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Meroe and Egypt


The Meroitic Period, which lasted from the third century BCE to around the mid-fourth century CE, comprises the second of two phases of Kushite empire in the territory of what is today Sudan, the first phase comprising the Napatan era (c. 655 – 300 BCE). While Meroitic culture reflects both Napatan influence and that of periods of Egyptian colonization (during Egypt’s New Kingdom, c. 1550 – 1070 BCE), it is characterized by the emergence of indigenous cultural elements. These include an indigenous script as well as ideological features such as concepts of kingship, burial customs, and the introduction of indigenous deities into the old Egypto-centric pantheon. Meroitic rulers were buried in cemeteries in the regions of (Gebel) Barkal and Meroe. The shift of burial grounds from the vicinity of Barkal to Meroe has led scholars to designate the period and culture as “Meroitic.” There was, however, no cultural break with former times, but rather a continuation and development of prevailing cultural features with the addition of new elements. Special focus is laid on the border area between Ptolemaic and, later, Roman Egypt and the Meroitic Empire, in which both power structures had interests. The politics of both states in Lower Nubia—today territory held by Egypt and Sudan—were of varied intensity during the c. 650 years of the Meroitic Period. Documentation of Meroitic history is hindered by our as yet insufficient understanding of Meroitic texts and thus relies heavily on archaeological data and the factual remains of art and architecture. In general, our knowledge is uneven: some periods are well documented, while for others we have little to no information.

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