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The Image of the Ordered World in Ancient Nubian Art: The Construction of the Kushite Mind, 800 BC - 300 AD

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... Amun, an Egyptian god, became the state god of the Sudanese territory, in both his anthropomorphic and ram-headed form, and it was to him that most temples were dedicated.12 The earliest known evidence of the cult of the 13 Under Thutmose III a variant of Amun appears in Nubia, Amun-Ra of Napata, or "Of the Pure Mountain," whose main cultic center was located at Gebel Barkal. This god was sometimes represented with a ram head or horns, iconography that would later appear in Luxor but originated in Nubia.14 ...
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This article sets out to address questions concerning local religious traditions in ancient Nubia. Data concerning Egyptian gods in the Sudan are introduced, then the existence of unattested local pre-Meroitic gods is reconstructed using mainly external literary sources and an analysis of divine names. A review of other archaeological evidence from an iconographic point of view is also attempted, concluding with the presentation of Meroitic gods and their relation with earlier traditions. This study proposes that Egyptian religious beliefs were well integrated in both official and popular cults in Nubia. The Egyptian and the Sudanese cultures were constantly in contact in the border area and this nexus eased the transmission of traditions and iconographical elements in a bidirectional way. The Meroitic gods are directly reminiscent of the reconstructed indigenous Kushite pantheon in many aspects, and this fact attests to an attempt by the Meroitic rulers to recover their Nubian cultural identity.
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The Transatlantic slave trade had a determinative significance for the models and assumptions that set the framework for systems of thought and philosophies that dominated the “Academy” from at least the 15th Century until today. The philosophical justifications for the Western European subjugation of the non-European world, in general and the African in particular, through the highly profitable Transatlantic Slave Trade (the Arab, Iranian and Indian, Trans-Indian Ocean Slave Trades will be discussed elsewhere) and colonial efforts, would come to dominate many of the faculties of the Academy. From Biology, Linguistics and Anthropology to Philosophy and Theology, the faculties of the Academy sought to justify the sale of human beings and the “White Man’s Burden” or rather, the European and the European-descender’s (e.g. European-Americans) supposed burden to civilize a world of savages and wild natives. Until today, the effects of “White supremacist” worldviews and doctrines are to be found, for example, in the impetus for the relative absence of Africa and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church from histories of Early Christianity. The historical theological treatment of the biblical event of the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch serves to illustrate the value of the reconsideration of the significance of this account from an Ethio-African perspective.
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The wealth of data on fishing and navigation recently dug out of the archaeological layers in harbours and other littoral sites on the Red Sea induced archaeologists to look for elements of comparison onto the people collectively labelled Ichthyophagoi, i.e. Fish-Eaters, by the Greeks, focusing on the writings of Nearchus of Crete and Agatharchides of Cnidus because of their detailed descriptions of the Ichthyophagoi peculiar way of life. Notwithstanding the general awareness of the strong ideological bias that led the Hellenistic writers to portray the Ichthyophagoi as a wretched and backward race, recent publications maintain the assumption that they correspond to the people who left shell middens and traces of fishing and other maritime activities in the archaeological sites of Arabia and the Red Sea. A closer reading of the Greek sources should prove such a correspondence simplistic, and reveal a more complex picture. Agatharchides certainly tapped his informations on the material culture of the Ichthyophagoi from the reports sailors made on the coastal adapted people of the Red and Arabian Sea making out on maritime resources for a living. But his description is also the product of Hellenistic geographic thought as well as of his personal disposition. This is clearly demonstrated by comparison with the concepts of the Ichthyophagoi expressed by other ancient authors, and their treatment of the social, economic and political ties between the populations of the Arabian and African littoral of the Red Sea. The diachronic study of the name Ichthyophagoi challenges the idea of an unequivocal correspondence between the archaeological remains and and the Ichthyophagoi as described by the Greek sources.
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The preservation of the legacy of mankind is no less important than the construction of dams, the erection of factories and the greater prosperity of peoples (President Gamal Abdel-Nasser, cited in Säve-Söderberg 1987, 90). The Nubia Campaign mounted with the aim of salvaging the archaeological sites threatened by the construction of the Aswan High Dam (1960–1971) was the first collaborative international rescue effort involving UNESCO. One of the main outcomes of this campaign was the valorization of what came to be known as “world heritage” and the establishment of a UNESCO World Heritage Center entrusted with the mission to safeguard the cultural heritage of humankind. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Nubia Campaign and as more sites are increasingly in need of international drives to rescue them from dams and other threats, this contribution provides a critical assessment of this historical event highlighting the role of foreign scholars and institutions, governments, organizational infrastructures, sources of funding, activities undertaken, as well as the impact of the dam on Nubians. In retrospect and in light of what happened to the preservation of Egyptian and Sudanese heritage as work of the foreign missions united by a single cause came to end, and considering the ongoing projects in Egypt and the Sudan that require urgent international efforts, I canvass the shortcomings of the Nubia Campaign in order to come up with recommendations for immediate action.
