Ancient Nubia: Egypt's Rival in Africa.
Once the ancient kingdom of Kush, Nubia is the stretch of land next to the Nile from Aswan down to Khartoum in the south. Nubians are depicted in many tomb paintings and reliefs- usually as mercenaries or traders. Nubians still have distinct traditions, architecture and languages, even though many migrated either to Aswan and Kom Ombo or south to Sudan after Lake Nasser swamped much of their traditional homeland. Nubia contains dozens of sites of archaeological interest. 24 temples, as well as fortresses and tombs, were menaced by the waters of the High Dam, including Dendour, Ellessiya, Amada and Wadi al- Sebowa. Some have been moved, most notably Philae, Kalabsha and Abu Simbel, and other salvage and restoration operations are in train ; The Nubian Museum is being built near Aswan to house rescued artefacts. From Late Antiquity and into the early Middle Ages, Upper and Lower Nubia formed three independent kingdoms, Nubadia (called Nubia in Arabic) between the First and Third Cataracts, Makuria between the Third and Fifth Cataracts, and Alodia (called Alwa in Arabic) above the Fifth Cataract. These kingdoms converted to Christianity around the sixth century AD, long after Egypt had become Christian. However, they maintained that faith centuries after Egypt had succumbed to the forces of Islam. These three nations were not always on peaceful terms with each other. However, it was probably as early as the seventh century AD that Nubadia and Makuria united to form a single federated kingdom which was to last some six hundred years under the King of Makuria. Despite the union, each of the two kingdoms always kept their separate identities. This united kingdom was weakened in the late thirteenth century by a series of attacks on Nubia by Mamelukes from Egypt, who ultimately claimed--apparently in name only-- suzerainty over Lower Nubia. In the fourteenth century, Makuria was overrun by nomadic Arab invaders from the southeast who established a short-lived Muslim kingdom there. This state ultimately degenerated into a series of warring principalities without any royal authority and the population reduced to the level of bedouin. Nubadia and its client- state, the Kingdom of Dotawo survived for more than a century thereafter, until disappearing in the unrecorded dwindling of cultural identity. In AD 1550 the Ottoman Turks annexed a disunited Lower Nubia to their great Near Eastern empire. Nubian independence, national identity, and Christianity disappeared without leaving any record.
Nubia is an area of scholarship that was largely overlooked in favor of its splendid neighbor, Egypt. Past finds in the area were attributed to Egypt; current excavation of the area is impossible because of Egypt's construction of the High Aswan Dam. However, renewed interest in Africa - brought on largely by Afrocentric scholars such as Cheikn Anta Diop - has resulted in a proliferation of scholarly work on ancient Nubia. Much of the scholarly work up to this point is dealing with the massive archeological digs that occurred just prior to the building of the High Aswan Dam. As a result of this work, the amount of available information on Nubia has increased immeasurably. Evidence has emerged that shows a people who, after decades of colonization by the Egyptians, rose above and established themselves as a force to be dealt with in Africa. Nubians developed a culture and people distinctly different from the Egyptians. After preliminary investigation into the area of ancient Nubia, a striking contrast emerged. The Nubians has an unusually high number of ruling queens, especially during the golden age of the Meroitic Kingdom (1). Although ruling queens, in themselves, may not be unusual, the portrayal of Nubian queen is exceptional. A panel on display at the exhibit "Nubia: Egypt's Rival in Africa" showed the queen smiting her enemies. This type of representation has no equivalent in either...
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