Nubia: Wikis


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This article is about the region in Africa, for other uses see Nubia (disambiguation).
The Nubia region today

Nubia is the region in the south of Egypt, along the Nile and in northern Sudan. Most of Nubia is situated in Sudan with about a quarter of its territory in Egypt. In ancient times it was an independent kingdom.

The people of Nubia spoke at least two varieties of the Nubian language group, a Nilo-Saharan subfamily which includes Nobiin, Kenuzi-Dongola, Midob and several related varieties in the northern part of the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan. A variety (Birgid) was spoken (at least until 1970) north of Nyala in Darfur but is now extinct. Old Nubian was used in mostly religious texts dating from the 8th and 15th centuries AD and is considered ancestral to modern-day Nobiin.




Throughout its History, Nubia is broken into three distinct regions – “Lower Nubia”, in modern southern Egypt, which lies between the first and second cataract, and “Upper Nubia and Southern Nubia” – in modern-day northern Sudan, which existed in the area south of second cataract, along the Nile down to the sixth cataract.

Lower Nubia and Upper Nubia are so called because the Nile flows north, so Upper Nubia was actually further upstream the river, even though it lies geographically south of Lower Nubia.

Early settlements sprouted in both regions: The Restricted flood plains of Lower Nubia. These people are known early on as the “Ta-Seti” by early Egyptian Scribes, and as the “A-group” culture by modern archeologists Fertile farmland just south of the third cataract is known as the “Pre-Kerma” culture in Upper Nubia, as they are the ancestors of Kerma. Nubian Civilization originated in 5000 BC in Upper Nubia.

Evidence indicates that the Neolithic people in the Nile valley likely came from the Sudan, as well as the Sahara, and there was shared culture with the two areas and with that of Egypt during this time period.[1] By the 5th millennium BC, the people who inhabited what is now called Nubia, were full participants in the Neolithic revolution. Saharan rock reliefs depict scenes that have been thought to be suggestive of a cattle cult, typical of those seen throughout parts of Eastern Africa and the Nile Valley even to this day.[2] Megaliths discovered at Nabta Playa are early examples of what seems to be one of the world's first astronomical devices, predating Stonehenge by almost 2000 years.[3] This complexity as observed at Nabta Playa, and as expressed by different levels of authority within the society there, likely formed the basis for the structure of both the Neolithic society at Nabta and the Old Kingdom of Egypt.[4] Around 3800 B.C., the second "Nubian" culture arose, termed the A-Group, and it was contemporary, and ethnically and culturally very similar to, the polities in predynastic Naqadan Upper Egypt.[5][6] 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, and may have even contributed to the unification of the Nile valley, and very likely contributed some pharaonic iconography, such as the white crown and serekh, later to be used by the famous Egyptian pharaohs.[7][8] 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, and thus, it became the first nome of Upper Egypt. At the time of the first dynasty, the A-Group area seems to have been entirely depopulated, most likely due to immigration to areas west and south.

This culture began to decline in the early 28th century BC. The succeeding culture is known as B-Group. Previously, the B-Group people were thought to have invaded from elsewhere. Today most historians believe that B-Group was merely A-Group but far poorer. The causes of this are uncertain, but it was perhaps caused by Egyptian invasions and pillaging that began at this time. Nubia is believed to have served as a trade corridor between Egypt and tropical Africa long before 3100 BC. Egyptian craftsmen of the period used ivory and ebony wood from tropical Africa which came through Nubia.

Early history

Nubia is the homeland of one of Africa's earliest black civilizations, with a history which can be traced from 5000 B.C. onward through Nubian monuments and artifacts as well as written records from Egypt and Rome. Ancient Egyptian portraits depicted the Nubians as having very dark skin, and were often shown with golden hooped earrings and with braided or extended hair.[9] In antiquity, Nubia was a land of great natural wealth, of gold mines, ebony, ivory and incense which was always prized by her neighbors.

Nubian woman circa 1840
Shell bracelet from a c.1800 BC Nubian mercenary grave
The White Crown The Hedjet being worn by Osiris

In 2300 BC, Nubia was first mentioned in Old Kingdom Egyptian accounts of trade missions. From Aswan, right above the First Cataract, southern limit of Egyptian control at the time, Egyptians imported gold, incense, ebony, ivory, and exotic animals from tropical Africa through Nubia. As trade between Egypt and Nubia increased so did wealth and stability. By the Egyptian 6th dynasty, Nubia was divided into a series of small kingdoms. There is debate over whether these C-Group peoples, who flourished from c. 2240 BC to c. 2150 BC, were another internal evolution or invaders. There are definite similarities between the pottery of A-Group and C-Group, so it may be a return of the ousted Group-As, or an internal revival of lost arts. At this time, the Sahara Desert was becoming too arid to support human beings, and it is possible that there was a sudden influx of Saharan nomads. C-Group pottery is characterized by all-over incised geometric lines with white infill and impressed imitations of basketry.

