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Nubia, a region of Africa that today occupies southern Egypt and Northern Sudan, has a long and glorious past. There, in the valley of the Nile, a sequence of ancient civilizations flourished over a span of more than six thousand years, leaving behind the remains of towns and cities, cemeteries, temples, palaces, fortresses, and pyramids. The Nile’s First Cataract, a fierce rapid that blocked river travel, formed Nubia’s border with ancient Egypt to the north. From there ancient Nubia extended southward some seven hundred miles, roughly to the site of the modern-day city of Khartoum. Nubia’s location made it a crossroads, a link between central Africa and the lands around the Mediterranean. At various times in their history, the Nubians had contact with Egypt, Greece, Rome, Ethiopia, Persia and Assyria. Rich in gold, the region was a corridor for trade in ivory, ebony, incense, spices and animal skins from father south. These riches stimulated trade and warfare, in particular with the Egyptians. Imported objects and artistic influences moved back and forth between Egypt and Nubia. Over time, each country conquered and was conquered by the other.
The various Nubian cultures were linked by common traditions but distinguished by individual customs and influences. This exhibition of more than two hundred objects, drawn from the largest and finest collection of Nubian art outside Khartoum, introduces visitors to these fascinating cultures while highlighting the unique achievements of Nubia’s artists and artisans. The featured objects include some of the first and finest ceramics of the ancient world, innovative and beautiful jewelry, stone sculpture, royal funerary offerings, delicate ivories, elegant stone vessels and imported items highlighting Nubia’s extensive trade network. These items also provide insight into Nubian kingship, warfare, religious beliefs and daily life. Accompanying archival material highlights the MFA’s decades of archaeological exploration in the region.