The term Nubian describes an ethnic group that originated in modern-day Sudan. Today, people of Nubian descent primarily live in Sudan, and inhabit the region between Wadi Halfa in the north and Al Dabbah in the south. The main Nubian groups from north to south are the Halfaweyen, Sikut, Mahas, and Dongola. They speak a variety of Nilo-Saharan languages in the Nubian language family. Nubian people have a long history dating back to dynastic Egypt, and Nubians even founded a dynasty that ruled upper and lower Egypt during the 8th century BCE. Ancient Nubians were famous for their skill and precision with the bow.
Nubians are the people that inhabited the region south of Egypt, known today as Sudan and mainly settled along the banks of the Nile. They were very famous for their horsemanship, for which they rode their horses bareback and held on by their knees, making them light, mobile, and efficient, and a good cavalry choice. Their Nubian language is an Eastern Sudanic language, part of the Nilo-Saharan phylum.
The Old Nubian language is attested from the 8th century, and is thus the oldest recorded language of Africa outside of the Afro-Asiatic group. It was the language of the Noba nomads who occupied the Nile between the First and Third Cataracts and the Makorae nomads who occupied the land between the Third and Fourth Cataracts following the collapse of the Kingdom of Kush sometime in the 4th century AD. The Makorae were a separate tribe who eventually conquered or inherited the lands of the Noba: they established a Byzantine-influenced state called the Kingdom of Makuria which administered the Noba lands separately as the eparchy of Nobadia. Nobadia was converted to Miaphysitism by the Orthodox priest Julian and Bishop Longinus of Constantinople, and thereafter received its bishops from the Pope of Alexandria.
The name “Nubia” or “Nubian” has a contested origin. It may originate with an ancient Egyptian noun, nebu, meaning gold. Another etymology claims that it originates with the name of a particular group of people, the Noubai, living in the area that would become known as Nubia. Scholars may also refer to Nubians as Kushites, a reference to the Kush, the territory of the Nubians as it was called by Ancient Egyptians. It may originate with the Greek historian Strabo, who referred to the Nubas people.
The earliest history of ancient Nubia comes from the Paleolithic Era of 300,000 years ago. By around 6000 BCE, the Nubians had developed an agricultural economy and had contact with Egypt. The Nubians began using a system of writing relatively late in their history, when they adopted the Egyptian system. Ancient Nubian history is categorized according to the following periods:
A-group culture (3700-2800 BCE)
C-group culture (2300-1600 BCE)
Kingdom of Kerma (2500-1500 BCE)
Nubian contemporaries of Egyptian New Kingdom (1550-1069 BCE)
Kingdom of Napata and Egypt’s Nubian dynasty XXV (1000-653 BCE)
Kingdom of Napata (1000-275 BCE)
Kingdom of Meroe (275 BCE-300/350 CE)
Nubia consisted of four regions with varied agriculture and landscapes. The Nile river and its valley lay in the north and central parts of Nubia, allowing farming using irrigation. The western Sudan had a mixture of peasant agriculture and nomadism. Eastern Sudan had primarily nomadism, with a few areas of irrigation and agriculture. Finally, there was the fertile pastoral region of the south, where Nubia’s larger agricultural communities were located.
Nubia was dominated by kings from clans that controlled the gold mines. Trade in exotic goods from other parts of Africa—ivory, animal skins—passed to Egypt through Nubia.