Some existing cultures merged with those of the Bantu-speakers wherever they settled. The influence of the Bantu-speakers is still found in the languages of the region today.

Egypt and Nubia Flourish

While Egyptian civilization was developing along the northern Nile River, another African civilization took shape on a wide band of fertile land of the southern Nile. The ancient kingdom of Nubia, also called Kush, was located in present-day Sudan. Archaeologists and historians have just begun to document the shifting tides of Nubia's 4,000-year history.

Nubia and Egypt: Two Great Powers

From time to time, ambitious Egyptian pharaohs subdued Nubia, but the Nubians always regained their independence. As a result of conquest and trade, Nubian rulers adopted many Egyptian traditions. They built palaces and pyramids modeled on Egyptian style. They used Egyptian titles and worshiped Egyptian deities.

About 730 B.C., the Nubian king Piankhi (PYAHN kee) conquered Egypt. For a century, Nubian kings ruled Egypt. But Nubian armies could not match the iron weapons of the Assyrians who invaded from southwest Asia. Forced to retreat from Egypt, the Nubians returned to the south.

Nubian Trade and Iron

By 500 B.C., Nubian rulers had moved their capital from Napata to Meroë (MEHR uh wee). Meroë eventually commanded both the Nile's north-south trade route and the east-west trade route from the Red Sea to North Africa. Along this wide trade network, Nubia sent gold, ivory, animal skins, perfumes, and slaves to the Mediterranean world and Southwest Asia. Meroë's location was a major reason for its development into a successful center of commerce.

Equally important, however, was the region's resources. Meroë was rich in iron ore. Fueled by the region's large quantities of timber, the smelting furnaces of Meroë produced the iron tools and weaponry needed to feed, control, and defend the kingdom. Today, giant heaps of iron waste remain as evidence of ancient Meroë's industry.

Splendor and Decline

Although Nubia absorbed much from Egypt, Nubian culture later followed its own course. For example, after gaining independence from Egypt, Nubians worshiped their own gods, including Apedemak, a lion-headed warrior god. At Meroë, artistic styles reflected a greater sense of freedom than Egyptian styles did. Nubians also created their own system of writing, using an alphabet instead of hieroglyphics. Unfortunately, the Nubian alphabet has not yet been deciphered.

Photo close up of a carving of ancient animal with thick horns.

Nubians and Egyptians worshiped many of the same gods and goddesses, including Amon, the king of all the gods, who was often depicted as a ram.

After the joint reign of King Natakamani and Queen Amanitere in the first century A.D., the splendor of Nubia's golden age dimmed. Finally, about A.D. 350, King Ezana's armies from the kingdom of Axum overwhelmed Nubia.

North Africa in the Ancient World

Early African civilizations had strong ties to the Mediterranean world. Trade linked Egypt with Greece and Mesopotamia. Later, Egypt was ruled, in turn, by the Greeks and Romans. These powers also knew of the rich civilization that lay south of Egypt and valued Nubian exports. Over time, however, Nubia lost touch with the Mediterranean world.


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments