Ancient Nubia relations with Ancient Egypt

Jan 2016
393
Ohio
I just saw a fascinating exhibit at the MFA. They recently have opened 'Ancient Nubia Now' to bring light to misconceptions. I quote,

"The Nubians left behind remains of cities, temples, palaces, and pyramids, but few written records. As a result, their story has been told in large part by others—in antiquity by the Egyptians, who used propaganda to cast Nubia as the barbaric “other,” and in the early 20th century by American and European scholars and archeologists who brought cultural bias to their work."

Ive always known winners wrote history.

From what I seen, people had thought the reasonings for Egyptian relics and statue's in Nubia's land was due to military outposts etc. Now they suggest it has to do with successful raids from Nubia and the Egyptian relics found in tombs were actually 'trophies' and signified a certain higher 'status'.

The art I saw was quite beautiful and definitely had its own style, but depending on the periods, I could see the Egyptian influence.

This got me thinking though. I tried looking for different resources to learn more about the interaction between both societies, and especially the biases from Egypt. I can't find much so am curious of any resources y'all may have. Especially would appreciate any thoughts/personal opinions on this subject.

So. Is it possible that Ancient Nubia could have even been more prevalent than we now even realize due to our lack of being able to read their texts? Im sure the accidental find of the Rosetta Stone really thrusted Ancient Egypt into the limelight of its importance today. I don't even know if this would be possible, due to disastrous flooding of, I believe, the Aswan Dam.


[A little fun alternative history question here. Had Nubia actually desired to conquer Egypt and did so in a weakened state, how do you think history may have changed in that region]


[Another fun question. Do you think its possible there are other civilizations who may have had a bigger impact on history than we realize, but due to a lack of records we are unsure?.]
 
Nov 2016
1,351
Germany
Egypt obtained her gold in large quantities from Nubia, where brutally enslaved Nubians had to work their way to death in mines in order to uncover the gold from which Tutankhamun's so much admired mask was made, which contributed to Egypt's wealth just as much as the countless loot objects and slaves of both sexes which were captured by military raids.

Another fun question. Do you think its possible there are other civilizations who may have had a bigger impact on history than we realize, but due to a lack of records we are unsure?.
The logic of this question is the same as the logic of a question like: do you think it possible that there are green monsters with three heads and eight legs? Of course it is possible, but we don't know anything about it.
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
6,178
Portugal
[A little fun alternative history question here. Had Nubia actually desired to conquer Egypt and did so in a weakened state, how do you think history may have changed in that region]
Not really alternative history. It happened, Nubia invaded and conquered Egypt:

Twenty-fifth Dynasty of Egypt - Wikipedia

The logic of this question is the same as the logic of a question like: do you think it possible that there are green monsters with three heads and eight legs? Of course it is possible, but we don't know anything about it.
Indeed.
 

dreamregent

Ad Honorem
Feb 2013
4,382
Coastal Florida
The relationship between Nubia and Egypt existed and evolved throughout ancient Egyptian history and pre-history. So, I'm not sure which era you're most into. As you noted, Lower Nubia has essentially been lost beneath Lake Nasser. There's no telling what all is down there...and what modern archaeology could potentially reveal if it was still dry land. The part which isn't inundated is in Sudan. Like other places in the region, it's difficult to do a lot of good modern archaeology here due to long-term political instability & conflict. If you just want a list of sources, you could actually start with those cited by the wiki article on Nubia. Also, I visited Egypt some years ago and recorded quite a bit of video in the Nubian Museum in Aswan, Egypt. A rough cut of the footage is on youtube if you're interested (the explanation is provided by a professional egyptologist working for a tour company):

 
Last edited:
Jul 2019
179
Ghana
A big problem is that everybody keeps calling it Nubia (including academics), which is often completely anachronistic. From c. 2500 BC up to c. 330 AD, most of Nubia (and beyond) constituted a political entity called "Kush". There is no record of Egyptians or Kushites referring to the area as "Nubia". It's a post-Kushite development. The term "Kush", is a term that was used by the Kushites themselves, evidenced by names like Kashta (k3š-t3, "from the land of Kush") , as well as being used by the Egyptians (k3š), Assyrian (Kuš, Kusaya, "Kushite"), Old Persian (Kuša), Ancient Hebrew (כּוּשׁ, Kūš, also Cush, Cushi/Kushi, Cushim) and Aksumite (Kasu). Nubia is a geographical area from the first cataract to the 6th cataract, but the ubiquitous use of the term Nubia divorces the history of the area from its political reality, and tends to obscure the later Nubian histories as well. I do use the term Nubia myself sometimes, but only as a geographical designation.

Kush was a large, imperial, urbanized, literate, wealthy and powerful state that challenged the power of Egypt itself on more than one occasion. They also fought wars with the Assyrians, Ptolemies and Romans and stood their own, managing to survive until the Aksumite conquest of Kush by King Ezana of Axum.

The history of Kush is truly one of the greatest histories never told, but the efforts of Nubiologists and institutions like the MFA are slowly changing this.

