Egyptological and more popular perceptions of Nubia and the Kushite dynasty have framed Kush as a periphery to civilized Egypt. But to what extent was Nubia a “backwater” to “effete and sophisticated” Egypt, as John Wilson once asserted? It is clear from recent archaeological work at Tombos and elsewhere that Nubia was not an unsophisticated backwater. Objects with Egyptianizing motifs in the international style asserted a cosmopolitan social status that connected their owners to an international elite culture that spanned Nubia and Egypt and extended across the Mediterranean during the Iron Age. The Kushite civilization that flourished for a thousand years was not an imperfect imitation of ancient Egypt, as some Egyptologists have asserted, or even the fount of Egyptian civilization, as some Afrocentric scholars have argued. Instead, Kushites adapted and integrated features taken from Egypt and the Mediterranean world to create a new and vibrant African tradition.
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