We’re all familiar with the pharaohs of Egypt. What is less well known is that kings and pharaohs whose power matched that of the Egyptians lived to the south of Egypt, along the Nile in what is now Sudan. The archaeological exhibition Nubia – Land of the Black Pharaohs provides a new look at Nubia’s ancient history. Whereas Nubia was long portrayed primarily as a colony of Egypt, the Drents Museum now presents it as an African superpower with a rich culture. A selection of more than three hundred objects from the Nubian collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston expresses this culture and unveils the mystery of ancient Nubia. Visitors of the exhibition will find themselves in a Nubian pyramid landscape. The exhibits have rarely been displayed in Europe before.
A new look at Nubia
In the years between 1907 and 1928 the American Egyptologist George Reisner carried out various excavations in Nubia, when archaeological remains came under threat from treasure hunters and the construction of dams. It was agreed that he would take some of the finds back to America with him. The other finds were presented to museums in Khartoum and Cairo. Educated as an Egyptologist, Reisner saw Nubia primarily as a peripheral region of Egypt. But in actual fact the region was far from peripheral. In antiquity, Nubia was the leading trading centre between Egypt, Central Africa and the Red Sea region. Nubian pottery ranked among the most refined worldwide and the Nubians used a script of their own that is still not fully understood today. Nubia had a major impact on the region’s history. Nubian culture has a distinct identity all its own showing influences from ancient Egypt.
The impressive treasures dating from the period from 2400 BC until AD 350 tell the story of the love-hate relationship between ancient Egypt and the Nubian kingdoms. The exhibition focuses on the years between 750 and 664 BC, when the Nubians conquered Egypt and the Nubian black pharaohs ruled the Egyptian empire. In this period the black pharaohs brought about a cultural revival in Nubia and Egypt. Absolute highlights in the exhibition are the finds from the pyramid of King Taharqa and stunning gold objects from other Nubian pyramids, including those of several Nubian queens.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The exhibition is a collaboration of the Drents Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Between 1907 and 1928 researchers from the museum in Boston were involved in the excavations of the finds in Nubia, which is why the American museum now has the most diverse Nubian collection in the world.
Nubia will be on show at the Drents Museum from 16 December 2018 up to and including 5 May 2019. The exhibition is accompanied by a book of the same title published by WBOOKS (Zwolle). It can be bought at the museum’s shop for € 24.95. Nubia - Land of the Black Pharaohs is in line with the Drents Museum’s tradition of bringing unique international archaeological collections to Assen. It is the tenth in the series of exhibitions organised under the heading of International Archaeology in the Drents Museum.
Click the images below to enlarge them.
Captions (from left to right and top to bottom)
- Statue of King Senkamanisken, 643–623 B.C., Harvard University-Boston, Museum of Fine Arts Expedition, © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
- Hathor-headed crystal pendant, 743-712 B.C., Harvard University-Boston, Museum of Fine Arts Expedition, © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
- Bracelet with image of Hathor, 250-100 B.C., Harvard University-Boston, Museum of Fine Arts Expedition, © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
- Mohammedani Ibrahim Ibrahim, Gebel Barkal: pyramid 3 | Harvard University – Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition, Photographs © Museum of Fine Arts Boston
- Shawabty of King Taharqa, 690–664 B.C., Harvard University-Boston, Museum of Fine Arts Expedition, © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
- Inlay eyes from coffin, 593-568 B.C., Harvard University – Boston, Museum of Fine Arts Expedition, Photographs © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston