Early cultures

Kerma Classique spouted potKerma Classique spouted pot

Our knowledge of Sudan in ancient times is almost totally confined to the northern third of the country. This area was part of Nubia, which stretched along the Nile valley from Aswan, Egypt to Khartoum, Sudan. There is evidence of human habitation in Nubia from around 300,000 years ago. These earliest people had a nomadic existence and the first settled societies appeared much later, between 7000 and 6000 BC.

After 3700 BC a distinctive farming culture known as the A-Group developed in Nubia, just south of the Egyptian border. Their craftsmen produced body ornaments and pottery and they traded goods such as gold and ivory with their Egyptian neighbours. The culture died out around 2800 BC and the area was resettled by the C-Group around 2300 BC, many of whom probably moved in from the Western Desert. At the same time, further south, a massive metropolis was developing at Kerma. This and the surrounding region of southern Nubia was referred to in Egyptian texts as the kingdom of Kush.

The Egyptians first ventured into northern Sudan around 3000 BC. Initially they carried out small-scale trade with resident populations and exploited the region's rich natural resources. This escalated to occupation during the Middle Kingdom period (2040-1750 BC) and massive fortresses were built. Weakened, the Egyptians withdrew around 1750 BC, but returned with an invading force two hundred years later. They set up a colonial government headed by a representative known as the 'Viceroy of Kush'. The language, culture and dress of the upper strata of the resident population were strongly influenced by those of their overlords.

Illustration: Kerma Classique spouted pot, about 1750-1550 BC.