Thursday, September 16, 2010

Nubia and the Americas


I. Nubia, 3100-350 BCE

A. Geography--since the first century BCE, Nubia has been denoted as a 1,000 mile stretch of the Upper Nile, from Aswan in the north (just below the First Cataract) to Khartoum in the south.

1. Mineral wealth--Nubia was much richer than Egypt in mineral deposits, and local craftsmen soon were able to utilize these deposits to craft a variety of items that became highly sought after in Egypt.

2. Trade--lying between Egypt and sub-Saharan Africa (the only continuously inhabited stretch of land in those latitudes, since the Sahara is largely uninhabitable), Nubian traders acted as middlemen for sellers from sub-Saharan Africa and buyers in Egypt. The desire on the part of Egyptian buyers of such exotic trade items as ebony, ivory, and Pygmy slaves (among other goods) eventually led them to act to cut out the middlemen.

3. Development of Agriculture--from about 5000 BCE, bands of people in northern Nubia had made the transition from semi-nomadic hunting and gathering to a more settled existence based upon domesticated cattle and raising grain. People there settled into agricultural villages along the Nile.

B. Early Nubian Cultures and Egyptian Domination

1. Old Kingdom Egyptian trade missions--Nubia entered the historical record around 2300 BCE. At that time the southern frontier of Egypt was at Aswan, just north of the First Cataract. Trade missions from the Old Kingdom regularly visited to obtain ebony, ivory, slaves, and exotic animals from tropical Africa.

2. Middle Kingdom Egypt--Egyptian officials during the Middle Kingdom era took a more aggressive stance toward Nubia, and built a string of mud-brick forts south from Aswan to the Second Cataract in an attempt to regulate trade and to protect southern Egypt from Nubians and nomadic raiders. The relationship remained largely peaceful, however, and the garrisoned Egyptians had little contact with the local residents.

3. Kush--the Egyptian name for the Nubian kingdom that emerged further south of the Second Cataract, between the Third and Fourth Cataracts, where the Nile makes a broad, sweeping S-curve that forms the Dongola Reach.

a. Kings of Kush built fortification walls and monumental structures at Kerma, one of the earliest urbanized centers in tropical Africa.

b. The kings of Kush also sacrificed hundreds of servants and wives to accompany them on their journey upon their death.

4. New Kingdom Era (ca. 1532-1070 BCE)--Egyptians penetrated more deeply into Nubia during the early years of the New Kingdom, crushing Nubian forces in Kush and extending the southern frontier of Egypt to the Fourth Cataract.

a. Egyptian overseer governed from Napata, near the Gebel Barkal mountain, where a local god was thought to reside, and which contained copious amounts of gold. Locals worked in the mines under extremely harsh conditions, and were not very long-lived because of it.

b. During the 500 years of Egyptian control, Egyptian culture came to predominate. Children from noble families were held hostage in Memphis, where they learned all things Egyptian.

C. Kingdom of Meroƫ 800BCE-350CE

a. Fall of the New Kingdom--after 1200BCE, turmoil in Egypt led to it losing control in Nubia; almost 400 years after that, a new Nubian kingdom emerged. Initially, the first capital was located at the old Egyptian Nubian capital, Napata. During the heyday of the new kingdom, however, the capital was located further south at Meroƫ, near the Sixth Cataract.

b. Nubian rule of Egypt--between 712 and 660BCE, Nubian kings in fact ruled Egypt, until a fateful decision to assist local nobles in Palestine to rebel against their Assyrian rulers. In response, the Assyrians attacked Egypt and removed the Nubians from power.

II. The Americas

A. Olmec Civilization

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