(N . M . SHERIF, UNESCO) - If some are proud because their civilization is one years old then Sudan should be prouder
with about 1000 years of civilizations. The aims of these articles and the ones before aim to prove this point.
Around the end of the fourth millennium before our era there flourished in Nubia a remarkable culture known to archaeologists as the A - Group .
The copper tools (the earliest metal tools so far discovered in the Sudan) and the pottery of Egyptian origin unearthed from A - G r o u p graves show the flowering of the A - Group culture to have been contemporary with the first dynasty in Egypt (—3100). This culture is denoted, as are also some other Nubian cultures, by a letter of the alphabet because it was non literate, no specific references to it exist on the part of literate peoples, nor can it be associated with any particular place of discovery or important center. Yet it was a period of prosperity marked by a considerable increase in population.
Definite A - G roup archaeological remains have so far been discovered in Nubia between the First Cataract in the north and Batn-el-Hagar (Belly of Stones) in the south. But pottery similar to that of the A - Group has been found on the surface in various sites farther south in the northern Sudan.
A grave near Omdurman Bridge yielded a pot indistinguishable from another pot found at Faras in an A - Group grave.
Ethnically the A - Group was very similar in physical characteristics to the predynastic Egyptians.4 T h e y were semi-nomadic people, probably herding sheep, goats and some cattle. They usually lived in small camps, moving whenever a pasturage became exhausted.
The A - Group belongs to the Chalcolithic culture. This means that essentially they were Neolithic, but with a limited usage of copper tools, all of which were imported from Egypt. One of the important characteristics of the A - Group culture is the pottery found in the graves of the people associated with it. Several types can be recognized but the 'constant feature of the A-Group pottery is the skillful craftsmanship and the artistic decoration and design, which set this ceramic art high above that of most of the contemporary cultures'.
Typical of the A-Group culture is a fine thin pottery with a black-burnished inside while its outside has red-painted decoration in imitation of basketwork. With this type of pottery are also found large bulbous jars with a pointed base6 and pots with 'wavy ledge' handles and deep pink ware conical jars of Egyptian origin.
As for the burial customs of the A-Group people, two types of grave are known to us. The first type was a simple oval pit about o-8 meters deep while the other was an oval pit 1-3 meters deep with a sunk chamber on one side. The body, which was enclosed in a leather shroud, was placed
in a contracted position on the right with the head normally to the west.
Besides pottery, articles deposited in the grave included stone palettes in the form of oval or rhomboid plates, ostrich-feather fans, alabaster grinding-stones, copper axes and borers, wooden boomerangs, bone bracelets, female idols made of clay and beads of shell, carnelian and blue-glazed steatite
The end of the A – Group
The A - Group , which is thought to have continued in Nubia to the end of the second dynasty in Egypt ( — 2780), was followed by a period of marked cultural decline and poverty. This period lasted from the beginning of the Egyptian third dynasty (—2780) to the sixth dynasty (—2258). That is to say, it was contemporary with what is known in Egypt as the
Old Kingdom period. The culture found in Nubia during this era was termed the B - Group by the early archaeologists, w h o worked in the area.
They claimed that Lowe r Nubia during the Egyptian Old Kingdom was inhabited by a distinct native group different from the preceding
A - Group . 9 Though some scholars1 ° still consider it valid, ' ' this hypothesis has been rejected by others. However , the existence of the B - Group as such is now generally held to be doubtful.
The continuity of A - Group features in the graves of the so-called B - Group culture makes it probable that they were simply graves of impoverished A - Group people when their culture was on the decline. These new features, recognizable in the B - Group and which differentiate it in some aspects from its predecessor were perhaps the outcome of the general decline and poverty. T h e cause of this decline m a y be found in the repeated hostile activities against Nubia of Egypt since its unification, and the formation of a strong centralized state under one sovereign
Egypt in Nubia
From very early times the ancient Egyptians were dazzled by Nubia because of its riches in gold, incense, ivory, ebony, oils, semi-precious stones and other luxury goods, and they continuously endeavored to bring the trade and economic resources of that land under their o w n control. Thus we see that the history of Nubia is almost inseparable from that of Egypt.
An ebony tablet from the time of Hor-aha, the first king of the Egyptian first dynasty, seems to celebrate a victory over Nubia, but the exact nature of the king's activity against the Nubians is as yet unknown. It might have been only a military movement planned to safeguard his southern frontier at the First Cataract.! The Egyptian artefacts discovered at Faras17 in the A-Group graves which belong to the reign of Djer and Ouadji, the third and fourth rulers of the first dynasty, also indicate contact between the two countries even in that remote time.
However, the earliest record of Egyptian conquest in Nubia is the very important document now exhibited in the Antiquities Garden of the Sudan National Museum in Khartoum. This was a scene originally engraved on
a sandstone slab on the top of a small knoll, known as Jebel Sheikh Suliman, about seven miles south of Wadi Haifa town on the west bank of the Nile. ' 8 It belongs to the reign of King Djer, the third king of the first dynasty already mentioned. The scene records a battle in the Nile
waged by King Djer against the Nubians.
At the extreme right of the scene there is a first-dynasty-style boat, with its vertical stern and high prow. Many corpses float below the boat, while a figure (a Nubian chieftain perhaps) hangs from its prow. To the
left of this are two wheel-like designs, which are the hieroglyphic signs portraying a village with crossroads which signify a town. To the left of the town signs we see the ripple sign of water (probably denoting that the cataract region was the field of battle). Then a figure of a man is seen with his arms tied behind his back and holding a bow which in Egyptian is called Zeti, and which personifies Ta-Zeti, the land of the bow, meaning Nubia. Behind this figure is the name of King Djer on what is probably a palace façade.
Another record of Egyptian hostile actions in Nubia is a fragment of an inscribed stone from Hierakonpolis (El-Kom-el-Ahmar on the left bank of the Nile north of Idfu) which shows King Kasekhem of the second dynasty kneeling on a prisoner representing Nubia. But the actual sub¬jugation of Nubia seems to have come in the reign of Snefru, the founder of the fourth dynasty. The Palermo Stone20 tells us that King Snefru destroyed Ta-Nehasyu, the Land of the Nubians, and captured 7000 prisoners and 200 000 cattle and sheep.
After the military operations of Khasekhem and Snefru the Nubians seem to have accepted Egyptian supremacy, for it is evident that the Egyptians found no difficulty in exploiting the vast mineral resources of Nubia. The diorite deposits west of Toshka were quarried for stone for royal
statues, and inscriptions of Cheops, the owner of the great pyramid at Giza, Dedefre, and Sahure of the fifth dynasty (—2563 to —2423) were engraved on the rocks there by successive expeditions. To exploit effectively the mineral resources of the land they conquered, the Egyptians colonized Nubia. Recent archaeological discoveries at Buhen , just below the Second Cataract, have shown the existence of a purely Egyptian colony at Buhen in the fourth and fifth dynasties. O n e of the industries of this Egyptian
settlement was working copper, as is shown by the furnaces and remains of copper ore found in it. This indicates the existence of copper deposits somewhere in the region. T h e names of several kings of the fourth and fifth dynasties were found there on papyrus and jar sealings.
Moreover, it is very probable that the Egyptians extended their authority even over the land south of the Second Cataract at least as far as Dakka some 133 kilometres south of Buhen . A n Old K i n g d o m inscription discovered by the author at Dakka shows that the Egyptians were searching for minerals in that part of Nubia.
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