throughout Nubia. He was a very capable ruler, often the model of an Egyptian pharaoh, and some archaeologists would argue that he led Egypt through its last stage of outstanding and independent cultural success.
 In ca. 677 BC, during Taharqa's thirteenth regnal year, the Assyrians, led by King Esarhaddon, attacked Egypt's eastern frontier near Sile with the intent of invasion. Here they were defeated by the army of Taharqa. Three years later, in 674 BC, they attacked again. This time they defeated Taharqa and captured Memphis. While Taharqa withdrew southward, probably to Nubia, the Assyrians seized the entire royal court, including the queen and the heir apparent to the throne, and transported them as captives to Nineveh. For the third time in its history, Egypt had been conquered by foreigners.
Esarhaddon effected the military occupation of Egypt by appointing Egyptian vassals to rule the country for him. They functioned under the aegis of Assyrian commissioners who were supported by an Assyrian military garrison. The vassals were chosen from among the earlier Delta dynasts who previously had ruled their territories as fiefs under the Kushites. The foremost of these was Necho of Sais. In reconfirming these dynasts, Esarhaddon was trying to create an Egyptian bulwark against the possible return of Taharqa, relying upon the ambitions and envy of those vassals.
 Within two years, Taharqa had returned to power as king in Egypt and ousted the Assyrian garrison. Due to Esarhaddon's death, the Assyrians were unable to return to Egypt for an additional two years. When they did return (ca. 670 BC), under King Assurbanipal, they defeated Taharqa again, who withdrew to Thebes. When they followed, Taharqa fled south to Napata. The rest of Egypt submitted to Assurbanipal's rule. However, after he arrived back in Assyria, most of the Egyptian vassals invited Taharqa to return to Egypt as pharaoh in some power-sharing arrangement. The plot was discovered, and the vassals were publicly executed, either in cities throughout the Delta or in Nineveh. For their loyalty to him, Assurbanipal appointed Necho I as king in Sais and his son, Psammetichus, as ruler of Athribis. Taharqa never returned to Egypt, but finished his reign as King of Kush in Napata.
 Upon his death, Taharqa was succeeded by his nephew, Tanwetamani (ca. 664 BC). He reinvaded Egypt with a Kushite army, captured Memphis and attacked the Delta. After he killed Necho I in battle, the Delta vassals recognized him as King of Egypt, while Psammetichus fled to Assyria. Within a year (ca. 663 BC), the Assyrians returned to quell this rebellion. Tanwetamani was quickly defeated, and he withdrew to Thebes. The Assyrians followed once again, whereupon he withdrew to his power base at Napata. In retribution, the Assyrians burned and sacked Thebes. The catastrophic fall of Thebes was an event incon- ceivable through its 1,500-years history, and it reverberated throughout the Near East for decades. Tanwetamani never returned to Egypt, and any effective Kushite pretensions to the throne of Egypt ended forever. For his loyalty, the Assyrians installed Psammetichus I of the Twenty- sixth Dynasty as king of most of the Egyptian Delta.
 When Tanwetamani was finally driven from Egypt in ca. 663 BC, the Twenty-fifth Dynasty collapsed, and over seventy years of Kushite rule in Egypt came to an end. However, when the Assyrian army withdrew from Egypt shortly thereafter, serious political problems developed back in Assyria, precluding its ability ever to return to Egypt. Ironically for the Kushites, only a short time after their expulsion, Assyria, too, was forced to abandon its hold on Egypt entirely. This situation permitted Psammetichus I to seize power with the aid of his Greek and Carian mercenaries. He began to consolidate Egypt entirely under his royal authority. In doing so, he inaugurated the so- called Saite Period of Egyptian history. One of Psammetichus I's achievements was to install a new military garrison at Elephantine to secure the Nubian frontier. He may well have dispatched a military expedition into Lower Nubia to strike the Kushites and forestall any desire to reestablish their foothold in Egypt.
Later (ca. 600 BC), Psammetichus II sent an invasion force to Upper Nubia with the clearly stated purpose of smiting the Kushites. Apparently, he was responding to some threat of a new Kushite invasion of Upper Egypt under King Anlamani, as well as to a desire to recover Lower Nubia. His significant army was composed of Greek, Carian, and Phoenician mercenaries who penetrated deeply into Upper Nubia. They met and decisively defeated the Kushites in two battles, at Tibo (the Island of Argo) at the entrance to the Dongola Reach and probably at Napata itself. Records from this campaign derive from graffiti scrawled by the victorious troops at Abu Simbel and from two series of victory stelae erected by Psammetichus II at Tanis and at Karnak and Kalabsha Temples. He recorded the defeat of the Kushites in which 4,200 of them were made captive. Another result of this bitter campaign was that the figures and names of the Kushite kings, where they were previously inscribed on the walls of Egyptian temples and monuments, were hacked away in order to expunge them from the Egyptian record. These were replaced by the name of Psammetichus II himself.