During the Egyptian Middle Kingdom (c. 2040–1640 BC), Egypt began expanding into Nubia to gain more control over the trade routes in Northern Nubia and direct access to trade with Southern Nubia. They erected a chain of forts down the Nile below the Second Cataract. These garrisons seemed to have peaceful relations with the local Nubian people but little interaction during the period. A contemporaneous but distinct culture from the C-Group was the Pan Grave culture, so called because of their shallow graves. The Pan Graves are associated with the East bank of the Nile, but the Pan Graves and C-Group definitely interacted. Their pottery is characterized by incised lines of a more limited character than those of the C-Group, generally having interspersed undecorated spaces within the geometric schemes.


From the pre kerma culture, the first kingdom to unify much of the region arose, the Kingdom of Kerma, named for its presumed capital at Kerma, one of the earliest urban centers in Sub-Saharan Africa. By 1750 BC, the kings of Kerma were powerful enough to organize the labor for monumental walls and structures of mud brick, and had rich tombs with possessions for the afterlife and large human sacrifices. The craftsmen were skilled in metalworking and their pottery surpassed in skill that of Egypt. Reisner excavated sites at Kerma and found large tombs and a palace-like structure ('Deffufa'), alluding to the early stability in the region. At one point, Kerma came very close to conquering Egypt, with Egypt suffering a serious defeat at the hands of the Kushites.[10] According to Davies, head of the joint British Museum and Egyptian archaeological team, the attack was so devastating that had the Kerma forces chose to stay and occupy Egypt, they might have eliminated it for good and brought the great nation to extinction. When Egyptian power revived under the New Kingdom (c. 1532–1070 BC) they began to expand further southwards. Destroying the kingdom and capital of Kerma, they expanded to the Fourth Cataract. By the end of the reign of Thutmose I in 1520 BC, all of northern Nubia had been annexed. They built a new administrative center at Napata, and used the area to produce gold which made Egypt the prime source of gold for the Middle East.

Nubian–Egyptian relations

Nubian–Egyptian relations are complex and extend across many centuries. Egypt conquered Nubian territory in various eras, and incorporated parts of the area into its provinces. The Nubians in turn were to conquer Egypt under its 25th Dynasty.[11] Relations between the two peoples however also show peaceful cultural interchange and cooperation, including mixed marriages. The Medjay –from mDA,[12] represents the name Ancient Egyptians gave to a region in northern Sudan–where an ancient people of Nubia inhabited. They became part of the Ancient Egyptian military as scouts and minor workers.

Medjay temple relief

During the Middle Kingdom "Medjay" no longer referred to the district of Medja, but to a tribe or clan of people. It is not known what happened to the district, but, after the First Intermediate Period, it and other districts in Nubia were no longer mentioned in the written record.[13] Written accounts detail the Medjay as nomadic desert people. Over time they were incorporated into the Egyptian army. In the army, the Medjay served as garrison troops in Egyptian fortifications in Nubia and patrolled the deserts as a kind of gendarmerie.[14] This was done in the hopes of preventing their fellow Medjay tribespeople from further attacking Egyptian assets in the region.[15] They were even later used during Kamose’s campaign against the Hyksos[16] and became instrumental in making the Egyptian state into a military power.[17] By the 18th Dynasty of the New Kingdom period the Medjay were an elite paramilitary police force.[18] No longer did the term refer to an ethnic group and over time the new meaning became synonymous with the policing occupation in general. Being an elite police force, the Medjay were often used to protect valuable areas, especially royal and religious complexes. Though they are most notable for their protection of the royal palaces and tombs in Thebes and the surrounding areas, the Medjay were known to have been used throughout Upper and Lower Egypt.

Various pharaohs of Nubian origin are held by some Egyptologists to have played an important part towards the area in different eras of Egyptian history, particularly the 12th Dynasty. These rulers handled matters in typical Egyptian fashion, reflecting the close cultural influences between the two regions.

...the XIIth Dynasty (1991–1786 B.C.E.) originated from the Aswan region. As expected, strong Nubian features and dark coloring are seen in their sculpture and relief work. This dynasty ranks as among the greatest, whose fame far outlived its actual tenure on the throne. Especially interesting, it was a member of this dynasty that decreed that no Nehsy (riverine Nubian of the principality of Kush), except such as came for trade or diplomatic reasons, should pass by the Egyptian fortress at the southern end of the Second Nile Cataract. Why would this royal family of Nubian ancestry ban other Nubians from coming into Egyptian territory? Because the Egyptian rulers of Nubian ancestry had become Egyptians culturally; as pharaohs, they exhibited typical Egyptian attitudes and adopted typical Egyptian policies. (Yurco 1989) [19]

In the new Kingdom, Nubians and Egyptians were often so closely related that some scholars consider them virtually indistinguishable, as the two cultures melded and mixed together.

It is an extremely difficult task to attempt to describe the Nubians during the course of Egypt's New Kingdom, because their presence appears to have virtually evaporated from the archaeological record.. The result has been described as a wholesale Nubian assimilation into Egyptian society. This assimilation was so complete that it masked all Nubian ethnic identities insofar as archaeological remains are concerned beneath the impenetrable veneer of Egypt's material; culture.. In the Kushite Period, when Nubians ruled as Pharaohs in their own right, the material culture of Dynasty XXV (about 750–655 B.C.E.) was decidedly Egyptian in character. Nubia's entire landscape up to the region of the Third Cataract was dotted with temples indistinguishable in style and decoration from contemporary temples erected in Egypt. The same observation obtains for the smaller number of typically Egyptian tombs in which these elite Nubian princes were interred.[20]


Nubian Pharaohs

When the Egyptians pulled out, they left a lasting legacy that was merged with indigenous customs forming the kingdom of Kush. Archaeologists have found several burials which seem to belong to local leaders, buried here soon after the Egyptians decolonized the Nubian frontier. Kush adopted many Egyptian practices such as their religion. The kingdom of Kush survived longer than that of Egypt, even invading and controlling Egypt itself for a period (the Kushite dynasty) in the 8th century BC, under the leadership of king Piye[21]. They held sway over their northern neighbors for nearly 100 years, until they were eventually repelled by the invading Assyrians, forcing them to move further south, eventually establishing their capital at Meroë. Of the Nubian kings of this era, Taharqa is perhaps the best known. A son and the third successor of King Piye, Taharqa was crowned king in c.690 in Memphis. He ruled over both Nubia and Egypt.


Meroë (800 BC – c. AD 350) in southern Nubia lay on the east bank of the Nile about 6 km north-east of the Kabushiya station near Shendi, Sudan, ca. 200 km north-east of Khartoum. The people there preserved many ancient Egyptian customs but were unique in many respects. They developed their own form of writing, first utilizing Egyptian hieroglyphs, and later using an alphabetic script with 23 signs.[22] Many pyramids were built in Meroë during this period and the kingdom consisted of an impressive standing military force. A famous legend in the history of Meroë relays the coming of Alexander the Great with his forces. According to legend, confronted with the brilliant military formation of the army led by Candace of Meroë, he concluded it would be best to withdraw his forces.[23] Historical accounts however, show that Alexander never invaded Nubia and did not attempt to move further south than the Oasis of Siwa in Egypt.[24] Strabo also describes a clash with the Romans in which the Romans were defeated by Nubian archers under the leadership of a "one-eyed" (blind in one eye) queen.[25] During this time, the different parts of the region divided into smaller groups with individual leaders, or generals, each commanding small armies of mercenaries. They fought for control of what is now Nubia and its surrounding territories, leaving the entire region weak and vulnerable to attack. Meroë would eventually meet defeat by a new rising kingdom to their south, Aksum, under King Ezana.

At some point later, the region was conquered by the Noba people, from which the name Nubia may derive (another possibility is that it comes from Nub, the Egyptian word for gold[26]). From then on, the Romans referred to the area as the Nobatae.

Christian Nubia

Around AD 350 the area was invaded by the Ethiopian kingdom of Aksum and the kingdom collapsed. Eventually three smaller kingdoms replaced it: northernmost was Nobatia between the first and second cataract of the Nile River, with its capital at Pachoras (modern day Faras); in the middle was Makuria, with its capital at Old Dongola; and southernmost was Alodia, with its capital at Soba (near Khartoum). King Silky of Nobatia crushed the Blemmyes, and recorded his victory in a Greek inscription carved in the wall of the temple of Talmis (modern Kalabsha) around AD 500.

While bishop Athanasius of Alexandria consecrated one Marcus as bishop of Philae before his death in 373, showing that Christianity had penetrated the region by the fourth century, John of Ephesus records that a Monophysite priest named Julian converted the king and his nobles of Nobatia around 545. John of Ephesus also writes that the kingdom of Alodia was converted around 569. However, John of Biclarum records that the kingdom of Makuria was converted to Roman Catholicism the same year, suggesting that John of Ephesus might be mistaken. Further doubt is cast on John's testimony by an entry in the chronicle of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria Eutychius, which states that in 719 the church of Nubia transferred its allegiance from the Greek Orthodox to the Coptic Church.

By the 7th century Makuria expanded becoming the dominant power in the region. It was strong enough to halt the southern expansion of Islam after the Arabs had taken Egypt. After several failed invasions the new rulers agreed to a treaty with Dongola allowing for peaceful coexistence and trade. This treaty held for six hundred years. Over time the influx of Arab traders introduced Islam to Nubia and it gradually supplanted Christianity. While there are records of a bishop at Qasr Ibrim in 1372, his see had come to include that located at Faras. It is also clear that the "Royal" church at Dongola had been converted to a mosque around 1350.

Modern Nubia

The influx of Arabs and Nubians to Egypt and Sudan had contributed to the suppression of the Nubian identity following the collapse of the last Nubian kingdom around 1504. A major part of the modern Nubian population became totally Arabized and some claimed to be Arabs (Jaa'leen – the majority of Northern Sudanese – and some Donglawes in Sudan).[27] A vast majority of the Nubian population is currently Muslim, and the Arabic language is their main medium of communication in addition to their indigenous old Nubian language. The unique characteristic of Nubian is shown in their culture (dress, dances, traditions, and music) as well as their indigenous language which is the common feature of all Nubians.

In the 14th century the Dongolan government collapsed and the region became divided and dominated by Egypt. The next centuries would see several invasions of the region, as well as the establishment of a number of smaller kingdoms. Northern Nubia was brought under Egyptian control while the south came under the control of the Kingdom of Sennar in the sixteenth century. The entire region would come under Egyptian control during the rule of Mehemet Ali in the early nineteenth century, and later became a joint Anglo-Egyptian condominium.

With the end of colonialism, Nubia was divided between Egypt and Sudan. In recent years, despite their Islamic identity, Sudanese Nubians have allegedly become the victims of attacks conducted by the Sudanese government. Human rights violations such as the torching of Nubian villages, have been widely reported in the media. Allegedly, the raids have involved the capture and sale of Nubian women and children as slaves, some finding their way to Khartoum and even beyond Sudan's borders. Wide reporting by Human Rights groups, and the involvement of Human Rights activists is helping to raise global awareness of modern slave trade atrocities.

Many Egyptian Nubians were forcibly resettled to make room for Lake Nasser after the construction of the dams at Aswan. Nubian villages can now be found north of Aswan on the west bank of the Nile and on Elephantine Island, and many Nubians live in large cities such as Cairo.

See also

Notes and references


  1. ^ "Studies of Ancient Crania From Northern Africa".  – S.O.Y. Keita, American Journal of Physical Anthropology (1990)
  2. ^ History of Nubia
  3. ^ PlanetQuest: The History of Astronomy – Retrieved on 2007-08-29
  4. ^ Late Neolithic megalithic structures at Nabta Playa – by Fred Wendorf (1998)
  5. ^ Hunting for the Elusive Nubian A-Group People – by Maria Gatto,
  6. ^ "Further Studies of Crania From Ancient Northern Africa: An Analysis of Crania From First Dynasty Egyptian Tombs, Using Multiple Discriminant Functions".  – American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 87: 245–254 (1992)
  7. ^ "Forbears of Menes in Nubia: Myth or Reality".  – Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 46, No. 1 (Jan., 1987), pp. 15–26
  8. ^ Egypt and Sub-Saharan Africa: Their Interaction – Encyclopedia of Precolonial Africa, by Joseph O. Vogel, AltaMira Press, (1997), pp. 465–472
  9. ^ Dig Nubia – Image
  10. ^ Tomb Reveals Ancient Egypt's Humiliating Secret The Times (London, 2003)
  11. ^ Barbara Watterson, The Egyptians. Blackwell, Oxford. pp. 50–117
  12. ^ Erman & Grapow, Wörterbuch der ägyptischen Sprache, 2, 186.1-2
  13. ^ Gardiner, op.cit., p. 76*
  14. ^ Bard, op.cit., p.486
  15. ^ Wilkinson, op.cit., p. 147
  16. ^ Shaw, op.cit., p.201
  17. ^ Steindorff & Seele, op.cit., p. 28
  18. ^ Wilkinson, op.cit., p. 147
  19. ^ F. J. Yurco, "The ancient Egyptians..", Biblical Archaeology Review (Vol 15, no. 5, 1989)
  20. ^ Bianchi, 2004, Daily Life of the Nubians. p. 99–100
  21. ^ "The Kushite Conquest of Egypt". Ancient Sudan website.
  22. ^ Meroë: writing – digitalegypt
  23. ^ Jones, David E., Women Warriors: A History, Brasseys, Inc.; (2000)
  24. ^ Gutenberg, David M. (2003). The Curse of Ham: Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Princeton University Press.
  25. ^ Nubian Queens in the Nile Valley and Afro-Asiatic Cultural History – Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban, Professor of Anthropology, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston U.S.A, August 20–26, 1998
  26. ^ "Nubia". Catholic Encyclopedia. 
  27. ^ "Questions from Readers". Ancient Sudan website.


  • Thelwall, Robin (1978) 'Lexicostatistical relations between Nubian, Daju and Dinka', Études nubiennes: colloque de Chantilly, 2–6 juillet 1975, 265–286.
  • Black Pharaohs – National Geographic Feb 2008
  • Thelwall, Robin (1982) 'Linguistic Aspects of Greater Nubian History', in Ehret, C. & Posnansky, M. (eds.) The Archeological and Linguistic Reconstruction of African History. Berkeley/Los Angeles, 39–56.
  • Bulliet et al. (2001) 'Nubia,' The Earth and Its Peoples, pp. 70–71, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston.

