Sudan: Early History

Early History

Northeast Sudan, called Nubia in ancient times, was colonized (c.2000 b.c.) by Egypt as far as the fourth cataract of the Nile (near modern Karima). From the 8th cent. b.c. to the 4th cent. a.d. this region was ruled by the Cush kingdom, centered first at Napata (near the fourth cataract) and after c.600 b.c. at Meroë (between the fifth and sixth cataracts). From c.750 to c.650 b.c., Cush ruled Egypt as a result of a dynastic replacement. Meroë was a center of trade and ironworking, and from there iron technology may have spread to other parts of Africa.

Most of the inhabitants of Nubia were converted to Coptic Christianity in the 6th cent. a.d., and by the 8th cent. three states flourished in the area. These states long resisted invasions from Egypt, which had come under Muslim rule in the 7th cent. However, from the 13th to the 15th cent. the region was increasingly infiltrated by peoples from the north; the states collapsed, and Nubia gradually became Muslim. The former southern part of Sudan, which became independent as South Sudan in 2011, continued to adhere to traditional African beliefs. Much of the north was ruled by the Muslim state of Funj from the 16th cent. until 1821, when it was conquered by armies sent by Muhammad Ali of Egypt.

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