Meroitic Pottery Display Case

Egyptians sought Nubian products

Kushites ruled Nubia from the royal city of Meroe for more than 600 years beginning about 270 BC. Excavations at the site have uncovered a walled compound enclosing palaces and a shrine celebrating the rise of Nile floodwaters. Outside the enclosure were great temples to Amun and other gods, living quarters, and industrial centers including workshops for smelting and working iron. In cemeteries nearby, kings and queens were buried in pyramid tombs. In the countryside, huge circular reservoirs (now called hafir) collected and stored water, perhaps especially for the herds of cattle so important to the Nubian economy.

Cultural elements of southern Nubia gained new prominence at Meroe


Local deities, especially the lion-headed god Apedemak and his consort, became increasingly important at Meroe, although the Meroites continued to worship some Egyptian gods as well. Kings and queens were depicted in distinctively Meroitic regalia that differed from the earlier Napatan dress, jewelry, and scepters. Turning away from the use of Egyptian writing, the Meroites developed an alphabetic script to write their own language, which remains largely unreadable today.

Northern Nubia was part of the Meroitic kingdom

In northern Nubia,Meroitic state culture thrived with temples, priests, and officials who used the Meroitic language and writing of the southern heartland. A governor at Faras administered this northern province, called Akin, which had a diverse population. Besides Meroites, it included peoples from both eastern and western deserts as well as immigrants from Egypt.

The Meroites built small, steep-sided pyramids for their royal burials as well as for many private tombs. The custom continued for hundreds of years and there are many more royal pyramids in Nubia than in Egypt. However, Nubian pyramids are much smaller than the great pyramids of Egypt.

Cyprus<br />Middle Bronze Age, ca. 1850-1600 B.C.<br />Baked clay, slipped and burnished<br />35.5 cm H, 9.5 cm W<br />Purchased in Cairo, 1920<br />OIM 11161