Black History Month!

2016 edit: a lot of teachers and librarians asked if there was a poster for this that they could buy.  Nope!  This post was made as an educational aid and teachers oughtn’t have to pay anything to get it in their classroom.  So here’s a link to download the poster’s print file to print it yourself:
did include the series in my recent art book 555 Character Drawings, so if you want it in a book with a lot of other stuff, that’s available, too.

My favorite parts of history (as might be obvious from my choice of subject matter when making books) are the ones that fall into easily-categorized genres, genres with associated visual iconographies. This is the sort of stuff I loved as a kid: pirates, knights, cowboys, explorers, romans and Egyptians and flying aces. Stuff you could find featured in a bag of toys or a generic costume.

For Black History Month, I thought I might visit some of these adventure-leaning periods and pick a few historic black people from those eras to draw, just for fun. If you’re doing a project or report in school this month, you could do worse than to tackle one of these toughies.  Feel free to share some of these with youngsters that you know.  And call them youngsters, they LOVE that.

(longer write-ups under the break)

Keep reading


In a desert in eastern Sudan, along the banks of the Nile River, lies a collection of nearly 200 ancient pyramids—many of them tombs of the kings and queens of the Meroitic Kingdom which ruled the area for more than 900 years. The Meroë pyramids, smaller than their Egyptian cousins, are considered Nubian pyramids, with narrow bases and steep angles on the sides, built between 2,700 and 2,300 years ago, with decorative elements from the cultures of Pharaonic Egypt, Greece, and Rome.

source: (x)

Italian-Russian archaeologists make major discovery in Sudan

(AGI) Rome, Jan 11 - A team of Italian and Russian archaeologists has made what the Sudan Antiquities Service is calling the most important discovery in the last decade. A basalt ritual altar, a base for a sacred boat, and a hieroglyphic inscription were uncovered at Abu Erteila, around 200km north of Khartoum, shedding new light on the Nubian civilization that existed between the 1st century BC and 1st century AD. The finding, AGI learned, is the fruit of the eighth round of excavations conducted from November to December 2015 by the international team led by Eugenio Fantusati, his deputy Marco Baldi, and by Eleonora Kormysheva. The mission was also officially recognized by the Italian foreign ministry.

“We’re still studying the text of the hieroglyphic inscriptions in Egyptian, but we’ve already identified the cartouches with the names of the royal couple they mention,” Professor Fantusati stated. “They are King Natakamani and Queen Amanitore, who ruled during the Golden Age of the Meroitic civilization that developed on the Nile. It played an important role on the international stage: consider the fact that it had commercial and diplomatic ties with the Roman Empire, up to its decline owed to the rise of the Ethiopian Kingdom of Axum.” Read more.


Nubian Artifacts Discovered in Temple Remains

Archaeologists have discovered a ritual altar, a sacred boat base, and a hieroglyphic inscription at the site of Abu Erteila in Sudan. They were recovered by a team of Russian and Italian archaeologists. 

The artifacts were found in the remains of a temple that was probably destroyed by fire and are thought to date to between the first century BCE. and the first century CE, the “Golden Age” of Meroitic Nubian civilization. The cartouches of the King Natakamani (20 BCE-1 CE) and his co-regent and successor, Queen Amanitore (1 BCE-50 CE?), have been identified from the hieroglyphic inscriptions. The most important artifact found at the site is perhaps the sacred boat base, which would at times have been used to carry the representation of a Nubian deity on ritual processions.

The Meroitic civilization was a dynasty of the Nubian Kingdom of Kush which ruled from 270 BCE to 400 CE. Much about the Meroitic era of Kush is still largely unknown except for the fact that the kingdom had extensive contact with Egypt and the Hellenistic world. The Meroitic Kingdom was absorbed by the Kingdom of Axum in the fifth century CE. The Sudan Antiquities Service is calling the artifacts “the most important discovery in the last decade,” and are hoping that the artifacts will help gain a better understanding of the Meroitic world. 

