Canadian archaeologists in Sudan, using magnetometers, found a 2,000-year-old palace in the heart of the ancient Black civilization of Nubia. Krzysztof Grzymski, a professor at the University of Toronto and a curator at the Royal Ontario Museum, located what he believes are the remains of a palace and a colonnade built more than 2,000 years ago by a rival to Egypt as perhaps the greatest Black civilization ever.
Nubia: Land of Great Natural Wealth, Envied by the World
The most incredible find was made almost 200 years ago in a pyramid near Meroë. An Italian physician and tomb robber known as Ferlini accompanied an Ottoman invasion of Sudan in 1821 and discovered exquisite gold amulets, signet rings and necklaces by blasting open the pyramid of Queen Amanishakheto, one of Nubia’s most powerful rulers. Ferlini tried to sell the treasure when he returned to Europe. But collectors would not believe such treasure could come from Black Africa. Nubia was also the gateway through which luxury products like incense, ivory and ebony traveled from their source in sub-Saharan Africa to the civilizations of Egypt and the Mediterranean.
Human use of antibiotics began not 80 years ago, but nearly 2,000 years ago along the banks of the Nile River in Nubia. They got tetracycline out of fermented grain that they used to brew beer, which everyone drank, starting as early as age 2. Scientists found large doses of tetracycline embedded in the bones of ancient African mummies. While the modern age of antibiotics began in 1928 with the discovery of penicillin, the new findings suggest that people knew how to fight infections much earlier than that.
Nubia: Land of the Bow and the Most Famous Archers in the World
Nubian hunters and warriors excelled as archers, and their weapon became a symbol for Nubia. “Land of the Bow” is the meaning of Ta-Seti, an ancient Egyptian term used to denote Nubia for thousands of years in antiquity. Hunters using bows and arrows appear in Nubian rock art as early as the Neolithic period, and hunting provided subsistence for Nubians throughout much of their history. Some of Nubia’s most important trade products, like animal skins and ivory, came from the hunt. Nubian archers, who formed the core of victorious Nubian armies, were so skilled that they were used as valued members of the military forces of other lands, such as Egypt and Persia.
The Finds Indicate the Nubians Influenced the Egyptians
Some of their pottery and burial talismans predate similar discoveries in Egypt, indicating Nubia may have influenced the Egyptians rather than the other way around. At the height of their culture, Nubian kings are said to have ruled Egypt from 750 to 650 B.C. French archaeologists have found exquisite ceramic figurines, bowls and funerary objects at sites that date from at least 8000 B.C.—predating prehistoric finds in Egypt by a staggering 3,000 years.
First Recorded Monarch
Ancient Egypt is the first major civilization in Africa for which records are abundant. It was not, however, Africa’s first kingdom. A March 1, 1979, New York Times front-page article, written by journalist Boyce Rensberger, reported: ”Evidence of the oldest recognizable monarchy in human history, preceding the rise of the earliest Egyptian kings by several generations, has been discovered in artifacts from ancient Nubia.”
The artifacts, including hundreds of fragments of pottery, jewelry, stone vessels and ceremonial objects such as incense burners, were initially recovered from the Qustul cemetery by Keith C. Seele, a professor at the University of Chicago.
Bruce Williams, a research associate at the University of Chicago, said it was the picture on a stone incense burner that indicated it was the tomb of a king. Williams added that “the majestic figure on the incense burner is the earliest known representation of a king in the Nile Valley. His name is unknown, but he is believed to have lived approximately three generations before the time of Scorpion, the earliest-known Egyptian ruler …”
The Nubian Kings Who Reigned Over Egypt Were Among Its Greatest Rulers
Not until the latter part of the 20th century did ancient Nubia begin to get its due among scholars, who were finally able to move past the racism of previous generations of white scholars who refused to believe that the Nubians could possibly be Black. Now the “Negro” kings from Nubia who ruled Egypt for a century as Egypt’s 25th Dynasty are recognized as having sponsored an important renaissance of Egyptian art and culture; they developed an almost scholarly interest in ancient Egyptian traditions and language and have been called “the first Egyptologists.” The empire over which they presided was greater in extent than any ever achieved in antiquity along the Nile Valley. Their kings were said never to have condemned prisoners to death; they forgave their enemies and allowed them to retain their offices; they also actually gave public credit for achievement in their inscriptions to individuals other than themselves. Such characteristics among other ancient monarchs of Egypt or the Near East are unheard of, and we can only assume these were native Nubian qualities.
Borrowing 24 signs from Egyptian hieroglyphics and using them as an alphabet, Nubians developed their own writing system. Professor Grzymski says, “It’s the second-oldest writing system in Africa, but it has still not been deciphered.” So far, 1,500 inscriptions written in the ancient Nubian language have been found, but no one knows what they mean.
Racism Surrounded the Early Rediscovery of Nubia
In the 1820s, the Western world was thrilled to hear news of the rediscovery of the monuments of ancient Nubia — or “Kush,” as it was called in the Bible. The descriptions and glorious illustrations of temples and pyramid fields delighted scholars and reawakened interest in this mysterious African kingdom. But the discovery also unleashed a torrent of racist conclusions by the white scholars and researchers of the day, who didn’t believe such a brilliant and superior society could have been created by Blacks. When American diplomat Bayard Taylor visited Sudan and gazed upon the temple carvings of sumptuously clad gods and rulers with clearly African features, he asserted they must have been created by Egyptians or by immigrants from India or Arabia, or, in any case, “by an offshoot … of the race to which we belong.” The stunning city of Meroë, which was the royal capital of ancient Nubia, was long ignored by scholars, who because of their racism assumed it was merely an offshoot of a more-advanced Egyptian culture.
The British Buried Nubia Under the Nile
We have lost much of the glorious history of Nubians because the British built successive dams at Aswan beginning in 1897, burying monuments and temples under the Nile River and displacing Nubians from their homeland. Many Nubians relocated to Egyptian cities. During the 1960s, the construction of the new Aswan High Dam flooded a large part of the Nubian land and forced 100,000 Nubians to seek refuge around Aswan in Egypt and in the cities of Sudan, including Khartoum. Today, the Nubians number around 1 million people, with about half of them located in Egypt and the other half in the Sudan.