[noo-bee-uh, nyoo-]
Nubia, ancient state of NE Africa. At the height of its political power Nubia extended, from north to south, from the First Cataract of the Nile (near Aswan, Egypt) to Khartoum, in Sudan. It early came under the influence of the pharaohs, and in the 20th cent. B.C. Seti I completed the occupation of the area. Many centuries later Egypt itself was ruled (8th and 7th cent. B.C.) by conquering Nubians of the Cush (Kush) kingdom. Later, after the Assyrians expelled (c.667 B.C.) Tirhakah from Egypt, the Cushite capital was moved (c.530) from Napata to Meroë. Meroë fell (c.350) to the Ethiopians and was abandoned. The region then came under the sway of the Nobatae, an ethnic group that mixed with the indigenous stock and formed a powerful kingdom with its capital at Dongola. The kingdom was converted to Christianity in the 6th cent. A.D. Joined with the Christian kingdom of Ethiopia, it long resisted Muslim encroachment, but in the 14th cent. it finally collapsed. Nubia was then broken up into many petty states. Muhammad Ali of Egypt conquered (1820-22) Nubia, and in the late 19th cent. much of the area was held by supporters of the Mahdi.

See A. J. Arkell, A History of the Sudan to A.D. 1821 (1955).

Semna was a fortified town established in the reign of Senusret I (1965-1920 BC) on the west bank of the Nile at the southern end of a series of fortresses founded during the 12th Dynasty (1985-1795 BC) in the second-cataract area of Lower Nubia. The Semna gorge, at the southern edge of ancient Egypt, was the narrowest part of the Nile valley. It was here, at this strategic location, that the 12th Dynasty pharaohs built a cluster of four mud-brick fortresses: Semna, Kumma, Semna South and Uronarti (all covered by the waters of Lake Nasser since the completion of the Aswan High Dam in 1971). The rectangular Kumma fortress, the L-shaped Semna fortress (on the opposite bank) and the smaller square fortress of Semna South were each investigated by the American archaeologist George Reisner in 1924 and 1928. Semna and Kumma also included the remains of temples, houses and cemeteries dating to the New Kingdom (1550-1069 BC), which would have been roughly contemporary with such lower Nubian towns as Amara West and Sesebisudla, when the second cataract region had become part of an Egyptian 'empire', rather than simply a frontier zone.


  • G.A Reisner, 'Excavation in Egypt and Ethiopia', BMFA22 (1925), 18-28.
  • D.Dunham and J.M.A.Janssen, Second cataract forts I: Senna, Kumma (Boston, 1960), 5-112.
  • B.J.Kemp, Ancient Egypt: anatomy of a civilization (London, 1989), 174-6.


  • Ian Shaw and Paul Nicholson, The Dictionary of Ancient Egypt, 258

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