The best books on ancient Nubia

Who am I?

I became interested in the art and written language of ancient Egypt due to its beauty and antiquity. Writing is art and art often contains text in this oldest written African language. I am fascinated with the process of religious change, intercultural interaction, and resistance to colonization. All of these themes are present in the study of the last functioning Egyptian temple, Philae, which is dedicated to the worship of Isis. What is often omitted from the history of this exceptional Egyptian temple is the fact that it was Nubians who defended and sustained the traditional religious practices long after most Egyptians had converted to Christianity. I wrote my book to research and share this neglected history.


I wrote...

Calling Out to Isis: The Enduring Nubian Presence at Philae

By Solange Ashby,

Book cover of Calling Out to Isis: The Enduring Nubian Presence at Philae

What is my book about?

While many books have explored the expansion of the worship of the goddess Isis outside of Egypt throughout the Mediterranean and in Greece and Rome, the worship of Isis by Nubians has largely been ignored.

This book argues that the enduring religious presence of Nubian worshippers, over a period of one thousand years, profoundly influenced the unique rites performed at the temples of Philae and Dakka, in addition to introducing the worship of Nubian gods into the temple cult. For the first time, this book considers all Nubian prayer inscriptions – written in Egyptian Demotic, Meroitic, and Greek – to reveal that Nubian piety at Philae occurred in three discrete phases in which very different groups of Nubians arrived at Philae to perform rites.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Ancient Nubia: African Kingdoms on the Nile

Solange Ashby Why did I love this book?

A beautiful coffee table book, complete with stunning photographs by Chester Higgins, this publication includes maps, general articles about Nubia, and a gazetteer of stunning sites from Gebel Qeili and Naqa in the south to Philae, Elephantine, and Aswan in the North. The general articles range from art and architecture, kings and kingship, religion, texts, and women in ancient Nubia. This book is a beautiful and welcoming introduction to the vibrant land of ancient Nubia.

By Marjorie M. Fisher (editor), Peter Lacovara (editor), Salima Ikram (ed)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ancient Nubia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

2012 American Publishers (PROSE) Awards winner for Best Archaeology & Anthropology Book For most of the modern world, ancient Nubia seems an unknown and enigmatic land. Only a handful of archaeologists have studied its history or unearthed the Nubian cities, temples, and cemeteries that once dotted the landscape of southern Egypt and northern Sudan. Nubia’s remote setting in the midst of an inhospitable desert, with access by river blocked by impassable rapids, has lent it not only an air of mystery, but also isolated it from exploration. Over the past century, particularly during this last generation, scholars have begun to…


Book cover of Sacred Nile

Solange Ashby Why did I love this book?

Can you tell I am a fan of Chester Higgins? This book traces the flow of the Sacred Nile from south to north, connecting the highlands of Ethiopia, the heartland of the kingdoms of Kush (Kerma, Napata, Meroe), and the better-known treasures of ancient Egypt. All of this is depicted in stunning photographs, while the cultural and historical connections between these lands that border the Nile are lovingly described as a spiritual connection to the waters of the sacred Nile.

By Chester HIggins, Betsy Kissam,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sacred Nile as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sacred Nile is the story of our collective spiritual imagination and practice. Chester Higgins celebrates the agency of people of African descent and their influence on the foundation of Western religion. His images illustrate how faith migrated up and down the River Nile from Ethiopia to Egypt leaving vestiges of ancient practice in today’s worship. This visual portrayal of faith reexamines our spiritual beginnings.


Book cover of Roots of Nubian Christianity Uncovered: The Triumph of the Last Pharaoh

Solange Ashby Why did I love this book?

