Sunday, February 7, 2010

Ancient Rules of Egypt

One of the greatest—and last—of the Nubians who ruled Egypt in the seventh and eighth centuries B.C., the pharaoh known as Taharqa restored the grandeur of ancient temples along the Nile while fighting off Assyrians who invaded from the north. Assyrian king Assurbanipal’s troops finally pushed him south to his Nubian homeland, where he died in 664 B.C.

After capturing city after city along the Nile River in 730 B.C., troops commanded by King Piye of Nubia storm the great walled capital of Memphis with flaming arrows. Piye modeled himself after powerful pharaohs such as Ramses II (statues), claiming to be the rightful ruler of Egypt. His triumph over the northern chiefs would unite all Egypt under Nubian rule for three-quarters of a century.

Rows of Nubian archers march in stride in a wooden model, about 20 inches high, discovered in Assiut in the tomb of an 11th dynasty provincial governor named Mesehti. This period, around 2000 B.C., was one of turmoil in Egypt, and many local chiefs recruited Nubians and other foreigners to fight in their armies.

The ruins of columns, along with one restored to its full height, mark the entrance porch that King Taharqa added to the Great Temple of Amun at Karnak, one of ancient Egypt’s most sacred sites.

Statues of Nubian kings up to ten feet high were found buried at the Nubian capital of Kerma, in Sudan. Smashed during Egyptian King Psamtek II’s incursion south around 593 B.C., they were recently reassembled.

At the height of his power, King Taharqa leads his queens through the crowds during a festival at the temple complex of Nubia’s Jebel Barkal, its pinnacle gleaming with gold. Accompanied by a sacred ship bearing an image of the god Amun, Taharqa is robed in a priestly leopard skin and crowned with the double uraeus that declares him Lord of the Two Lands—ruler of both Nubia and Egypt.

Queen Kawit, shown on her sarcophagus having her hair dressed, was one of the noble women believed to have been sent from Nubia to make diplomatic marriages with 11th-dynasty pharaoh Mentuhotep II.

At Jebel Barkal, Taharqa created a temple dedicated to the goddess Mut, the consort of Amun—part of a grand building campaign throughout his empire, from northern Egypt down into Nubia.

A lion devouring a Nubian, crafted during the 19th dynasty possibly as a fly-whisk handle, symbolizes the valiant ruler of Egypt subjugating the Nubians to protect his country and avert chaos.

Nubia was a major source of gold for ancient Egypt. At Thebes the tomb of King Tutankhamun’s viceroy to Nubia—a man named Huy—shows Nubian royalty in procession delivering rings of gold as part of their tribute to their overlord.

The skilled goldsmiths of Nubia created masterpieces such as a pendant of the goddess Isis from the tomb of a Nubian king at Nuri.

Centuries after Nubia lost control of Egypt, it continued to follow its neighbor’s tradition of marking royal tombs with pyramids, like these restored at Meroë. Today Sudan has more pyramids than Egypt

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