The Napatan and Meroitic Period

In the New Kingdom (about 1550 - 1069 BC) Nubia was occupied and colonised by the Egyptians as far south as the area between the Third and Fourth Cataracts. The end of Egyptian rule is obscure. It has been assumed that the Egyptians left Nubia at the end of the New Kingdom. However the title 'viceroy of Kush' is still attested in the Third Intermediate Period, and it is possible that Egyptians still claimed control over some parts of Lower Nubia, perhaps more in land rights or access to resources, than in full administrative control.
At el Kurru archaeologists have found several burials which seem to belong to local leaders, buried here after the Egyptians left the country. Alara and Kashta are the first of these leaders known to bear at least parts of a royal titulary, written in Egyptian hieroglyphs and based on the model of Egyptian kingship (the name of Alara is written in a cartouche; Kashta (about 760 - 747 BC) has a nomen and a prenomen). The next king Piy is already well-known from a stela found at Napata, on which he reports a campaign to Egypt. It is not certain whether his campaign to Egypt had the effect of annexing Egypt immediately, but certainly the next kings (Shabako, Shabitqo, Taharqo, Tanutamani) ruled over Egypt. After the Assyrian conquest of Egypt, Tanutamani still seems to have ruled parts of Upper Egypt, but they may finally have been driven out of the country in the rise to independent power of the 26th Dynasty.
The Napatan Period (about 700 - 300 BC) is named after the town Napata, where an Amun temple was built and where the kings were buried in small pyramids (the cemeteries are located not far at Nuri and el Kurru). Napata was the religious centre of the country. The political centre was perhaps already quite early farther south at Meroe.
In the visible record Napatan culture seems heavily influenced by the Egyptians. The kings were buried in small pyramids, with an Egyptian style funerary equipment (shabtis, sarcophagi with religious texts, canopic jars, funerary stelae). The Egyptian hieroglyphic script was used. The exact order of most kings of the Napatan period is still under discussion. There is a group of well attested rulers dating shortly after the the end of Napatan control of Egypt (for example: Senkamanisken and Aspelta). Some kings dating to about the 4th century BC are again well-known from long monumental inscriptions (Arikamaninote, Harsiotef).
From the beginning of the 3rd century BC onwards the kings were buried at Meroe. This is normally seen as the beginning of the Meroitic period.
The Meroitic Period (about 300 BC - 400 AD
Arkamaniqo is the first king who was not buried in the north at Nuri, but farther south in Meroe. Meroe was already in the Napatan Period an important centre and perhaps very early also the political centre of the country. Along with the change in royal burial place other changes are visible. From about the second century BC the Meroitic script was used. It is possible to identify some words, including the names of kings, in Meroitic inscriptions, but it is not possible to understand the few surviving longer texts. In the absence of inscriptions or manuscripts in known scripts, it is therefore hard to obtain detailed information about the political history of the land at this time from internal sources.
Meroitic culture is still very much influenced by Egyptian culture, but the Egyptian elements now seem to be used only for funerary and religious monuments (as increasingly also in Egypt at the same time). In the Meroitic Period arts and crafts are very much influenced by Hellenistic arts (again, as in Egypt). One example is the sculpture found in a sanctuary at Meroe ('Roman bath'). African elements also became more important; the precise regional relations implicit in these need further research in the archaeology of adjacent areas. Lower Nubia, which seems to have been almost uninhabited, became important again in the first to fourth centuries AD, maybe through trade between the Romans and Nubians. Imports from the Roman empire, quite often items of luxury are common at this time. Several rich settlements (Qasr Ibrim) and cemeteries of the period have been excavated in Lower Nubia.
Little is known about the end of the Meroitic Period. In the middle of the 4th century the royal cemetery at Meroe was no longer used. It is not known whether the kings were now buried at other places or whether simply there were no more kings. However, there are indications that the Meroitic culture remained 'alive' for a certain time. It has been suggested that the empire disintegrated leaving separate smaller kingdoms. In the sixth century AD three Christian kingdoms appeared in Nubia and they might be considered the successors of the Meroitic empire at least in its northern half


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