The Land of Nubia

Today the ancient land of Nubia is divided between the countries of Egypt and the Republic of the Sudan. Nubia began below the First Cataract on the Nile, Ancient Egyptians used several names for Nubia through their history:

Ta-Sety (Land of the Bow)


Southern Lands


During the Graeco-Roman Period it was part of Ethopia ('Land of Burnt Faces').

Nubia was an important neighbour to Egypt as early as the 1st Dynasty (both AHA and Djer attacked villages in Nubia), Egypt could trade for ivory, gold, ebony, ostrich feathers and eggs, leopard skins, copper, amethyst, carnelian, feldspar, oils, gum resins, cattle, dogs and many wild animals. Egypt was to invade Nubia many times to take advantage of her natural resources - in the Middle Kingdom, Egyptian fortresses lined the Nile as mines and quarries were opened, and caravan routes brought the rich bounty of Nubia to Egypt. During the New Kingdom, Nubia was divided up into an Upper and Lower Nubia - each was governed by a Viceroy; Lower Nubia - called Wawat -(as far south as Semna) was controlled at Aniba; Upper Nubia was governed at Amara West.

However, Egypt was never fully in control of Nubia, the power of Egypt waxed and waned over the years - in the start of the Late Kingdom Nubians themselves invaded Egypt and for a time were Pharaohs of Egypt (25th Dynasty).

Key to Map of Nubia

1 - Dakka

C-Group Site (C-Group people first appeared in Nubia at the time of the 6th Dynasty of Egypt)

2 - Quban

Fortress and base for mining operations (mines included the gold mines at Wadi el-Allaqi and Wadi Gabgaba, the copper mines at Abu Segal and diorite quarries in the desert west of Toshka) - time of Sesostris I (12th Dynasty).

3 - Wadi es-Sebua

Fortified C-Group settlement.

4 - Sayala

Includes the grave of a chief (?) from an A-Group Settlement.

5 - Aniba

C-Group site (also includes an important cemetery dating to the period)

6 - Toshka

Diorite quarries

7 - Faras

A site occupied throughout the ancient period, it contains an A and C-Group cemetery, it was an important administrative centre of Egypt in Nubia in the 18th Dynasty (also in the Late Period)

8 - Qustul

A-Group cemetery, also burials of Kings dating to the early Christian era.

9 - Buhen

Middle Kingdom fortress site (although the site did originally flourish in the 4th and 5th Dynasties), copper was also smelted here, the site was re-used by rulers of the New Kingdom

10 - Wadi Halfa

Considered a strategic position by the ancient Egyptians. Inscriptions here date to the Nubian campaigns of Sesostris I. Another stela dates to the 19th Dynasty which celebrates the building of a temple to Horus. In many eras of ancient Egypt, Wadi Halfa marked Egypt's southern border.

11 - Mirgissa

A fortress in the Middle Kingdom, used as a port for the transport of goods from Nubia to Egypt.

12 - Batn el-Hagar

Called 'Belly of Stones' by the local inhabitants, a desolate region of Nubia which extends for more than 100 miles - the river is filled with rapids which is matched by wasteland on the shore - a natural defence for the region.

13 - Semna

Frontier of Egyptian control under Sesostris I and Sesotris III

14 - Amara West

Town, walled with a stone temple - for a time the residence for the Viceroy of Kush.

15 - Sai

Island on the Nile, an important Kushite settlement, as such this was garrisoned by Egyptian troops during the reign of Tuthmosis I.

16 - Sedeinga

Amenhotep III built 'an impressive temple' here in honour of his Chief Queen Tiye.

17 - Soleb

Amenhotep III built a temple here solely for the worship of himself - a pair of red granite lions stood by the temple (these now reside in the British Museum), inscriptions on the lions link Amenhotep III as the father of Tutankhamun.

18 - Sesebi

Walled town, with stone temple - also used for the residence of the Viceroy of Kush

19 - Kerma

Large and important site - Centre of Kushite Power - one of the earliest settlements in tropical Africa. Evidence has been found of the first activity of the site in the 4th millennium BC, graves date to 2,400BC and then had constant development for the next 1,000 years. The town had a large religious structure / temple as its focal point (in 1750-1600BC this also had workshops and other religious buildings within the temples quarter). Mud brick walls and dry ditches protected the town. Craftsmen skilled in metal working, woodworking, ceramics, Jewellery etc were housed at Kerma. Tuthmosis I attacked and sacked the town - the outer defences were demolished by him (it is thought to stop Kerma becoming a focal point for Nubian uprising against the Egyptians).

20 - Napata

Frontier settlement, built by Tuthmosis III - this marked the entry point for goods entering Egypt from the rest of Africa at this point in time. In the 8th Century BC a new and powerful Kushite kingdom emerged in the region of Napata, this was to go on to become the greatest civilisation of Nubia. The first period of this development took place in the Napata Period (it would then continue to become the Merotic Period following a break-away from Egyptian culture). This Kushite Kingdom would gain in power and whose descendants would eventually become pharaohs of Egypt (25th Dynasty). Rulers of Kush were buried in pyramids at Nuri, close to Napata.

21 - Gebel Barkal

'Flat Topped Mountain'. The most important religious centre in Nubia during the New Kingdom - called 'Holy Mountain' by the Egyptians. It became the Nubian centre for the cult of Amun, many temples were built at the base of the mountain.

22 - Kurgus

Furthest point that Tuthmosis I reached in his campaigns into Nubia

23 - Meroe

The chief city of Nubia in the 6th century BC (although it was used as a royal residence as early as the 8th century BC), the rulers of Nubia were buried here in steeply sided pyramids. From the beginning of the 3rd Century BC there was a gradual shift away from the pharaonic influence of Egypt, it was then that the royal burials became to be placed at Meroe than at the cemetaries close to Napata. The town of Meroe has only been partly excavated, but a great temple to Amun has been found which had an avenue of rams. In the 8th century BC a new and powerful Kushite Kingdom emerged in Napata, this was to become the greatest civilisation of ancient Nubia - the Kingdom of Meroe (the Merotic Period) - it was to exist for over a thousand years (although the major events were to take place in the first half - the Napata Period).

24 - Wad Ban Naga

Important trade centre

25 - Musawwarat es-Sufra

The site of the 'Great Enclosure' - an area which included temples and a complete arrangement of courts, rooms and passages. Decoration includes sculptures of elephants - it is thought that this 'Great Enclosure' may have been a place for pilgrimage and / or a royal residence.

26 - Naga

Location of temples.

27 - Kadero

Important early site in Nubia - as early as 4,000BC there is evidence of the domestication of cattle and cultivation of cereal crops as well as hunting and gathering.