For nearly three thousand years, a series of kingdoms flourished in the Sudanese Nile Valley—a region known in antiquity as Kush and by modern scholars as Nubia. Ancient Nubian trade networks reached across the Mediterranean to Greece and Rome and far into central Africa. In the eighth century BCE, Nubian kings based at the capital city of Napata conquered neighboring Egypt, and for nearly a century, controlled one of the largest empires in antiquity. The Nubians built major cities, temples, palaces, and more pyramids than the Egyptians. Their artists and craftspeople created magnificent jewelry, pottery, metalwork, furniture, and sculpture. Yet for many people today, this powerful history remains little known.
Ancient Nubia: Art of the 25th Dynasty presents two hundred works of art, all from the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, made during the peak of Nubian power. The exhibition features masterpieces that highlight the skill, artistry, and innovation of Napatan makers and reflect the wealth and power of their kings and queens. For much of the century since their discovery, the significance of these objects was not fully realized, leading them to be interpreted as merely derivative of Egyptian material culture. Only in recent decades has a more accurate history of mutual influence among these civilizations come to be thoroughly researched, appreciated, and understood.