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

NUBIA, a region of north-east Africa, bounded N. by Egypt, E. and W. by the Red Sea and the Libyan Desert respectively, and extending S. indefinitely to about the latitude of Khartum. It may be taken to include the Nile valley from Assuan near the First Cataract southwards to the confluence of the White and Blue Niles, stretching in this direction for about 560 m. between 16° and 24° N. Nubia, however, has no strictly defined limits, and is little more than a geographical expression. The term appears to have been unknown to the ancients, by whom everything south of Egypt was vaguely called Ethiopia, the land of the dark races. It is first associated historically, not with any definite geographical region, but with the Nobatae, a negro people removed by Diocletian from Kharga oasis to the Nile valley above Egypt (Dodecaschoenus), whence the turbulent Blemmyes had recently been driven eastwards. From Nuba, the Arabic form of the name of this people, comes the modern Nubia, a term about the precise meaning of which no two writers are in accord. Within the limits indicated the country consists mainly of sandy desert and rugged and arid steppes and plateaus through which the Nile forces its way to Upper Egypt. In this section of the river there occurs a continuous series of slight falls and rapids, including all the historical "six cataracts," beginning below Khartum and terminating at Philae. Between those places the river makes a great S-shaped bend, the region west of the Nile within the lower bend being called the Bayuda Desert, and that east of the Nile the Nubian. Desert. The two districts roughly correspond to the conventional divisions of Upper and Lower Nubia respectively. Except along the narrow valley of the Nile only the southernmost portion of Nubia contains arable land. The greater part is within the almost rainless zone. An auriferous district lies between the Nile and the Red Sea, in 22° N. Politically the whole of Nubia is now included either in Egypt or the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, and has no administrative existence.


As an ethnical expression the term Nuba or Nubian has little value. Rejected by the presumable descendants of Diocletian's Nobatae, who now call themselves Berber or Barabara, it has become synonymous in the Nile valley with "slave," or "negro slave." This is due to the large number of slaves drawn by Arab dealers from the Nuba negroes of Kordofan, who appear to constitute the original stock of the Nubian races (but see Hamitic Races). On the other hand, the name has never included all the inhabitants of Nubia. Peoples of three distinct stocks inhabit the country - the comparatively recent Semitic Arab intruders, mainly in Upper Nubia, the Beja (? Hamitic) family of tribes (the Ababda, Bisharin, Hadendoa, Beni-Amer, &c.), everywhere between the Nile and the Red Sea; and the Nubians (Nuba or Barabira), in Lower Nubia, where they are now almost exclusively confined to the banks of the Nile, from Assuan southwards to Dongola. Ethnologically, these modern Nubians are a very mixed people, but their affiliation to negroes or negroids, which is based on physical and linguistic grounds, is confirmed by what is known of the history of the Nilotic peoples.

The first inhabitants of the region beyond Egypt appear to have been the Uaua, whose name occurs in an inscription on a tomb at Memphis of the VIth Dynasty, and again constantly in subsequent inscriptions down to the time of the Ptolemies, as the chief negro race to the south of Syene. (For the history of the country during this period see Ethiopia). It thus appears that throughout the historic period down to the arrival of the Romans the Nile-country above Egypt was occupied by a negro people. Egyptian monuments are found as far south as Mount Barkal (Napata), but no Egyptian settlements beyond Syene. Hence these Uaua negroes probably remained unaffected, or very slightly affected, by foreign elements until about the 3rd century A.D. Their domain then began to be encroached upon from the east by the Blemmyes, who have been identified with the present Beja of the Nubian desert. It was owing to their incessant raids that Diocletian withdrew the Roman garrisons above the cataracts, and called in the warlike Nobatae to protect the Egyptian frontier from their attacks. These negro Nobatae, originally from Kordofan, as is now evident, had advanced to the Great Oasis (Kharga) in Upper Egypt, whence they passed into the Nile valley between the cataracts. Here they absorbed the older Uaua of kindred stock, and ultimately came to terms with the Blemmyes. The two races even became intermingled, and, making common cause against the Romans, were defeated by Maximinus in 451.

The Blemmyes, remaining pagan after the Nubas had embraced Christianity (6th century) were soon after driven from the Nile valley eastwards to the kindred Megabares, Memnons and other nomads, who, with the Troglodytes, had from time immemorial held the whole steppe region between the Nile and the Red Sea from Axum to Egypt. Here their most collective name was Bugaitae (Bou-yaaaT at) , as appears from the Axumite inscription, whence the forms Buja, Beja, which occur in the oldest Arab records, and by which they are still known.

In the 7th century the Arabs who had conquered Egypt penetrated into Lower Nubia, where the two Jawabareh and Al-Gharbiya tribes became powerful, and amalgamated with the Nubas of that district. Their further progress south was barred by the Christian kings of Dongola (q.v.) until the 14th century, when the Arabs became masters of the whole region. Still later another element was added to the population in the introduction by the Turkish masters of Egypt of a number of Bosnians. These Bosnians (Kalaji as they called themselves) settled in the country and intermarried with the Arabs and Nubians, their descendants still holding lands between Assuan and Derr. Hence it is that the Nubians of this district, fairest of all the race, still claim Arab and Osmanli (Bosnian) descent.