Buddhism in Ancient Egypt and Meroe – Beliefs Revealed Through Ancient Script

Did Buddhism exist in Ancient Egypt and Kush? Archaeologists stumbled across evidence of an ancient colony in the sand dating to around 525-405 BC. Guest author Dr. Clyde Winters examines ancient scripts and texts to reveal a trail of clues leading to a surprising history.

Read more…


1st-2nd Century AD


The so-called ‘Meroitic period’ was the last major phase of the history of the kingdom of Kush in Nubia. The term is used to cover the approximate period 300 BC-AD 350. The earlier date roughly marks the date when the kings began to be buried at Meroe, which had already been functioning as a capital city for some time. The highpoint of this phase was in the first century BC and first century AD, and pottery was one of its most outstanding products. There is definite variation in products from various parts of the kingdom, suggesting the existence of local ceramic centres, particularly in the north (Faras and Karanog). However, the range of types and decoration has made the creation of an internal chronology rather difficult. Two examples are given here to illustrate two of the principal types: those with mostly figured decoration in red and black on white, and a decorative style mostly in black on an orangeish ground, with floral and some figured decoration.

(Source: The British Museum)

Sudan: Meroe Pyramids

Meroe was a wealthy metropolis of the ancient kingdom of Kush in what is today the Republic of Sudan. The city was located at the crossroads of major trade routes and it flourished from 800 BCE to 350 CE. As no one yet has been able to decipher the Meroitic script, very little can be said for certain on how Meroe grew to become the wonderous city written about by Herodotus in circa 430 BCE, but it is known that the city was so famous for its wealth in ancient times that the Persian King Cambyses mounted an expedition to capture it (the expedition faltered long before reaching the city owing to the difficult and inhospitable terrain of the desert). The city was also known as the Island of Meroe as the waters flowing around it made it appear so.”

For more information on in the Kingdom of Meroe and its famous queen, Candace Amanitore click here

Winged disc again…

Funerary stela, Sandstone Kushite, Meroitic

Round-topped stelae are a regular feature in later Kushite cemeteries. They were set up in the small chapels built against the eastern walls of the pyramids or the mastabas that covered the graves. On this example, beneath a winged disc flanked by two Uraei is carved a cursive inscription in Meroitic.

The Meroitic language has not yet been deciphered, however it can be determined that funerary inscriptions which include an invocation to Isis and Osiris, the name and parentage of the deceased and formulae of benediction, are repetitive and may be confidently translated. The stela belongs to Waleye, son or daughter of Kadite and ‘the chief’ (?), niece or nephew of the Athmo Warebali, of the Asidi Shatameterura and of the Asidi Shategala. The title Athmo apparently indicates an important function, while the title Asidi indicates a local function. Such details make funerary inscriptions a precious source of information on the society of that period.

From the island of Sai.

Kushite Empire - Part 1: “Rise of the Kushite Empire

ethelwulfhrodberht, irminsul-crepusculum-soporis,
johnnylawgottagun, jespru, vivilu98

Part 2: Battle for Memphis - LINK 

Prelude: Jebel Barkal and Napata

Under Thutmose I (c.1506-1493 BC), campaigns were led against Nubia which would eventually reach beyond the 4th cataract.

“Year 3, first month of the third season, day 22. His Majesty sailed this canal in victory and in the power of his return from overthrowing the wretched Kush.”

“O ye people of Dju-Wa’ab (‘Pure Mountain’), which was called Nesut-Tawy (‘Thrones of the Two Lands’ ie. Nubia and Egypt) before it was known.”

Jebel Barkal - Meroitic royal pyramids of the first century BC appearing behind
by Enrico Ferorelli

There was a mountain that when seen by the Egyptians, they were convinced that it was the residence of the god Amun, it was named Dju-Wa’ab (“Pure Mountain”) and Nesut-Tawy (“Thrones of the Two Lands”).

Ramesses II in his war chariot charging into battle against the Nubians

In the 15th regnal year of the Egyptian pharaoh Thutmose III (Born, 1481 BC. Ruled from 1479-1425 BC) established a fort and garrison there as well as a grand temple to Amun at Jebel Barkal. He notes that there was a native town near the mountain which would later be  named Napata. In time Egypt itself was at war with the Libyans, the Sea Peoples, and each  other and had to retract control over Kush, this fragmentation would later  make the conquest by the Nubians all the easier.

