Nubia was also called – Upper & Lower Nubia, Kush, Land of Kush, Te-Nehesy, Nubadae, Napata, or the Kingdom of Meroe.
The region referred to as Lower Egypt is the northernmost portion. Upper Nubia extends south into Sudan and can be subdivided into several separate areas such as Batn El Hajar or “Belly of Rocks”, the sands of the Abri-Delgo Reach, or the flat plains of the Dongola Reach. Nubia, the hottest and most arid region of the world, has caused many civilizations to be totally dependent on the Nile for existence.
Historically Nubia has been a nucleus of diverse cultures. It has been the only occupied strip of land connecting the Mediterranean world with “tropical” Africa. Thus, this put the people in close and constant contact with its neighbors for long periods of history and Nubia was an important trade route between sub-Saharan Africa and the rest of the world. Its rich material culture and tradition of languages are seen in archaeological records.
The most prosperous period of Nubian civilization was that of the kingdom of Kush, which endured from about 800 BC to about 320 AD. During this time, the Nubians of Kush would at one point, assume rule over all of Nubia as well as Upper and Lower Egypt.
The regions of Nubia, Sudan and Egypt are considered by some to be the cradle of civilization. Today the term Nubian has become inclusive of Africans, African Arabs, African Americans and people of color in general.
Nubia is divided into three regions: Lower Nubia, Upper Nubia, and Southern Nubia. Lower Nubia was in modern southern Egypt, which lies between the first and second cataract. Upper Nubia and Southern Nubia were in modern-day northern Sudan, between the second cataract and sixth cataracts of the Nile river. Lower Nubia and Upper Nubia are so called because the Nile flows north, so Upper Nubia was further upstream and of higher elevation, even though it lies geographically south of Lower Nubia.
Early settlements sprouted in both Upper and Lower Nubia: The Restricted flood plains of Lower Nubia. Egyptians referred to Nubia as “Ta-Seti.” The Nubians were known to be expert archers and thus their land earned the appellation, “Ta-Seti”, or land of the bow. Modern scholars typically refer to the people from this area as the ÒA-groupÓ culture. Fertile farmland just south of the third cataract is known as the ÒPre-KermaÓ culture in Upper Nubia, as they are the ancestors civilization originated in 5000 BC in Upper Nubia..
The Neolithic people in the Nile valley likely came from Sudan, as well as the Sahara, and there was shared culture with the two areas and with that of Egypt during this time period.
By the 5th millennium BC, the people who inhabited what is now called Nubia participated 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.
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. 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.
Around 3800 BC, the second “Nubian” culture, termed the A-Group, arose. It was a contemporary of, and ethnically and culturally very similar to, the polities in predynastic Naqada of Upper Egypt.
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. 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.
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.