Nevertheless, the Nubian type remains essentially negro, being characterized by a very dark complexion, varying from a mahogany brown and deep bronze to an almost black shade, with tumid lips, large black animated eyes, doli-chocephalic head (index 73, 72), hair often woolly or strongly frizzled, and scant beard worn under the chin like the figures of the fugitives (Uaua?) in the battle-pieces sculptured on the walls of the Egyptian temples. At the same time the nose is much larger and the zygomatic arches less prominent than in the full-blood negro. The Nilotic Nubians are on the whole a strong muscular people, essentially agricultural, more warlike and energetic than the Egyptians. Many find employment as artisans, small dealers, porters and soldiers in Egypt, where they are usually noted for their honesty, and frank and cheerful temperament. Since the overthrow of the native Christian states all have become Mahommedans, but not of a fanatical type. Although a native of Dongola, the mandi, Mahommed Ahmed, found his chief support, not among his countrymen, but among the more recently converted Kordofan negroes and the nomad Arabs and Beja. (For ethnology see also Hamitic Races, Beja, Ababda, Bisharin, Hadendoa, &c.).


Little is known of the language of the ancient Nubians or of its connexion, if any, with the language, known as Meroitic, of the "Ethiopians" who preceded them. The hieroglyphs and inscriptions in Meroitic belong mostly to the first six centuries A.D.; the existing Nubian MSS. are medieval and are written chiefly in Greek letters, and in form and character resemble Coptic. They are, with one exception, written on parchment and contain lives of saints, &c., the exception being a legal document. The most noteworthy of these MSS. was found near Edfu, in Upper Egypt, early in the 10th century and purchased for the British Museum in 1908. Eutychius, patriarch of Alexandria about 930, included "Nubi" among the six kinds of writing which he mentions as current among the Hamitic peoples, and "Nubi" also appears among a list of six writings mentioned in an ancient manuscript now in the Berlin Museum.

The modern Nubian tongue, clearly the descendant of the Nubian of the MSS., is very sonorous and expressive. Its distinctly negro character is betrayed in the complete absence of grammatical gender, in its primitive vowel-system and highly-developed process of consonantal assimilation, softening all harsh combinations, lastly, in the peculiar infix j inserted between the verbal root and the plural pronominal object, as in ai tokki j-ir = I shake them. As in Bantu, the verb presents a multiplicity of forms, including one present, three past and future tenses, with personal endings complete, passive, interrogative, conditional, elective, negative and other forms, each with its proper participial inflexions. In Lepsius's grammar the verbal paradigm fills altogether I Io pages.

Of the Nilotic as distinguished from the Kordofan branch of the Nuba language there are three principal dialects current from Assuan along the Nile southwards to Meroc, as under: I. Northern: Dialect of Bani Kenz or Mattokki, from the first cataract to Sebu` and Wadi al-`Arab, probably dating from the Diocletian period.

I I. Central,: The Mahal, or Marisi, from Korosko to Wadi Haifa (second cataract). Here the natives are called Saidokki, in contradistinction to the northern Mattokki.

III. Southern: Dongolawi, throughout the province of Dongola from the second cataract to J. Deja near Meroe, on the northern frontier of the Arab district of Dar Shagia. By the Mahasi people it is called Biderin Bannid, "language of the poor," or, collectively with the Kenz, Oshkirin Bannid, "language of slaves." The northern and southern varieties are closely related to each other, differing considerably from the central, which shows more marked affinities with the Kordofan Nuba, possibly because the Saidokki people are later arrivals from Kordofan. For topography, &c. and archaeology, see Sudan § Anglo-Egyptian and Egypt.

Authorities.-C. R. Lepsius, Nubische Grammatik (Berlin, 1880), and Briefe aus Aegypten, Aethiopien, &c. (Berlin, 1852); D. R. Maclver, Areika (Oxford, 1909); Nubian Texts, edited by E. A. Wallis Budge (British Museum, 1909); F. Ll Griffith, "Some old Nubian Christian Texts" in Journal of Theological Studies (July, 1909); E. A. Wallis Budge, The Egyptian Sudan (London, 1907); J. Ward, Our Sudan, its Pyramids and Progress (London, 1905); E. Riippell, Reisen in Nubien, Kordofan, &c. (Frankfort a. M., 1829); F. Caillaud, Voyage a Me'roe (Paris, 1826); L. Reinisch, Die Nuba-Sprache (Vienna, 1879); Memoirs of the Societe khediviale de Geographic, Cairo; J. L. Burckhardt, Travels in Nubia, e5fc. (London, 1819); G. Waddington and B. Hanbury, Journal of a Visit to some 'parts of Ethiopia (London, 1822); E. F. Gau, Nubische Denl i mdler (Stuttgart, 1821). Consult also the bibliography under Sudan.

Ruble, a province of central Chile, bounded N. by Linares, E. by the Argentine Republic, S. by Concepcion and W. by Concepcion and Maule. Area, 3407 sq. m.; pop. (1895) 152,935. The province lies partly in the great central valley of Chile, noted for its fine climate and fertility, and partly on the western slopes of the Andes. The Itata river, which forms the southern boundary, and its principal tributary, the Nubee, form the drainage system of the province. Agriculture and grazing are the principal industries. Wheat is largely produced, and there are vineyards in some localities. Stock-raising is pursued chiefly in the east, where the pastures are rich and the water supply unfailing. The state railway from Santiago to the southern provinces passes through Nuble, from N.N.E. to S.S.W., and sends off a branch from Bulnes W. to Jan Tome on the Bay of Concepcion. The capital is Chillan, and the only other important town is Bulnes, a railway junction and active commercial centre. The hot baths of Chillan, in the eastern part of the province on the slope of the volcano of that name, about 7000 ft. above sea level, are very popular in Chile.