The Saites did not capitalize on this victory to consolidate any hold on Upper Nubia. Rather, their interest was to secure Lower Nubia and control the stretch of territory that the Greeks called, the Dodekaschoenus, the "Twelve-schoenus Stretch" (1 schoenus=10.5 km.). This was the stretch of river valley that extended ca. 126 km. south of Elephantine through Lower Nubia. From the Saite Period through the Roman Era, the rulers of Egypt always tried to hold at least this part of Lower Nubia, because it provided vital access to the gold mines of the district and in the Wadi Allaqi.
The Nubian three successor kingdoms in the 6th century A.D
The Nubian would re-emerge as three successor kingdoms in the 6th century A.D. Nobatia in the north, the central kingdom, Muqurra, and Alwa, in the heart of old Meroitic Kingdom in the south. In all three kingdoms were ruled by a military elite. Strangely using Greek titles in emulation of the Byzantine court and Christian. However, it was not surprising as Egypt then Abyssinia had both been converted to Christianity in the previous century by the Byzantines. The Nubians as they seemed to have always done in the past adopted Egyptian traditions accepting religion suzerainty from the Coptic Church based in Alexandria. This period saw a resurgence of the cultural and ideological connections between the Mediterranean World with the Nubians. The Greek language infiltrated Nubian society through religious teachings, and remained strong even until the 12th century A.D.
However, after the Arabs invaded Egypt in 639 A.D. and as Muslims began to dominate Egypt this connection as well as to the rest of the Christian World was lost. The Arabs invaders that had taken control of Egypt tried to take the Nubian Kingdoms by force but was repelled, not once but twice, in 642 A.D. and again in 652 A.D. This forced the successor states to reunite. The Arabs then turn to seek peaceful relations with the Nubians to facilitate trade between the two cultures. The Christian Nubian Kingdoms reached its height in the 9th and 10th century. However, over the next 1000 years the Islamic influences brought about by Arab merchants as they began to establish trade posts and intermarried into the population gradually turned the Nubians into a majority Islamic, Arabic speaking nation. The turning point was in the 13th century A.D., when the Mamelukes from Egypt intervened in a dynastic dispute within the Nubian monarchy forcing the Northern Kingdoms of Nubia to be satellite state to Egypt. By the 15th century A.D. as the Christian church declined in influence, a period of political instability and fragmentation ensued.
Medieval Nubia
Following the collapse of the Meroitic state (c.300-350 CE), the Middle Nile broke up into a number of smaller kingdoms - by about 500AD, three major Nubian kingdoms had emerged, Nobatia in the far north (Lower Nubia), Makuria in the Dongola Reach, and Alodia in central Sudan (with its capital at Soba), extending up the Blue Nile. The Nubian kings were converted to Christianity after 540 CE, and the influence of the Church and its institutions is apparent in many elements of medieval Nubian culture. While a single unified kingdom on the scale of Meroe never reappeared, medieval Nubia prospered, enjoying generally peaceful relations with Islamic Egypt, in which long-distance trade flourished.
Medieval Nubia also develops a widely used written language (Old Nubian) possibly in several dialects, while Greek, Coptic and latterly Arabic were also widely used. As might be expected, much emphasis was placed on the translation of biblical texts and a substantial body of such material has been found during archaeological excavations. Equally, however, administrative documents, legal texts and letters were also written in Old Nubian - a rare early flowering of an indigenous written language in Africa south of the Sahara. Modern ' Mahas ' Nubian is closely related to the medieval language of northern Nubia
Karma civilization
 The Kerma civilisation was known only from the townsite and cemeteries of its metropolitan centre and smaller sites to the north, towards Egypt. However, recent survey and excavation work has identified many new sites south of Kerma, many located on channels of the Nile, now dry, which lay to the east of the modern course of the river. This pattern of settlement indicates a substantial population and for the first time provides us with some sort of context in which we can place Kerma itself.
As the long history of Egyptian military activity in Lower Nubia indicates, Kerma was perceived as a major threat to Pharaonic Egypt. In the absence of written records from Kerma, our perceptions of 'Nubia' during this period have of course been greatly influenced by Egyptian historical records. They, however, only tell half the story of the frontier wars and the gradual colonisation of Lower Nubia. Increasingly, the results of archaeological work in the Kerma heartlands is beginning to make it possible to tell the story from the other side
The Kerma culture evolved out of the Neolithic around 2400 BC. The Kushite rulers of Kerma profited from the trading such luxury goods as gold, ivory, ebony, incense, and even live animals to the Egyptian Pharaohs. By 1650 BC, Kerma had become a densely occupied urban center overseeing a centralized state stretching from at least the 1st Cataract to the 4th, rivaling ancient Egypt


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