Egypt and Nubia c.1300 BC

Rise of Kush


He ruled Nubia in a time where the Egyptian language and hieroglyphics were used in their inscriptions, as well as granting themselves Egyptian royal titles, spoke of themselves as the “- heirs of the New Kingdom pharaohs” and the “-sons of Amun”. He unified Nubia from the city of Meroe to the third cataract and established the city of Napata as its capital and was the first significant restorer of the Amun cult in Nubia.

Reconstruction of the temple of Amon near Jebel Barkal

(“the Kushite, from the land of Kush”, reign c.760-750 BC)

After the death of Alara, his son took the throne. He ruled Nubia from the capital city of Napata. He built a mud-brick palace at Jebel Barkal, and is believed to have been the first of his dynasty to have lived in Napata permanently. This Kushite king placed his daughter, Amenirdis I, as the successor of a position called ‘God’s Wife of Amun’, the highest rank one could have within the Amun cult which was centered in Thebes. This important religious and political position took the Nubians one step closer to taking over Egyptian lands.

His takeover has been seen as a peaceful one, as those who previously ruled remained within the city, working jointly with the Nubians and were eventually buried in Thebes. His arrived at Thebes was welcomed by the priests of Amun for they were under threat from the north and had long relied upon Nubian soldiers for protection (for more on this, see my post on the Medjay). Egyptian culture and religion flooded into Nubia during his reign and after his death he was buried within a Nubian pyramid. Kashta’s successor was his son Piye, the most famous of the Nubian of this dynasty.

(ruled c. 750-712 BC)

Upon attaining the throne of Nubia and Upper Egypt (southern Egypt, Thebes in this instance) he placed his daughter Shepenwepet II as ‘God’s Wife of Amun’. Taking advantage of the fragmented situation of Lower Egypt (Northern Egypt) Piye began to expand northward and in doing so he attracted the eyes of Tefnakhte of Sais rose against him.

War of the Five Kings

Fragmented Egypt during the Third Intermediate Period

[PURPLE] Piye – Nubian King of Kush and Thebes.
[RED] Tefnakhte - Chief of the West, Libyan King of Saïs.
[GREY] Osorkon IV – Libyan Pharaoh of Tanis and Bubastis.
[YELLOW] Iuput II – Libyan King of Leontopolis.
[TAN] Nimlot – Libyan King of Hermopolis.

During this period the majority of Egypt was under the control of the Libyan Weshesh, both the 23rd and the 24th dynasties of Egypt were ruled by Libyan pharaohs. One of these Libyan rulers was named Tefnakhte, a prince ruling from the city of Saïs, rallies the north and rises against the South. City after city fell to him; out of fear they opened their gates and welcomed his forces. Piye hears of this incoming threat:

“Then [his majesty] heard [the message] with courageous heart, laughing, and joyous of heart. These princes and commanders of the army who were in their cities sent to his majesty daily, saying: “Wilt thou be silent, even to forgetting the Southland, the divisions of the [court]? While Tefnakhte advances his conquest and finds none to repel his arm.”

Namert, once an ally of Piye, sides with Tefnakhte. Seeing this as a holy war supported by Amun himself, Piye readies his army and has them perform a ritual cleansing at the Amun cult temple of Karnak in Thebes.

[TAN] Nimlot - Libyan King of Hermopolis
[ORANGE] Peftjauawybast – Ally of Piye, ruler of Herakleopolis.

‘We know not what he cries in mustering troops. Yoke the war horses, the best of thy stable; draw up the line of battle! Thou knowest that Amon is the god who has sent us.’ ”

“When ye arrive at Thebes, before Karnak, ye shall enter into the water, ye shall bathe in the river, ye shall dress in [fine linen], unstring the bow, loosen the arrow. Let not the chief boast as a mighty man; there is no strength to the mighty without him, He [Amun] maketh the weak-armed into the strong-armed, so that multitudes flee from the feeble, and one alone taketh a thousand men.

