Nubians - History and Cultural Relations

Few facts are available regarding Nubian history and culture prior to the sixth century. The primary archaeological survey of Nubia was conducted between 1907 and 1910 (Reisner 1910); it revealed that Nubia has possessed an advanced culture since the Predynastic period. The Nubian culture prior to 3200 B . C . was exactly the same as that of Egypt. During the period from the fourth to the eighteenth dynasty, tribes from the south and the west of the continent infiltrated the Nubian Valley and sometimes controlled it. This infiltration reduced the ethnic homogeneity between Nubian and Egyptian populations; the Nubian population eventually came to resemble tribes from Central Africa. Skeletal remains from the eighteenth dynasty to the thirtieth suggest a return to Egyptian population characteristics and material culture. Infiltration from Nilotic stock into the Nubian Valley during the Roman era is evidenced by skeletal remains that are taller, with more protruding jaws and flatter noses. After the sixth century A . D ., Nubia was Christianized and remained Christian until the fourteenth century A . D ., when the Nubian king converted to Islam. At the time of the Islamic conquest of Nubia in 641 A . D ., the Nubians opted to pay a poll tax and tribute instead of converting. The poll tax was referred to as baqt, probably an Arabization of the word pact. The Nubian church was a branch of the Coptic Monophysite church centered in Cairo. With the advent of the Ottomans into the region, Nubia was subjugated and troops from all over the empire intermingled with the local population, but intermarriages remained rare. In 1848 Muhammad Ali declared Egypt and Sudan independent from the Ottoman Empire and Nubia during that time became a passageway for trade in gold, slaves, and ivory between Africa and the Mediterranean. In 1882 the British occupied Egypt; their major plan was to increase cotton production. More water was required to implement such a plan, however, and, therefore, in 1902 a dam known as the Aswan Dam/reservoir across the Nile, a few kilometers south of Aswan, was built. The dam was heightened in 1912, and again in 1933. The elevation of the dam first affected only the northern region of Nubia, but as the height of the dam increased most of the Nubian Valley was affected. Many homes were moved to elevated land and cultivable land became scarce. In 1952 and 1956 Egypt and Sudan, respectively, gained their independence from the British. Whereas during the 1940s there were ideas of developing a huge reservoir at Lake Victoria to provide enough water for prosperity, Egypt's Revolutionary Council in 1952 adopted the idea of erecting a high dam in Aswan, as proposed by the Greek-Egyptian agronomist Adrien Daminos. In 1959 Egypt and Sudan signed a water agreement. The Nubian Valley was to be covered by the lake that would be formed by the Aswan High Dam. Hence, the Nubians had to be moved. The Nubians in Egypt were moved to newly reclaimed land in the Komombo area between October 1963 and June 1964. The Nubians in Sudan were relocated to Khashm el-Girba (later called the New Haifa Project) between January 1964 and February 1967. A few Nubians who refused to leave stayed behind, relocating to higher elevations.

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