The Kingdom of Kush was a very long lasting kingdom, roughly divided into the following periods:
  • Kerma Period (c. 2500 BC - c. 1504 BC)
  • New Kingdom Egyptian Period (c. 1504 BC - c. 1077 BC) (first colonial occupation, then full integration of Kush into Egypt as far south as the 4th cataract)
  • Nubian Dark Ages (c. 1077 BC - c. 795 BC)
  • Napatan Period (c. 795 BC - c. 270 BC) (ruled all or part of Egypt during the 25th Dynasty from 747 BC to 656 BC)
  • Meroitic Period (c. 270 BC - c. 330 AD)

I just saw a fascinating exhibit at the MFA. They recently have opened 'Ancient Nubia Now'
The MFA is an excellent source on Kush. They have the largest collection of Nubian artefacts outside of Sudan (more than 20.000 pieces). I went through the entire collection online, and was blown away by it...

From what I seen, people had thought the reasonings for Egyptian relics and statue's in Nubia's land was due to military outposts etc. Now they suggest it has to do with successful raids from Nubia and the Egyptian relics found in tombs were actually 'trophies' and signified a certain higher 'status'.
Exactly... The statue of Lady Sennuwy is one of the most famous examples of looted Egyptian statues found in Kerma period royal tombs in Sudan:
Lady Sennuwi Egyptian statue in Kerma Kingdom tomb Kush raid.jpg


Inscriptions in the tomb of governor Sobeknakht II at El-Kab tells us that Kerma period Kushites managed to raid as far north as the Thebaid region, and in conjunction with the Hyksos who occupied Lower Egypt in the North, they managed to bring down the Middle Kingdom.

The art I saw was quite beautiful and definitely had its own style, but depending on the periods, I could see the Egyptian influence.
There are similarities between Kerma Period Kush as well as the preceding A-Group Culture with Egypt, because they partially evolved from a similar Neolithic substrate originating in the border region of Egypt and Sudan. In later times, during the Egyptian conquest and incorporation of Kush into the New Kingdom, Kush essentially Egyptianized, and they became almost indistinguishable from each other for a few centuries. The later Napatan period basically inherited Pharaonic culture from this period, and maintained their connection with Egyptian culture, religion and even language. During the Kushite 25th Dynasty, the Kushites conquered all of Egypt and ruled it for almost a century, presiding over a sort of Egyptian renaissance which became the golden period of the 3rd Intermediate Period. Pharaonic culture was maintained even after the loss of Egypt, and continued even into the Meroitic period, all the way to the end, although the Meroitic Period also started diverging more from the earlier periods (more "Africanized", with Hellenistic influences).

So. Is it possible that Ancient Nubia could have even been more prevalent than we now even realize due to our lack of being able to read their texts? Im sure the accidental find of the Rosetta Stone really thrusted Ancient Egypt into the limelight of its importance today. I don't even know if this would be possible, due to disastrous flooding of, I believe, the Aswan Dam.
Up until the Meroitic Period, the Kushites of the 25th Dynasty and the Napatan period wrote extensively using Late Egyptian and the Napatan dialect of Ancient Egyptian, both of which are well understood. There is a large quantity of translations available. A lot of historians including Egyptologists making casual remarks on Kush have never actually read these sources. One of the most important sources in this regard is the Fontes Historiae Nubiorum, the "Textual sources for the history of the Middle Nile Region between the eighth century BC and the sixth century AD", which contains more than 1000 pages of translations of some of the giants of Kushite history like Taharqa and Piye. It's amazing stuff and one of my all time favorite sources. It's a must read for anyone trying to write about Kushite history. It's also available online for free (4 volumes):

Fontes historiae Nubiorum



[A little fun alternative history question here. Had Nubia actually desired to conquer Egypt and did so in a weakened state, how do you think history may have changed in that region]
As already pointed out, the 25th Dynasty is not alternative history. It's quite an important period actually. Taharqa's intervention in the Levant (battle of Eltekeh), during the lengthy Kushite-Assyrian war, probably saved Jerusalem from destruction at the hands of Sennacherib. Saving the Abrahamic religion in the process... Not insignificant (he even got a mention in the bible, see Isaiah 37, "Tirhaka, the King of Cush".


This got me thinking though. I tried looking for different resources to learn more about the interaction between both societies, and especially the biases from Egypt. I can't find much so am curious of any resources y'all may have. Especially would appreciate any thoughts/personal opinions on this subject.
If you're interested, I wrote an extensive and richly illustrated introduction to Kushite history here:



There is a large list of sources and further reading material for you to enjoy. The text isn't perfect yet, but research is always ongoing. I'd suggest reading it, as it will probably touch on almost everything you want to know about Kush. Further questions are always welcome.


