Rare Nubian King Statues Uncovered in Sudan

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"Between about 1500 B.C. and 1100 B.C., Kush was administered as a province of Egypt," said William Y. Adams, a noted archaeologist from the University of Kentucky, who has spent many years excavating in Sudan.

This allowed the Egyptians to control its trade, and especially to control its important gold mines, which made Egypt the richest nation on Earth between about 1500 and 1100 B.C.

"What's interesting is that in military endeavors in other countries, the Egyptians let the conquered peoples maintain their own traditions and modes of worship," said Kendall. "With Kush there was much more give and take, and the Egyptians tried to incorporate or combine Nubian religious beliefs with their own. They seem to have combined their own state god, Amun, with the Nubian god and promoted the idea that these two gods were the same. This allowed the pharaohs, who claimed to be the sons of Amun, to claim to be the legitimate rulers of Nubia also."

When the Egyptians withdrew from Nubia around 1100 B.C.—for unknown reasons—a group of powerful local rulers arose. These kings of Kush also claimed to be the sons of Amun, and therefore the legitimate kings of Egypt.

Nubian Rule Over Egypt

The Nubian kings came to rule Egypt as the result of a power struggle between the reigning Egyptian kings in northern Egypt and the powerful priests of Amun in Thebes, a powerful city-state in southern Egypt.

"The priests in Thebes realized they couldn't stop the fighting themselves, so they invited the Nubian king to come to Egypt and restore order," said Adams. "One of the main reasons why Kashta [the Kush king] was willing to take on this role was that he was a puritan; he felt that Egypt had fallen into corrupt and decadent ways, and he had a real mission to restore the worship of Amun.

"He didn't stay long but his successor, Piankhy, came to Thebes, received the blessings of the priests, proceeded north and conquered and reunified the warring states," said Adams.

In addition to reunifying Egypt, the Nubian kings sought to bring back the glory days of Egypt and began a cultural renaissance. They produced beautiful sculptures and other art objects, in addition to building many superb temples and other monuments, said Kendall. The Nubian period in Egypt is known as the Twenty-fifth Dynasty.

"Just as Egypt was reaching a new Golden Age [under the Nubian kings], the Assyrians invaded Egypt, and brought destruction as far as Thebes," said Kendall. "They butchered the people, and the Nubian kings fled with the remnants of their army and court south to Kush, barely escaping with their lives."

The Nubian kings were much weakened at this point, but remained quite vocal about their claims to the kingship of Egypt. Meanwhile a new dynasty formed in northern Egypt and established control over Egypt.

"Around 593 B.C., the Egyptian king, named Psamtik II, had had enough of the Kush kings claiming his throne. He invaded Nubia with Egyptian troops, Greek mercenaries, and a fleet of ships," said Kendall.

Bonnet believes the statues he found were pulled down and smashed during this invasion.

"They were broken by the king Psamtik II [who ruled Egypt from 595 to 589 B.C.] during his military campaign," said Bonnet. "Later, they were buried into the pit, probably by the king Aspelta." Aspelta ruled Kush from around 600 to 580 B.C.

"After the statues were destroyed, we know that Aspelta ruled a long time afterwards and expanded his empire to the south," said Kendall.

Psamtik II's invasion was the last successful incursion by Egypt into the kingdom of Kush.

"Ironically," said Kendall, "less than 70 years passed before Egypt was conquered by Persia, then by Macedon, and finally by Rome, all of which put an end to native rule. The kingdom of Kush, however, continued to flourish under an unbroken line of kings until the fourth century A.D."

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