February is Black History Month in the United States and Canada, when we take note of the important contributions to our societies made by members of the African diaspora. The Nile Scribes are excited to contribute to this annual remembrance by sharing our recommended readings on African achievements from an ancient perspective, highlighting ancient Nubia, the land of Egypt’s neighbours to the south, now modern-day Sudan.
Beginning with the groundbreaking publication of W.Y. Adams’ Nubia: Corridor to Africa in 1977 that looked at the ancient region on its own merit, our field is slowly setting the record straight concerning Nubia’s complex relationship to its pharaonic neighbour. Since then, many more publications have explored Nubia’s contributions on the African and Mediterranean stage, showcasing Nubia without Egypt’s shadow of influence looming overhead. Read below for the list of Nile Scribes recommended reading on the history of ancient Sudan for Black History Month.
The Nubian Pharaohs: Black Kings on the Nile
By Charles Bonnet and Dominique Valbelle
Nile Scribes: In 2003, a Swiss archaeological team working at Kerma for nearly three decades discovered a cache of royal sculptures at the nearby site of Dokki Gel. The cache of seven larger-than-life statues were revealed to depict several of the Kushite kings, who ruled Egypt during the Egyptian Twenty-Fifth Dynasty (722-655 BC), as well as some of their successors who were kings in Nubia following their expulsion from Egypt. Prompted by this discovery, this beautifully illustrated volume provides the history of these Kushite kings in an engaging and eloquent style.
The Nubian Past: An archaeology of the Sudan
By David N. Edwards
Nile Scribes: Edwards’ contribution is another step in considering ancient Nubia on its own merit. Realising that the area ought to be studied outside of the wide-spread Egyptocentrism, the author spends much of his time analysing the various regional histories of the Sudan, in particular the Middle Nile region. He marries his investigation with concise overviews of the latest discussions in archaeology (e.g. how to approach material culture). Spanning a timeline from Prehistory (ca. 10,000 BC) up to modern times (ca. 1,900), Edwards presents a succinct overview of the important history of the Sudan through an archaeological lens.
Nubia: Ancient Kingdoms of Africa
By Geoff Emberling
Nile Scribes: This quick-read catalogue of only 60 pages accompanied an exhibition held at the New York Institute in 2011 entitled “Nubia: Ancient Kingdoms of Africa.” Emphasising the aesthetic achievements of Nubian artisans over a 2,500 year-span, Nubia: Ancient Kingdoms of Africa is a beautifully illustrated testament to the skill and creativity one can observe in Nubian objects in funerary, religious, and daily-life contexts. You can read this book online here.
Ancient Nubia: African Kingdoms on the Nile
Edited by Marjorie M. Fisher, Peter Lacovara, Salima Ikram, and Sue D’Auria
Nile Scribes: The most recent and holistic treatment of the ancient regions along the Nile in modern-day Sudan, this enormous volume provides the reader with a comprehensive overview of the histories and cultures of the Nubian kingdoms. The book spans a time period beginning with the earliest Nubian cultures, the A-Group (ca. 3,050-2,685 BC) and ends with the Meroitic Period (ca. 332-30 BC). The authors examine topics from religion and kingship, to personal adornment and foodways in a well-organised and lavishly illustrated volume.
Sudan: Ancient Kingdoms of the Nile
Edited by Dietrich Wildung
Nile Scribes: As a major exhibition catalogue that took a detailed look at the rich history of the Sudan, this book features more than 400 objects from various periods. While the book concerns itself geographically with the Sudan, several parts explore the area’s connection with Egypt. The authors concentrate the majority of the catalogue on the immense contributions made by Meroë and Napata (ca. 650 BC to AD 500) and show the viewer this period from various angles (e.g. ceramics and architecture). Aside from lavish illustrations, this book also showcases the many connections to the outside world.