The Nobatian X-Group

The Post-Meroitic phase of Sudanese history, which roughly covers the period from the fourth to the sixth centuries CE, is most distinguished by the X-Group culture. The X-Group is associated with the Nobatian—or perhaps Nubian—nomads who settled different areas of Sudan's Nile Valley begeinning in about the third century.1 By the fifth century, orgnized groups of Nubians had already fought and occupied areas of the Nile Valley that were originally part of the Kushite kingdom. Some Nubian leaders proclaimed the titles of kings and claimed indipendence from the kingdom of Kush.

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Model of 5th century CE Nubian/Nobatian silver crown
Nubian crown

Archeologists in Lower Nubia have uncovered houses and burial structures consisting of tumuli. In central Sudan, Tangasi has been a major archeological site where royal burial mounds are found.

At Soba East, only one mud brick temple was located for the period.2 However, the evidence for the continuation of Meroitic religious traditions and cults, such as that of Isis, are strong.

From the fourth century and on, burials on tumuli structures became the norm for the elite; that is for both the Kushites and the Nubians. Sacrificial traditions involving the inhumation of horses and camels were commonly practiced.3

The tumulus burial tradition seen among the Nubians goes back to the early Kerma period. However, the reason for the revival of such an abolished and a much ancient tradition remains unknown. In this era, Sudan has witnessed the growth of individual kingdoms along the Nile Valley. This is noticeable from the development of different elite burial cemeteries.

Such cemeteries are located mainly in three places; the first is at el-Hobagi in central Sudan, south west of Meroe; and the second is at Tanqasi in the vicinity of the ancient Kushite capital of Napata; and the third is located in an uninhabited area between the towns of Faras and Ballana.

By the sixth century, three kingdoms were already forged in Sudan.4 The first one is at Alwa with its capital in Soba, a few kilometers north of Khartoum; the second one, located farther north, is the kingdom of Makuria with its capital Dongola; and the third is located at Halfa with its capital Faras, in Lower Nubia. In the same century these kingdoms converted to Christianity.5

Click here for larger view. Nubian kingdoms by the first-century B.C.
Nubia X-Group

  • 1 D. N. Edwards, The Nubian Past: An Archaeology of the Sudan (Routledge, 2004) 195.
  • 2 D. A. Welsby, The Kingdom of Kush: The Napatan and Meroitic Empires (Marcus Wiener, 1998) 203.
  • 3 See: P. Lenoble, "The Pre-Christian Empire And Kingdoms". Sudan Ancient Treasures: An Exhibition Of Recent Discoveries From The Sudan National Museum, ed. D. A. Welsby, and J. R. Anderson (British Museum P, 2004) 186-92.
  • 4 P. L. Shinnie, "Medieval Nubia", Sudan Antiquities Service (Khartoum, 1954) .
  • 5 See: Shinnie, note 4 above .
Authored: 2004.
Edited: Jul. 2009.

The primary material of the website is authored by Ibrahim Omer © 2008.