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Interpreting the archaeological remains from the Kushite civilization of Sudan is fraught with methodological difficulties. Egyptian, Greek, and Roman written sources give some clues, but the Meroitic script is still not interpreted. The large slag mounds in the ancient capital of Meroe indicate that iron production played an important role, but this cannot serve as a sufficient explanatory cause for the maintenance of centralized power. In addition to its iron production, written and archaeological remains both testify to the importance of the strategic location of Meroe in the trade networks between Africa and Egypt. However, maintenance of state power over a thousand years requires more than control over material resources. The stability of political centers is significantly dependent on a legitimating ideology. Here, we draw particular attention to the images and temples dedicated to the war god Apedemak; he is symbolically associated with rulers, as well as with iron production. Drawing on comparative ethnography and the sociology of caste we suggest that the material remains are consistent with a redistributive political economy based on caste-like principles.
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Six essays about six major ancient Nubian archaeological sites, dating from Neolithic to Early Christian period are part of a definitive, well-illustrated volume presenting the art, history and archaeology of Nubia (American University in Cairo Press) to the general public. Each essay offers a synthesis of published as well as unpublished data from their excavations in an accessible fashion explaining each site’s’ importance in ancient Nubian history. These six sites are published only as excavation reports and so the data have not yet been interpreted or developed into a continuous historical narrative. As a result, important information from them has not been fully considered or made generally available.
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At the beginning of the 20th century, a socle and hinge both inscribed for the " God's Wife Merite-fnut " appeared on the antiquities market in Upper Egypt. The inscription upon the hinge affiliated Meritefnut with three additional names from the era of Kushite rule: Shepenwepet, Pi(ankh)y, and Amenirdis. For more than a century, the woman dubbed by Kenneth Kitchen as " the mysterious Meryt-Tefnut " has remained unidentified, and the problems that she presents have never received more than a few sentences of discussion in the published literature to date. Yet the state of the evidence does not warrant resignation. Prosopographical analysis yields only five possible explanations for Meritefnut's identity, and one of these explanations is considerably more tenable than the others. Moreover, every one of the available explanations challenges at least one widely-held assumption about the official protocol of the God's Wife of Amun.
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Monumental architectural remains are among the most impressive relics of the ancient civilizations. Of course, this is also true for ancient northeast Africa. In this contribution, monumental architecture is considered not just as a static marker and manifestation of power, often embedding the state itself in the landscape, but as a location, a setting for performing public activities which are producing and replicating social relations. Some case studies of the Kerma and Meroitic cultures of ancient Nubia are discussed. Hypotheses on the ceremonies taking place are proposed.
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A brief overview of ancient Kushite religion including beliefs of non-elite members of ancient Napatan and Meroitic societies
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This paper reviews archaeology in Hungary by reflecting upon the relationship between archaeological praxis and theory in different historical settings over the last 140 years. Relations between archaeology and ruling ideologies have had a far greater impact on our discipline than intrinsic theoretical developments. By “relations”, we do not mean that archaeology has been consistently subservient to the political elites. Historiography was doomed to far more direct political impact than archaeology. Hungarian archaeology is discussed in reference to four major dimensions: (1) History and archaeology in Hungary is reviewed in five periods, including the early decades, the period between the two world wars, during socialism on the rise, “Goulash Communism” and the status quo since 1990. (2) Standardized models of archaeological theory and intellectual colonialism are discussed in terms of the traditional (Austro-) Hungarian model, external “colonial” influences and the effects of a current market economy. (3) National archaeology beyond the academic and administrative functions is evaluated from the viewpoint of ideological issues, popular archaeology, and populist archaeology. (4) Perceptions of the Anglo–American model of archaeology in Hungary are discussed within the contexts of the local academic culture and the importance of language use, all having an impact on the acceptance of theoretical influences through the forms of communication. It is concluded that changes in Hungarian archaeology cannot be considered intrinsic: they have usually emerged in response to more extreme, but often spontaneous or uncontrollable changes in the external political and social environment, among which long-term evolutionary trends rather than “revolutionary” episodes prevail.
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