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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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Proper noun


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  1. An ancient kingdom in the valley of the upper Nile bordering present Egypt and Sudan.

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Located in North-eastern Africa, extending from Sennar south to beyond Khartoum and including the Egyptian Sudan. The southern section includes Sennar with Dschesireh-el Dschesire (Island of Islands), the ancient Meroe; the western, Bahr el Abiad, Kordofan, and Darfur; the eastern, Tarka; the central, Dongola; and the northern, Nubia proper. The various tribes belong to the Ethiopian or Berber family, intermixed with Arabians; in the south negroes preponderate. Nubia embraces 335,597 square miles and contains 1,000,000 inhabitants; Dongola, Berber, Khartoum, Fashoda, Sennar, Fassuglo, 75,042 square miles with 2,500,000 inhabitants; Taka, 7766 square miles with 1,000,000 inhabitants; Kordofan, 35,069 square miles with 300,000 inhabitants; Darfur, 106,070 square miles with 4,000,000 inhabitants; Shegga, 85,017 square miles with 1,400,000 inhabitants. The chief cities are: Khartoum, at the junction of the White and Blue Niles, founded in 1823 and the starting-point of all scientific and missionary expeditions, destroyed in 1885 by the Mahdi, rebuilt in 1898; Omdurman, on the Abiad, founded by the Mahdi; Sennar, capital of Southern Nubia; Kassala, capital of Taka. On the Nile are Berber, Abu-Hammed, Old Dongola, and New Dongola, capital of central Nubia; in Nubia proper, Derr, Wadi Halfa, and Assuan; in Kordofan, El-Obeid; in Darfur, El Fasho. Formerly the port of Nubia was Suakin on the Red Sea; from 1906 it has been Port Sudan. Nubia is administered by the Viceroy of Egypt.


Nubia is said to be derived from the Egyptian Nub (gold), as the Egyptians obtained most of their gold there. In the Bible it is called Cush. Egypt sought repeatedly to extend its southern boundaries, and during the eighteenth dynasty reached Wadi Halfa. A temple was built at Napata (near the Fourth Cataract) by Amenophis III, and Rameses II waged successful war with the Ethiopians. After this there arose in Napata near the sacred mountain Gebel Barkal an independent theocratic state; the remains of many of its temples are still to be seen. During the twenty-third dynasty the Nubians shook off the Egyptian yoke, and even conquered Egypt (750 B. C.); three Nubian kings ruled the united territory (732-668). Psametich I (664-10) drove out the Nubians, and Meroe replaced Napata, which maintained its sovereignty over Nubia until destroyed by the native king Ergamenes during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-47) . During Roman rule, the Nubians attempted to gain the Thebaid, but Petronius in 25 B. C. conquered Napata and forced Queen Candace to make a treaty of peace. In the third century after Christ marauding incursions of Nubian tribes called the Biemmyer forced Diocletian to summon the Nobatæ from El Charge in the Nile valley as confederates of the empire. Nevertheless Prima, Phœnicon, Chiris, Taphis, and Talmis yielded. In. the fourth and fifth centuries the Thebaid was so often devastated that Emperor Marcian was forced to conclude an unfavourable peace in 451. Christianity, brought probably by the hermits and monks of the Thebaid, began to spread through the country. The various accounts of this event are confusing; Pliny and Mela give the name of Ethiopia to all the countries in this region, including Abyssinia, while ecclesiastical writers speak of an Ethiopian Church, but give no account of the conversion of individual lands. Christianity was not yet well established, when about the middle of the sixth century under the protection of the empress Theodora, the Alexandrian priest Julian introduced Monophysitism. Its adherents called themselves Copts. The Nobatæan kings Silko and Eirpanomos accepted Christianity in this form, and the Monophysite patriarch Theodosius, Bishop Theodore of Philæ, and Longinus, Julian's successor, put the new doctrine on a firm basis. In 580 Longinus baptized the King of the Alodæ. The final victory of the Monophysites was secured by their union with the Arabs, soon to be masters of Egypt.

