(The Contents of the New York Times, March 1, 1979 article that appeared on pages 1 & A16; refered to by Dr. Yosef A.A. ben-Jochannan's paper on George G.M. James)
Nubian Monarchy Called Oldest*
By Boyce Renseberger
(From page 1)
Evidence of the oldest recognizable monarchy in human history, preceding the rise of the earliest Egyptian kings by several generations, has been discovered in artifacts from ancient Nubia in Africa.
Until now it had been assumed that at that time the ancient Nubian culture, which existed in what is now northern Sudan and southern Egypt, had not advanced beyond a collection of scattered tribal clans and chiefdoms.
The existence of rule by kings indicates a more advanced form of political organization in which many chiefdoms are united under a more powerful and wealthier ruler.
The discovery is expected to stimulate a new appraisal of the origins of civilization in Africa, raising the question of to what extent later Egyptian culture may have derived its advanced politicat structure from the Nubians. The various symbols of Nubian royalty that have been found are the same as those associated, in later times, with Egyptian kings.
The new findings suggest that the ancient Nubians may have reached this stage of political development as long ago as 3300 B.C., several generations before the earliest documented Egyptian king.
The discovery is based on study of artifacts from ancient tombs excavated 15 years ago in an international effort
(From page A16)
Clues to Oldest Monarchy Found in Nubia
to rescue archeological deposits before the rising waters of the Aswan Dam covered them.
The artifacts, including hundreds of fragments of pottery, jewelry, stone vessels, and ceremonial objects such as incense burners, were initially recovered from the Qustul cemetery by Keith C. Seele, a professor at the University of Chicago. The cemetery, which contained 33 tombs that were heavily plundered in ancient times, was on the Nile near the modern boundary between Egypt and the Sudan.
The significance of the artifacts, which had been in storage at the university's oriental Institute, was not fully appreciated until last year, when Bruce Williams, a research associate, began to study them.
"Keith Seele had suspected the tombs were special, perhaps even royal," Dr. Williams said in an interview. "It was obvious from the quantity and quality of the painted pottery and the jewelry that we were dealing with wealthy people. But it was the picture on a stone incense burner that indicated we really had the tomb of a king."
On the incense burner, which was broken and had to be pieced together, was a depiction of a palace façade, a crowned king sitting on a throne in a boat, a royal standard before the king and, hovering above the king, the falcon god Horus. Most of the images are ones commonly associated with kingship in later Egyptian traditions.
The portion of the incense burner bearing the body of the king is missing but, Dr. Williams said, scholars are agreed that the presence of the crown—in a form well known from dynastic Egypt—and the god Horus are irrefutable evidence that the complete image was that of a king.
Clue on Incense Burner
The majestic figure on the incense burner, Dr. Williams said, is the earliest known representation of a king in the Nile Valley. His name is unknown, but he is believed to have lived approximately three generations before the time of Scorpion, the earliest-known Egyptian ruler. Scorpion was one of three kings said to have ruled Egypt before the start of what is called the first dynasty around 3050 B.C.
Dr. Williams said the dating is based on correlations of artistic styles in the Nubian pottery with similar styles in predynastic Egyptian pottery, which is relatively well dated.
He said some of the Nubian artifacts bore disconnected symbols resembling those of Egyptian hieroglyphics that were not readable.
"They were on their way to literacy," Dr. Williams said, "probably quite close to Egypt in this respect."
He said it was not known what the ancient Nubian civilization was called at the time but that he suspected it was Ta-Seti, a name known from Egyptian writings that means "Land of the Bow," referring to the weapon which, apparently, was deemed characteristic of peoples in that part of Africa.
Dr. Williams said there were accounts in later Egyptian writings of the Egyptians attacking Ta-Seti some time around 3000 B.C. This is just about the time, according to the archeological record, when a major cultural transformation began in that part of Nubia. Little is known of what was happening in this region between 3000 B.C. and 2300 B.C. when inhabitants were unquestionably governed by separate chiefdoms.
Their descendents, he suggested, may have developed the Sudanese Kingdom of Kush, based in Kurma, Egyptians for sovereignty and, in fact, prevailed over them for a while.
A detailed monograph on the discoveries is in preparation, but there is no deadline and publication is expected to be a few years away.