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Nubia: the Napatan Period

In the New Kingdom (about 1550 - 1069 BC) Nubia was occupied and colonised by the Egyptians as far south as the area between the Third and Fourth Cataracts. The end of Egyptian rule is obscure. It has been assumed that the Egyptians left Nubia at the end of the New Kingdom. However the title 'viceroy of Kush' is still attested in the Third Intermediate Period, and it is possible that Egyptians still claimed control over some parts of Lower Nubia, perhaps more in land rights or access to resources, than in full administrative control.

At el Kurru archaeologists have found several burials which seem to belong to local leaders, buried here after the Egyptians left the country. Alara and Kashta are the first of these leaders known to bear at least parts of a royal titulary, written in Egyptian hieroglyphs and based on the model of Egyptian kingship (the name of Alara is written in a cartouche; Kashta (about 760 - 747 BC) has a nomen and a prenomen). The next king Piy is already well-known from a stela found at Napata, on which he reports a campaign to Egypt. It is not certain whether his campaign to Egypt had the effect of annexing Egypt immediately, but certainly the next kings (Shabako, Shabitqo, Taharqo, Tanutamani) ruled over Egypt. After the Assyrian conquest of Egypt, Tanutamani still seems to have ruled parts of Upper Egypt, but they may finally have been driven out of the country in the rise to independent power of the 26th Dynasty.

The Napatan Period (about 700 - 300 BC) is named after the town Napata, where an Amun temple was built and where the kings were buried in small pyramids (the cemeteries are located not far at Nuri and el Kurru). Napata was the religious centre of the country. The political centre was perhaps already quite early farther south at Meroe.

In the visible record Napatan culture seems heavily influenced by the Egyptians. The kings were buried in small pyramids, with an Egyptian style funerary equipment (shabtis, sarcophagi with religious texts, canopic jars, funerary stelae). The Egyptian hieroglyphic script was used. The exact order of most kings of the Napatan period is still under discussion. There is a group of well attested rulers dating shortly after the the end of Napatan control of Egypt (for example: Senkamanisken and Aspelta). Some kings dating to about the 4th century BC are again well-known from long monumental inscriptions (Arikamaninote, Harsiotef).

From the beginning of the 3rd century BC onwards the kings were buried at Meroe. This is normally seen as the beginning of the Meroitic period.

list of Napatan kings | burials of queens | Napatan finds from Meroe | royal burials | faience


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