In 640 Amr Ben el-Asi'S, the commander-in-chief of the Arabs, conquered Egypt and ended Byzantine supremacy. The Melchite (Catholic) patriarch, George of Alexandria, fled to Constantinople and his see remained vacant for over a hundred years. The Copts secured peace only by becoming confederates of the enemy, and in return received nearly all the Catholic churches; their patriarch alone exercised jurisdiction over the entire territory. According to the Arabian Makrizi, as related by Ibn Selim, when the Nubians requested bishops they received from Alexandria Monophysites, and in this way became and remained Jacobites or Copts. In the following centuries numerous churches and monasteries were built even in Upper Nubia and Sennar, the ruins of which yet remain. Other documents show that Nubia was divided into three provinces with seventeen bishops: Maracu with the suffragan Dioceses of Korta, Ibrim, Bucoras, Dunkala, Sai, Termus, and Suenkur; Albadia with Borra, Gagara, Martin, Arodias, Banazi, and Menkesa; Niexamitis with Soper, Coucharim, Takchi, and Amankul. Yet Christianity was in continual danger from the Mohammedans. Nubia succeeded in freeing itself from the control of Egypt, which became an independent Mohammedan kingdom in 969, but in 1173 Saladin's brother Schems Eddawalah Turanschah advanced from Yemen, destroyed the churches, and carried off the bishop and 70,000 Nubians. At the same time Northern Nubia was conquered. In 1275 the Mameluke sultan Djahn Beibars sent an army from Egypt into Nubia. Dongola was conquered, the Christian king David was obliged to flee, and the churches were plundered. The inhabitants escaped forcible conversion to Mohammedanism only by payment of a head-tax. Nubia was divided into petty states, chief of which was Sennar, founded in 1484 by the negro Funji. For some time Sennar ruled Shendi, Berber, and Dongola. In the eighteenth century the King of Sennar obtained for a time Kordofan also. From the Middle Ages there is little information as to the position of Christianity; Islam became supreme, partly by force, partly by the amalgamation of the native with the Arabian tribes.

In 1821 Sennar and the dependent provinces submitted to Mohammed Ali, the founder of modern Egypt. The commanding position of the capital, Khartoum, led the Holy See to hope that the conversion of Central Africa could be effected from Nubia. On 26 December, 1845, the Propaganda erected a vicariate, confirmed by Gregory XVI, 3 April, 1846. The Austrian imperial family contributed funds and the mission was under the protection of the Austrian consulate at Khartoum. Missionary work was begun by the Jesuits Ryllo (died 1848) and Knoblecher (died 1858), who pushed forward as far as 4° 10' north of the equator, Kirchner, and several secular priests (among whom were Haller, died 1854, and Gerbl, died 1857). They founded stations at Heiligenkreuz on the Abiad (1855), and at Santa Maria in Gondokoro (1851). In 1861 the missions were transferred to the Franciscans. Father Daniel Comboni (died at Khartoum, 1881) founded an institute at Verona for the training of missionaries to labour among the negroes of Soudan. The Pious Mothers of the Negro Country (Pie Madri della Nigrizia), founded in 1867, devoted itself to conducting schools for girls and dispensaries. The Mahdi, Mohammed Ahmed, in 1880 conquered Kordofan, in 1883 vanquished the Egyptian army, and on 26 January, 1885, destroyed Khartoum. A number of priests and sisters were held for years in captivity; the name of Christian seemed obliterated. After the overthrow of his successor, Caliph Abdullah, by the English under Lord Kitchener, 2 September, 1898, the mission was re-established. In 1895 a mission had been opened at Assuan. In 1899 Mgr Roveggio with Fathers Weiler and Huber established a station at Omdurman, and in 1900 founded the mission near the Shilluk and re-established the station at Khartoum. Under his successor, Geyer, stations were opened in 1904 at Halfaya, Lul, Atiko, Kayango; in 1905 at Mbili among the Djur, at Wau in Bahr el Ghazal, and the mission at Suakin, opened in 1885, was resumed. The Sons of the Sacred Cross, as the Missionaries of Verona had been called from 1887, founded a station at Port Sudan.

Starting from Khartoum the missionary territory is divided into a northern and a southern district. The majority of the population in the north is Mohammedan and the chief task of the missionaries is pastoral work among the scattered Christian communities. In 1908 Khartoum had 69,344 inhabitants, Omdurman 57,985, among them about 2307 Europeans, of whom about 1000 are Catholics. Khartoum is served by 2 fathers, 1 brother, and 4 sisters; the schools contain 42 boys and 75 girls. In Omdurman there are 300 Catholics, 3 fathers, 1 brother, and 5 sisters; 44 boys and 45 girls attend the school. There is also a school for girls at Halfaya. At Assuan there are 2 fathers, 1 brother, and 4 sisters; 34 boys and 54 girls are taught in the schools. There are 500 Catholics among the workmen. At Port Sudan the Catholics number between 200 and 300. There are Catholics also at Halfa, Abu-Hammed, Dongola, Argo, Meraui, Berber, Atbara, Damer, Shendi, Kassala, Duen, El-Obeid, Bara, and Nahud. The southern missions among the heathen negroes have already advanced beyond the boundaries of Nubia. The statistics for 1907 for the northern and southern missions were: 11 stations, 30 priests, 23 brothers, 41 sisters, 2407 Catholics, 492 boys and girls in the mission-schools.

Portions of this entry are taken from The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907.

Simple English

Nubia was an ancient African Kingdom. It dates back to around 6000 BC. It was in northeastern Africa.

They were a valuable culture because of their trading abilities. They were located on the coast of the Red Sea which gave them many ports from which they were able to trade. This culture, though, had many hardships. It declined in power many times, which forced it to break up into smaller kingdoms which flourished on their own. These are commonly referred to as the A-Group, B-Group, and C-Group. Their true decline was around 350 AD, when the kingdom of Axum invaded and broke up the culture once again. This time, the culture never recovered its strength, thus ending of Historic Nubia.

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