Sprinkle yourselves with the water of his altars, sniff the ground [kneel, bow]before him. Say ye to him, ‘Give us the way, that we may fight in the shadow of thy sword. (As for) the generation [young men] whom thou hast sent out, when its attack occurs, multitudes flee before it.’ ”

^ Nubians

^ Nubians trading with Egyptians. The Nubians exported ebony and ivory, gold, ostrich feathers, slaves, leopard skins, exotic fruits and animals.

“there are mines of gold, silver, iron and brass, besides abundance of ebony and all sorts of precious stones.” - Diodorus I: 33

^ Nubians dancing to the sound of a drum.

For more on the Nubians, check out my post on the Medjay.

Battle on the Nile
729/28 BC

As Piye’s army sails northward they meet up with a large northern navy which was slaughtered and the survivors captured. They then went to the frontier of Heracleopolis and demanded a battle.

“They sailed down-stream upon the river, they found many ships coming up-streams bearing soldiers, sailors, and commanders, every valiant man of the Northland, equipped with weapons of war, to fight  against the army of his majesty. Then there was made a great slaughter among them, (whose) number was unknown. Their troops and their ships were captured, and brought as living captives to the place where his majesty was [Napata].”

The Battles Near Heracleopolis

Another naval battle occurred, a great slaughter fell upon the northern force with the survivors landing on the west side of the Nile. The next morning the enemy was slain in a pitched battle, both horses and men of unknown number had fallen, leading the enemy to rout back to the North.


The traitor Nimlot fled to the city of Hermopolis and Piye’s forces sieged it. Reports were sent to Piye of their victories, “enraged like a panther” by the fact that a remnant of the enemy army has fled northward, he marches northward to finish them off.

“I will myself go northward, that I may destroy that which he has done, that I may make him turn back from fighting, forever.”

^ Egyptians

Though Egypt was ruled by the Libyans, the military stayed relatively similar to the Egyptian archetype. 

[^ An assumption that I made from what artwork I’ve seen from the period. I could be wrong, if I am then politely inbox me privately so I can correct this. These Libyan dynasties are still seen as obscure to most historians and archaeologists]

^ Sphinx of the Libyan Pharaoh, Shoshenq I

Pendant bearing the cartouche of the Libyan Pharaoh, Osorkon II

Relief thought to depict the Libyan Pharaoh, Osorkon IV

Libyan Pharaoh, Tefnakht, on his year 8 stela. The Chief of the West

Most of the information I’ve supplied has come straight from the English translations of Piye’s stele. (SOURCE)

(If you want to see more, tell me via reblog, reply and/or inbox)


Debod, a ptolemaic temple

The temple of Debod was located in Lower Nubia, in southern Egypt, very near the first cataract and a major religious center dedicated to the goddess Isis on the island of Philae. This region, bordering on the powerful kingdom of Meroe, was disputed by Egyptian and Meroitic rulers until the first century before Christ, when the Roman Emperor Augustus established the definitive border.

From the third century after Christ the region remained under the control of desert nomads, outside Rome’s sphere of influence. Construction of the temple was started early in the second century before Christ by Meroitic king Adikhalamani, who built a chapel dedicated to the gods Amun and Isis. This chapel, decorated with reliefs, is one of the few places that records  Adikhalamani’s reign. Later, various pharaohs of the Ptolemaic dynasty erected new rooms around the original nucleus, giving it the appearance it preserves to date. After Egypt was annexed to the Roman Empire, Emperors Augustus, Tiberius, and possibly Adrian completed the temple’s construction and decoration. With the closing of the sanctuaries to Isis in Philae in the sixth century, the temple was finally abandoned.

Debod in Madrid

In response to the construction of Aswan High Dam and the resulting threat to the monuments and archeological remains of Lower Nubia, in 1960 the UNESCO launched an international campaign to rescue the endangered monuments.  In 1968 Spain received the Temple of Debod as a token of gratitude for the aid provided in saving Abu Simbel. Reconstructed and opened to the public in 1972, the Temple of Debod is one of the few architectural testimonies from ancient Egypt that can be seen in its entirety outside Egypt itself, and the only one with its unique characteristics to be found in Spain.

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