The civilization of ancient Egypt, spanning some 3,000 years, has captivated the minds of many throughout the years, ranging from the monumental
architectural achievements of the pyramids to the illustrious tombs of the pharaohs. Till this day, much is still being figured out about this
civilization and the source of its cultural identity. Many of the cultural elements associated with Egypt originated in the Sudanic-Saharan areas. But
it's important to note that there was an Asiatic influence that occurred during the Predynastic period, as can be seen from pottery and stylized
palettes, but I'll save this for another thread.
Here is a map of Egypt and Sudan for reference:
I would like to mention that Upper (Southern) & Lower (Northern) Egypt retained their own regalia and that Menes (there is some debate over whether or
not he is synonymous with Narmer) is accredited with the unification of Upper & Lower Egypt around 3,000 BC. Thus, being the reason for why the king
refers to himself as, "The King of Two Lands" and wears the "double crown". Another striking piece of information is that both Upper & Lower Egypt
had distinct kingdoms with a populace that spoke different dialects.
So now let's dive deeper into the prehistory of Nubia. The ancient Egyptians referred to Nubia as Ta-Seti, or "The Land of the Bow" because they
were adept archers. Modern archaeologists refer to this as the "A-Group" culture which withheld many parallels to its ancient Egyptian
contemporaries (e.g. Naqada at Upper Egypt). I'll briefly touch on the A-Group and say the A-Group material remains display a blending of Egyptian
and Sudanese designs and influences. Just by looking at the map above, it's easy to see how Nubia is an intermediary between Egypt and the rest of
Most surprising, evidence that early pharaohs ruled in A-Group Nubia was discovered by the Oriental Institute at Qustul, almost at the modern Sudanese
border. A cemetery of large tombs contained evidence of wealth and representations of the rulers and their victories. Other representations and
monuments could then be identified, and in the process, a lost kingdom, called Ta-Seti or Land of the Bow, was discovered. In fact, the cemetery at
Qustul leads directly to the first great royal monuments of Egypt in a progression. Qustul in Nubia could well have been the seat of Egypt's founding
There is a wide variety of information on the continuity of cultural diffusion along the Nile River valley regarding pottery. I WILL make a thread on
this as soon as I have enough time.
A cattle cult, which is seen along the Nile River and East Africa, was present in Nubia. Also, Nabta Playa, which has already been touched on by a few
ATS members here,
shows that there is an astronomical connection with the belt of Orion, way before the construction of the Giza pyramids, which also aligned up with
Orion's belt. What's with the ancients' fascination about Orion, especially Sirius? There are religious ties that Nabta Playa has relating to
ancient Egypt, for example:
By the 6th millennium BC, evidence of a prehistoric religion or cult appears, with a number of sacrificed cattle buried in stone-roofed chambers lined
with clay. It has been suggested that the associated cattle cult indicated in Nabta Playa marks an early evolution of Ancient Egypt's Hathor cult.
For example, Hathor was worshipped as a nighttime protector in desert regions. To directly quote professors Wendorf and Schild: '... there are many
aspects of political and ceremonial life in the Predynastic and Old Kingdom that reflects a strong impact from Saharan cattle pastoralists...
Nevertheless, though the religious practices of the region involving cattle suggest ties to Ancient Egypt. Egyptologist Mark Lehner cautions: 'It
makes sense, but not in a facile, direct way. You can't go straight from these megaliths to the pyramid of Djoser.' Circular stone structure at
Nabta Other subterranean complexes are also found in Nabta Playa, one of which included evidence of perhaps an early Egyptian attempt at sculpture.
It makes sense that you cannot go directly from Nabta Playa to the pyramid of Djoser. This process, if there even is one directly linking Nabta Playa
to the pyramids, would come in successive, cultural developmental stages over time.
Now back to the prehistory of Nubia. There is evidence to support the notion that Nubians actually are responsible for the first unification process.
Around 3300 BC, there is evidence of a unified kingdom, as shown by the finds at Qustul, that maintained substantial interactions (both cultural and
genetic) with the culture of Naqadan Upper Egypt. The Nubian culture may have even contributed to the unification of the Nile valley. Also, the
Nubians very likely contributed some pharaonic iconography, such as the white crown and serekh, to the Northern Egyptian kings. Around the turn of the
protodynastic period, Naqada, in its bid to conquer and unify the whole Nile valley, seems to have conquered Ta-Seti (the kingdom where Qustul was
located) and harmonized it with the Egyptian state. Thus, Nubia became the first nome of Upper Egypt.
With the start of the Old Kingdom, Lower Nubia (Northern part) was mentioned as a trading partner. The ancient Egyptians imported items like gold,
incense, ebony, ivory, and exotic animals from tropical Africa through Nubia. The result of this led to the development of Kingdoms in Nubia. At the
time, the Old Kingdom was mostly focusing on the development of a strong political state and pyramid building for their deceased kings, who were
revered as gods. A solar and stellar cult were present during this time. The solar cult continued, however there was a steady decline in the
workmanship of the pyramids, with burial sites no longer as grandiose as they once were. Right after the decline of the Old Kingdom, which was due to
the rise in numerous nomarchs inevitably creating conflicts between neighboring provinces or possibly the low inundation of the Nile River resulting
in lower crop yields, the 1st Intermediate Period started. This period which spanned from the 7th Dynasty to the 10th Dynasty, with part of the 11th
Dynasty (circa 2181-2055 BC), was a period often described as "dark" and divided the ruling power into two competing powers. One of those bases
resided at Heracleopolis in Lower Egypt while the other resided at Thebes in Upper Egypt. Here is a picture of all the nomes (a subnational
administrative division) to give you a good idea:
Temples were pillaged and violated, along with the statues of kings being broken or destroyed as a result of this alleged political chaos. These two
kingdoms would eventually come into conflict, with the Theban kings conquering the north, resulting in reunification, for a SECOND time. I put
emphasis on this, because this will be a reoccurring theme. These kings were known as the "keepers of the Door of the South".
The end of the First Intermediate Period is placed at the time when Mentuhotep II of the eleventh dynasty defeats the Heracleopolitan kings of Lower
Egypt and reunites Egypt under a single ruler. This act helps usher in a period of great wealth and prosperity, known as the Middle Kingdom.