A-Group: 3800-3100 B.C. C-Group: 2300-1550 B.C. Kerma Culture: 2000-1559 B.C. Egyptian Domination: 1950-1100 B.C. Napatan Period: 747-200 B.C. Meroitic Period: 200 B.C.-A.D. 300 X-Group (Ballana Period): A.D. 250-550 Christian Period: A.D. 550-1400
Regions: Upper Nubia, Lower Nubia, Kash, Land of Kush, Land of the Bow, Wawat, Te-Seti, Te-Nehesy, Nubadae, Napata, Kingdom of Meroe, and more. All refer to the greatest African civilization – Nubia. Nubia, an 800 km of land along the Nile River, bounded by the first cataract of the River Nile south of Aswan (Egypt), and the sixth cataract south of Khartoum (capital of Sudan). Except for a very small strip of land along the Nile north of Sudan, all Nubia land is in Sudan . For unjustifiable reasons, Nubian civilization has been overlooked in favor of the another great Egyptian civilization. Respectively, all findings in the past have been attributed to Egypt, while Egypt’s High Dam made it impossible for current excavations.
More than 100 Nubian villages (most in Sudan) with all monuments, tombs, and temples were flooded by the waters of Nasser Lake after the construction of the High Dam. Very few monuments (four) of Nubia of Sudan were saved during an international campaign by the world community to salvage Nubian Culture, while twenty or more were saved from the Egyptian monuments during the same campaign. This great civilization has been dealt with great unfairness and intentional negligence. Recently, the awareness towards Nubia started growing rapidly among scholars, archaeologists, Nubians, Africans, African-Arabs, African-Americans, the Diaspora, and several museums in America and Europe. Several missions and institutes are carrying on excavations in Sudan to shed more light on Nubia. However, still most of the findings are being attributed to Egypt and Egyptology.
The chances that this great African civilization might be overlooked again is prevailing if we take into consideration, the economical and other difficulties in Sudan. It is the role of all Africans – African-Arabs, African-Americans, the Diaspora, and the international community to initiate another salvage campaign of the Nubian Civilization. This time, not to save it from inundation by water but from inundation by negligence and being overlooked again. To the ancient Mediterranean world, the land south of Egypt was a territory of mystery and legend. Wealth and exotic products came from there. It was the home of the Ethiopians, whom Homer called blameless, and stories about its great achievements endured to tantalize the modern world. This land, which now includes Nubia, is a land of enormous distances, and its exploration was long impeded by problems of transport and political unrest. In the last hundred years,
Nubia has slowly yielded its secrets, its vanished peoples, abandoned cities and lost kingdoms brought to light by the excavator and copyist of inscriptions. This exhibit is a selection of objects recovered over twenty years ago by the Oriental Institute Nubian Expedition in the effort to rescue archaeology from the rising water behind the Aswan Dam. The land of Nubia is a desert divided by the river Nile. For want of water and rich soil, most of Nubia has never been able to support a large population for long periods. However, some of Africa’s greatest civilizations emerged here, centers of achievement whose existence was based on industry and trade. Because they did not write their own languages until very late in ancient times, we know these centers and their people largely through their archaeology, and what the Egyptians and Greeks said about them.
Ancient Nubia: Egypt’s Rival in Africa The exhibition places ancient Nubians and their civilization in a new historical context, offering visitors a compelling well-founded perspective on this little-known African civilization. Nubians in the Bronze Age, from about 3100 BC to 1000 BC, are usually thought of as divided into small chiefdoms, with the partial exception of the Kingdom of Kush in the Middle Bronze Age. However, recent research suggests that large kingdoms arose in Nubia much earlier than is generally thought. Over the centuries Nubians and Egyptians competed for power and advantage throughout the vast Lower Nile region, from the Mediterranean Sea south to the sixth cataract in the Sudan. Powerful and centrally organized, early Nubians are truly Egypt’s rivals in Africa, states Dr. David O’Connor, curator of the exhibition. Exploitation by Egypt Precious metals and stone. Egyptian interests in Nubia were always driven by economics. The one factor that chiefly characterized Egypt’s relationship with Nubia through most of their history was exploitation. Nubia’s most important resource for Egypt was precious metal, including gold and electrum. The gold mines of Nubia were located in certain valleys and mountains on either side of the Nile River, although the most important mining center was located in the Wadi Allaqi. That valley extended eastward into the mountains near Qubban (about 107 km. south of Elephantine). Nubia was also an important source of valuable hard stone and copper, both of which were necessary for Egypt’s monumental building projects. Especially important for Egypt was that Nubia was also a corridor to central Africa and a point for the trans-shipment of exotic goods from that region, including: frankincense, myrrh, “green gold,” ivory, ebony and other exotic woods, precious oils, resins and gums, panther and leopard skins, monkeys, dogs, giraffes, ostrich feathers and eggs, as well as pygmies (who became important to Egyptian religious rituals).
In the Old Kingdom, the Egyptians regularly penetrated as far as the second cataract to barter for these products, which were coming down through the upper Nile Valley (viz., the expeditions of Harkhuf, Hekayib, Mekhu and Sabni). Nubia was also an important source of manpower and labor for the Egyptians. The Palermo Stone records that early in the Fourth Dynasty, King Snefru led a military campaign into Nubia reputedly to crush a “revolt” there (the Egyptians considered all enemies, whether foreign or domestic, as “rebels” against the natural order). According to that text, he captured 200,000 head of cattle and 7,000 prisoners, all of whom were deported to Egypt as laborers on royal building projects. While some archaeologists argue that this campaign was limited to Lower Nubia, others note that the amount of 7,000 is rather high for a country that was fairly depopulated at the time. If the number was not inflated as royal propaganda, then Snefru could have penetrated into Upper Nubia, as far as the Land of Yam, and made his conquests there.
Karen C. Aboiralor
Oakland, CA USA – Thursday, April 30, 1998