• Nubia, just as other regions of civilization, was very much influenced by cultural diffusion. With its unusual placement in geography, it had many advantages to come in contact with neighboring areas, and likewise, some disadvantages. Trade and interaction provided the Nubians with many ideas for their development in religion, record keeping, and skills in different areas of society to build from.
Religion played a big role in Nubia for a good reason. Nearly all Nubians practiced their new life because they believed that it would protect them. The bottom line was, was that religion for them, was a reminder about why they were striving to get things done at their present, which was to succeed in after death. It was the protection, beliefs and mostly the daily lives for all Egyptians.
The idea of religion was first introduced by the Egyptians during the Neolithic age when Nubians were forming the Kerma culture 2400 ~B.C. Early Nubians during the agricultural revolution adopted Egyptian’s polytheism, the belief in more than one god. They even held one main god—Amun in worship. Hence forth, they had a lot common.
Religion included belief in afterlife and burial practices.
Worshipped kings as gods who bore responsiblility for kingdom’s well-being.
Supplied objects, water and food for the dead to help them reach harmony.
Created water pool with stairs for access of the dead.
Sacred lakes purified priests next to the temples
After 700 years since Egypt’s conquest in Nubia, Christian kingdoms arose and took lead in converting Nubians to their religion. Although the conversion was not a decision for the Nubians to make, it benefited them in ways that put off their disputes.
Timeline of Christianization in Nubia
Byzantines drew Nubian Nubia is divided into
tribes of the Blemmyes three kingdoms; Nobatia,
4 th century AD and Nobadae for Ethiopians AD 540 Makuria and Alwa.
assistance in their invasion of Yemen.
5 th century AD
Christian Byzantine court AD 524 Blemmyes andNobadae 6 th century AD
concluded a trade alliance w/ are converted to
Ethiopian kingdom of Axum. Christianity for security.
Adoption of Christianity helped replace secretive ancient Egyptian cults .
Provided simple concepts for living and promised social equality after death.
Jesus was the only “king” who could have been celebrated in art, architecture, and literature.
Church language was mostly Greek but by the later Middle Ages, the Nubians still used Greek letters for writing.
In the mid 14 th century of Egypt, the Kingdom of Makuria fell into the power of Arabs. Bands of Muslim nomads continuously pushed southward along the Red Sea hills and the Nile which gradually weakened the influence of Christian churches.
Muslims were buried in simple graves, in which the dead were laid on their sides looking toward Mecca. The only people to merit burial in an impressive tomb were the saints and holy men who spread the faith across the countryside. Their tombs are the most impressive Islamic remains in the Sudan. They are great mud-brick, often whitewashed domes, called gubbas .
Kings of Fung (of African decent) Obscure Holy man brings
extended their control over the purest form of Islam;
1400 northern Arab-Nubian tribes. 1821-1883 fights off colonialism 1898- present
Christian territories. Egyptian Conquest ; Aspiration of democratic
gradually fell into the Early 16 th century control over slave trade & 1883-1898 rule; plague of civil wars
hands of Muslim chiefs European immigrants and dictatorship.
Arabs intermarried with Nubian women and passed on their teachings.
Southern Nubia lost their language to Arabic.
This created the beginnings of a division between North and South.
Religion encouraged political unity, economic growth and education.
Costumes, armor, and weapons of the elite were ancient remains of Islamic period.
The scarcity of firearms in Nubia made quilted body armor and chain mail of this type effective for mounted Islamic warriors from the Middle Ages to the early twentieth century. Courtesy of Howard Ricketts.
Interaction with Egypt
Kingdoms were linked to Egypt and the Mediterranean in the north with the interior of Africa to the south and the Red Sea.
Goods and ideas were transported through the Nile.
Egypt valued Nubia’s culture —Kerma pottery, and chambers; trade.
Egypt imposed rule on Nubia’s kingdom—Kush.
Nubia’s great kingdom Kush’s capital, Napata, became the center for the spread of Egyptian culture to Kush’s other African trading partners.
Princes and nobles learned Egyptian language, prayed to their god, adopted customs and clothing style of the Egyptian upper class.
Adopted royal rituals, hieroglyphic writing and building of pyramids.
After regain of independence, sought to restore their adopted ways by conquering Egypt.
A kerma “red-polished ware’ pitcher with a hippopotamus shaped head snout, about 1700 B.C; Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
According to geography , Nubia lies south of Egypt and between the first cataract of the great Nile river and the division of the river into the Blue and White Niles. The unique placement did not only bless Nubia with the best north-south trade route, but a doorway to new discoveries. In what ways did Egypt bear upon Nubia?
ruled as gods, and took role of the king
Artists worked with clay, stone, leather, metals and other natural fibers for spinning and weaving. Farmers grew emmer wheat, barley, dates, and nuts which were basic materials for bread, beer and wine. Merchants established markets (Arabs), and dealt with trade across the Nile and neighboring regions in order to produce profit. Priests expanded their power by leading a religious community of believers; (Christian churches, Islamic temples) Nubians borrowed ideas from Egypt and other neighboring areas to organize their society. Their life and administration was very similar to those of the Egyptians.
There were not many original written records in Nubia. However, from about 3500 B.C one important group of Nubia gave clues of a pre-existing civilization.
Nubia created not one writing system, and left no documents about it’s long past. The “ A group” (had their name derived from their grave goods left artifacts throughout Lower Nubia by archaeologists) was best known for their unusually constructed cemeteries. Why does it matter? It showed importance to archeologists and helped infer that these people were earlier at least two centuries than Egyptian kinship.
Artifacts such as elegant thin-walled painted pottery accompanied dead bodies.
Polished stone palettes for grinding eye cosmetics
Drawings of carved decoration on the sides of two incense burners made of Nubian stone depict royal figures, seated in boats, wearing tall and knobbed crowns.
Rock drawings of very early ships of this period have been found scratched in the boulders of the Second and Third Cataracts, which would seem to prove that between 3500 and 2900 BC there was at least limited direct river traffic between Egypt and the northern Sudan.
“ A Group” pottery jar painted to look like a woven basket; about 3500-2900 B.C. Courtesy of Fine Arts, Boston. The Palermo Stone of Egypt records the 4th Dynasty, during the rule of King Snefru who led a military campaign into Nubia.
Nubia had went through many changes in history. Despite the fact that circumstances did not always allow Nubians the way they wanted, most of their needs have been met.
For centuries, neighboring regions and other areas spread their teachings to Nubia. The Nile River, was a great source and blessing for Egypt, who used it to transport goods and ideas to Nubia, as well as prospering from fertile silt. Muslims and Christians influenced religious diversity new customs, technology and administration.
From this evidence, we can conclude that Nubians had a good variation of culture, and leadership, and adaptility. Religion, trade, profit, interaction and government were all essential keys for this region to grow and prosper.
Beck, R .B (2001). World History: Patterns of Interaction. The Empires of Egypt and Nubia Collide (pp.81-87) Evanston, IL. McDougal Littell Inc.
Education Development Center, Inc.(1994-2001). C. A- Group and C-Group Cultures; L. The Nubian Christian Kingdoms; M. Nubia and Islam . Retrieved from http://www.nubianet.org/about/about_history3.html
Wood, C. (2006). Stuart Smith: University of California Santa Barbara . Nubia . Retrieved from http://www.ath.ucsb.edu/faculty/stsmith/research/nubia_history.html
The Oriental Institute(2008). Ancient Nubia: Religion and Burial . Retrieved from http://oi.uchicago.edu/OI/MUS/ED/TRC/NUBIA/religion.html
Audio: Mitchell, C. Zen. Retrieved from audio CD disc.