Nubians

    In ancient times the land to the south of Egypt was generally known as Nubia: the sub-province from Aswan to the Second Cataract on the Nile was Wawat (Lower Nubia) and beyond that was the sub-province of Kush (Upper Nubia). From earliest times, the Egyptian had sought to colonise and exploit Nubia to gain access to the region's products and to use it as a thoroughfare to obtain the commodities of central Africa.
    By the Archaic Period, the Egyptians had annexed the region around Elephantine to Upper Egypt and fixed their own frontier at the First Cataract; King *Djer of the First Dynasty led his army as far as the Second Cataract. In the Old Kingdom, the pharaohs sent an increasing number of commercial expeditions to Nubia, with supporting military force where necessary; inscriptions in the Aswan rock-tombs of the governors of Elephantine are particularly informative about these ventures.
    One governor, Harkhuf, describes his trading expedition to Nubia, which was probably undertaken partly by river and partly overland by donkey, to bring back incense, ivory, ebony, oil and panther skins. Nubia was also an important source for the hard stone that the Egyptians required for their monumental buildings but, in the Middle Kingdom, the region began to be extensively exploited for its gold supplies. Even the name 'Nubia' is derived from the Egyptian word meaning 'gold'.
    The expeditions of the Sixth Dynasty ceased during the troubled years of the First Intermediate Period but under the Middle Kingdom rulers, Nubia was properly colonised and Lower Nubia was conquered as far as Semna to the south of the Second Cataract. *Sesostris III is remembered particularly for his expeditions to Nubia and his consolidation of the area. *Sesostris I and *Sesostris III safeguarded the frontier with a string of brick fortresses between Semna South and Buhen at the Second Cataract.
    The Nubians became powerful and independent when the *Hyksos ruled Egypt, and they assisted the *Hyksos in their attempt to hold Egypt. The kings of the Eighteenth Dynasty made the repossession of Nubia one of their top priorities on account of the importance of its raw materials. *Tuthmosis I extended Egypt's control to its furthermost point beyond the Fourth Cataract, and *Tuthmosis III established the last major outpost at Napata, near the Fourth Cataract. The new frontier required additional fortresses, since the old Middle Kingdom ones had now lost much of their military significance, and several were established including those at Sai, Sedeinga, Sulb and Napata.
    The whole area south of the First Cataract was now administered for the pharaoh by a Viceroy, who was not a royal relative; in the mid-Eighteenth Dynasty his area also included the three southernmost nomes of Upper Egypt. In the reign of *Tuthmosis IV, the Viceroy became entitled 'King's Son of Kush.' His main duty was to obtain the natural resources of the area and to ensure that Nubia's yearly tribute was paid in gold and other goods such as ostrich plumes, leopard skins, animals, precious stones and slaves. The gold came mainly from the mines in Wawat and was worked by prisoners-of-war, slaves and convicted criminals. It was a government monopoly and arrived in Egypt as gold-dust stored in bags, or as bars or ingots.
    Egyptian power in Nubia was now at its height and some kings, such as *Amenophis III and *Ramesses II, established their personal cults there and received divine worship in magnificent temples. The Nilotic people of Nubia adopted Egyptian religion, customs and writing and, for some time the pharaohs sent expeditions to Nubia only to fight the tribesmen on the desert fringes. For centuries, the Nubians provided auxiliary forces for Egypt's army, and as the '*Medjay', they helped to police Egypt.
    In the New Kingdom, the Egyptians came into direct contact for the first time with the negro peoples of Central Africa and depicted them in their art. Ultimately the Nubians reversed the process of Egyptian conquest and colonisation when, in the Twenty-fifth Dynasty, they briefly became the rulers of Egypt.
BIBL. Save-Soderbergh, T. Agypten und Nubien. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte altagyptischer Aussenpolitik. Lund: 1941; Giorgini, M.S. Soleb. Kush 6 (1958) pp. 82-98; 7 (1959) pp. 154-70; Reisner, G.A. The Archaeological Survey of Nubia (Report for 1907-8). (two vols) Cairo: 1910; Kirwan, L.P. Studies in the later history of Nubia. Liverpool Annals of Archaeology and Anthropology 24 (1937) pp. 69-105; Emery, W.B. Egypt in Nubia. London: 1965.
Biographical Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Rosalie and Antony E. David

Ancient Egypt. A Reference Guide. . 2011.

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