for National Geographic News
Statues from a highly advanced African civilization that thrived for 1,200 years along the banks of the Nile River have been uncovered by a team of archaeologists working in Sudan.
"The statues are sculptural masterpieces and important additions to our knowledge of the history of the region," said Charles Bonnet, an archaeologist with the University of Geneva in Switzerland who led the team.
The statues were found in a pit in Kerma, south of the Third Cataract of the Nile.
"The general public is familiar with Egypt and the pharaohs, but it is not so aware that there was a highly important, sophisticated, and independent ancient civilization in Nubia, which is now the northern Sudan," said Tim Kendall, a Sudan archaeologist and visiting research scientist at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts.
The seven statues, which stood between 1.3 to 2.7 meters (4 to 10 feet) tall, were inscribed with the names of five of Nubia's kings: Taharqa, Tanoutamon, Senkamanisken, Anlamani, and Aspelta.
Taharqa and Tanoutamon ruled Egypt as well as Nubia. Sometimes known as the "Black Pharaohs," Nubian kings ruled Egypt from roughly 760 B.C. to 660 B.C. [see sidebar]
The land the Egyptians called Kush was situated at the nexus of important trade routes between central Africa and Egypt. The kingdomwhich extended from what is today southern Egypt to northern Sudanhad a long and tangled history with ancient Egypt, a history that see-sawed between periods of warfare and occupation, and peace and prosperity.
The Kingdom of Kush
Archaeologists have found evidence of several early cultures in Nubia beginning about 3500 B.C. Central African products found in Egypt suggest to scholars that these early kingdoms traded with one another and that Nubia provided a connection along the Nile between central Africa and Egypt.
"When the Egyptians originally started exploring Nubia, which at that point consisted of many different tribes, the people of northern Sudan were very friendly with the Egyptians, and the rulers had good relations with the Egyptian pharaoh," said Kendall. "But that didn't last."
The Egyptians, feeling threatened, invaded and conquered Kush.
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