Kingdom of Kush Kerma city capital ancient african town 2000 BC sudan2.jpg
Reconstruction of Kerma, Sudan, the capital of the first Kingdom of Kush, c. 2000 BC


Pharaoh King Taharqa 25th Dynasty Kingdom of Kush Kushite religious procession Jebel Gebel Bar...jpg
"At the Height of his power, King Taharqa leads his queens through the crowds during a festival at the temple complex of Nubia's Jebel Barkal, it's pinnacle gleaming with gold. Accompanied by a sacred ship bearing an image of the god Amun, Taharqa is robed in a priestly leopard skin and crowned with the double uraeus that declares him Lord of the Two Lands - ruler of both Nubia and Egypt." [Taharqa is the 4th Pharaoh of the 25th dynasty, pictured in front of the Great Temple of Amun (completed by Piye), in Napata, Sudan, with the holy mountain, Jebel Barkal, in the background, 7th century BC]


10b Napata at the foot of gebel-barkal.jpg
The temple complex at Napata, by Jean-Claude Golvin.



Reconstruction of ancient Meroë from The Capital of Kush by Rebecca J Bradley Kushite city E.jpg
Reconstruction of ancient Meroë, Sudan, from "The Capital of Kush", by Rebecca J Bradley


Meroe pyramid fields begrawiya royal necropolis kingdom of kush Kushite.jpg
Meroitic Pyramids, Begrawiya, Sudan



musawwarat es sufra aborepi kingdom of Kush kushite monuments meroitic.jpg
Temple complex at Musawwarat es Sufra, Sudan



Sudan-47.jpg
Relief of King Arnekhamani, from the Meroitic Period Lion Temple at Musawwarat (dedicated to the god Apedemak)


Kingdom of Kush Kushite stone lions statues from barkal and Basa.jpg
Kushite Lion statues (Meroitic), used to decorate temples and palaces.


Kingdom of Kush Kushite Napatan statues kings black pharaohs 25th Dynasty Doukki Gel pharaons ...jpg
Kushite Pharaohs and Kings of the 25th Dynasty and later Napatan Period
 
Jul 2019
179
Ghana
Kushite gold and jewelry and other luxery produce is on point as well. They were expert goldsmiths. These are all from the Napatan and Meroitic Periods (located in the MFA, Boston):

Aspelta grave  napatan Gold and electrum and gilded silver objects called cylinder sheaths wer...jpg

Kingdom of Kush Kushite gold jewelry armbands bracelets.jpg
Kingdom of Kush Kushite gold jewelry.jpg
Kingdom of Kush Kushite gold shieldrings.jpg
Kingdom of Kush Kushite pharaoh Taharqa presenting god Hemen with wine gold silver and bronze.jpg
Kushite earings gold.jpg
Meroitic gold signet rings kush.jpg
Kushite earings.jpg
Alabastron Kushite Napatan Aspelta hoard.jpg
 
Jul 2019
179
Ghana
Kushite pottery can also be quite exquisite.

Kerma Period:
Kush Kushite kerma period black topped pottery.jpg


Meroitic Period:
Kushite pottery Meroitic.jpg
Kushite pottery Meroitic2.jpg
Kushite pottery meroitic3.jpg
Meroitic pottery Sudan A.jpg


3 Newly excavated temples at Naqa, a Meroitic royal city:
Kingdom of Kush Kushite Naqa Naga Tempel 700 Meroitic period.jpg
Kingdom of Kush Kushite Lion Temple of Apedemak Naqa Naga aerial shot.jpg
Kingdom of Kush Kushite Naqa Naga Tempel 1200 B.jpg


Reconstruction of a recently excavated temple at Soniyat
Three-dimensional reconstruction of the Kushite temple in Soniyat.jpg

Ruins of a Meroitic palace at Wad Ben Naqa (note the people standing in the lower left corner for an idea of scale :
Kingdom of Kush Kushite palace at Wad Ben Naqa Naga Schellinger_Sarah_M_201703_PhD_thesis 2.jpg
 
Jan 2016
393
Ohio
The logic of this question is the same as the logic of a question like: do you think it possible that there are green monsters with three heads and eight legs? Of course it is possible, but we don't know anything about it.
Except I would argue the chances of the prior being higher than the chances of the later. To each their own though.

I was more so looking for a specific culture that we think may have had more importance, yet have no outright evidence to suggest so or are currently trying to find it. My apologies for wording it into an illogical question for you.
 
Jan 2016
393
Ohio
Not really alternative history. It happened, Nubia invaded and conquered Egypt:

Twenty-fifth Dynasty of Egypt - Wikipedia
Sorry, again, for my lack of clarification. I am aware of Nubian (Kush) pharaohs during the twenty-fifth dynasty.

I was more thinking of the ramifications had Nubia conquered Egypt far earlier in their history and had actually acquired it into their kingdom. Making Nubia the height power in the region for thousands of years, not Egypt.
 
Jan 2016
393
Ohio
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There is a large list of sources and further reading material for you to enjoy. The text isn't perfect yet, but research is always ongoing. I'd suggest reading it, as it will probably touch on almost everything you want to know about Kush. Further questions are always welcome.

Fantastic answer. I appreciate it. I've been slowly reading your work in between my studies and its quite impressive. I thank you for the time to reply so thoroughly.

I look forward to the possibility of new Kush findings we have yet to discover.
 
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