Thousands of years ago, seasonal lakes and savanna
made central Sudan a rich environment supporting a large
population ranging across what is now barren desert,
like the Wadi el-Qa'ab. By the middle of the 5th millennium
BC, Nubia's Neolithic peoples
were full participants in the "agricultural revolution,"
living a settled lifestyle with domesticated plants
and animals. Rock art of cattle and herdsmen found during
our expedition suggests the presence of a cattle cult
like those found in the Sudan and other parts of Africa
art at Akkad
The Kerma culture evolved
out of the Neolithic around 2400 BC. The Kushite rulers of
Kerma profited from the trading such luxury goods as gold,
ivory, ebony, incense, and even live animals to the Egyptian
Pharaohs. By 1650 BC, Kerma had become a densely occupied
urban center overseeing a centralized state stretching from
at least the 1st Cataract to the 4th, rivaling ancient Egypt.
New Kingdom Egyptian Colony
In 1500 BC, Egypt conquered all of Nubia, forging a great
empire that stretched all the way from the Euphrates in Syria
to the 5th Cataract of the Nile. For over 500 years, Egypt's
wealth made the Pharaohs of the New Kingdom, like Tutankhamun,
the most powerful rulers on the face of the earth. They built
huge monuments throughout Egypt and Nubia, such as the famous
temple of Abu Simbel.
Napatan / Meroitic
The Nubian Pharaohs of Meroë and Napata portrayed themselves
as the saviors of Egyptian culture in a decadent age. They
adopted all the regalia and titles of Egyptian Pharaohs, and
revived pyramid tombs, such as these at the Nubian royal cemetery
Nubian Royal Cemetery at Meroë
at Naga dedicated to Apademak, the most important Meroitic
Iron Age quarry at Akkad. The marks visible in the image
at right are cuts where iron wedges were inserted to shear
the block away from the stone.
"Having traversed this part in forty days as I have
said, you take a boat again and so travel for twelve days
until you come to a great city called Meroë, which
is said to be the capital of all Ethiopia." - Herodotus
A series of powerful Christian
kingdoms in Nubia resisted Arab conquest and conversion
to Islam for 700 years after the conquest of Egypt.
Ruins of a church
With the assistance of the Mamluk rulers of Egypt, the Kingdom
of Makuria fell to the Juhayna Arabs through a combination
of conquest and intermarriage in the mid 14th century. Nubia
quickly adopted the Arabic language and the religion of Islam.
The Dongola Reach soon came under the sway of the far-flung
Funj kingdom, or al-Saltana al-Zarqa (the Black Sultanate).
The "Forty Days' Road" described by Herodotus was
known in this time as the "Darb al-Arba'in", and
was a major trade route between Nubia and Egypt.
at Wad Nimeri
Qasr at el-Qa'ab,
in the Sahara - the view of Wadi el-Qa'ab at the top of
the page is from the top of this fort.
like those that traveled the Darb al-Arba'in
Ottoman, Mahdist, Anglo-Egyptian,
Mohamed Ali Pasha, Ottoman Turkish ruler
of Egypt, conquered Sudan in 1821, but the Mahdi overthrew
the Egyptian colonial government in 1881. Sudan enjoyed
a brief period of independence under him and his successor
the Khalifa Abdallahi. British General Lord Kitchener
defeated the Mahdist army led by the Khalifa in 1898 at
the Battle of Omdurman, bringing Sudan under Anglo-Egyptian
colonial rule until it gained independence from Egypt