“Long after ancient Egypt had been subdued by the Ptolemies and Rome, ancient Nubian civilization continued to thrive in late antiquity as an independent kingdom, first as a classical pharaonic culture and then as a Christian polity until the 15th century...like other forms of African Christianity that have been shaped by African traditional religions and culture. Nubian Christianity was fundamentally African.” Dr. Faraji’s book is a perfect complement to my own. As I trace the very late survivals of traditional pharaonic religion among the Nubians, Dr. Faraji teases out the earliest appearance of Christianity and traces its connections to the religions that preceded it.

By Salim Faraji,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Roots of Nubian Christianity Uncovered as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The history of Late Antique Africa and the origins of Nubian Christianity have received little attention by Africanists and have been virtually ignored by Africana historians. For Nubiologists, church historians and scholars of late antiquity the story of this ancient African civilization and its conversion to Christianity has been primarily understood as an addendum to Greco-Roman classical antiquity thereby positioning ancient Nubia during late antiquity as a passive receptacle of culture as opposed to a historical actor emerging through the cultural anteriority of its own religious traditions. Ancient Nubia was at once a Nile Valley and Sudanic civilization. Its history…


Book cover of The Image of the Black in Western Art, Volume I: From the Pharaohs to the Fall of the Roman Empire

Solange Ashby Why did I love this book?

While this book is problematic in that it tries to posit ancient Egyptian art as “Western art”, it includes excellent articles by esteemed scholars of Egypt and Nubia as well as copious images of ancient art from the Nile Valley (Egypt and Nubia) and Greek and Roman art depicting Black people. Despite the incorrigible racism expressed in the Introduction, the scholarly articles included in the book are replete with detailed information about the Africans who lived along the Nile River.

By David Bindman (editor), Henry Louis Gates (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Image of the Black in Western Art, Volume I as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the 1960s, art patron Dominique de Menil founded an image archive showing the ways that people of African descent have been represented in Western art. Highlights from her collection appeared in three large-format volumes that quickly became collector's items. A half-century later, Harvard University Press and the Du Bois Institute are proud to publish a complete set of ten sumptuous books, including new editions of the original volumes and two additional ones.

The new edition of From the Pharaohs to the Fall of the Roman Empire offers a comprehensive look at the fascinating and controversial subject of the representation…


Book cover of Arts of Ancient Nubia: MFA Highlights

Solange Ashby Why did I love this book?

Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts has the best Nubian collection in the United States and one of the very best in the world. This publication of Nubian jewelry held by the MFA is exceptional in its breadth: ceramics, stelae, figurines, faience and ivory inlays, and jewels of gold, silver, precious stones, and beadwork. The artifacts span 3000 years of Nubian history produced during the three Kushite kingdoms: Kerma (2650-1550 BCE), Napata (750-332 BCE), and Meroe (332 BCE - 300 CE).

By Denise Doxey (contributor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Arts of Ancient Nubia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ancient Nubia was home to a series of civilizations between the sixth millennium BCE and 350 CE that produced towering monuments, including more pyramids than in neighboring Egypt, and artifacts of enduring beauty and significance. Nubia's trade network reached across the Mediterranean and far into Africa. At the time that Nubian kings conquered Egypt, in the middle of the eighth century BCE, they controlled one of the largest empires of the ancient world.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has the most extensive and important collection of ancient Nubian art outside of Khartoum, mostly gathered during the pioneering Harvard University–Boston…


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Off Season

By Randy Kraft,

Book cover of Off Season

Randy Kraft Author Of Off Season

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Who am I?

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What is my book about?

When Sharon's ex-husband, Red, invites her to join him for a winter retreat, she agrees. After all, they've moved past what ails them, and they get on well. She will be on sabbatical fine-tuning a PhD dissertation, and he needs a respite from an illness. Why not enjoy the charms of a southern California beach town off-season?

Soothed by sea breezes, they become fascinated with their mysterious landlord and her late artist partner, Red is befriended by a flirty neighbor and her surfer husband, and Sharon shares her literary passions with a sexy retiree. When the winds of the pandemic blow, they have to confront their past within a daunting future.

Is off-season an opportunity for renewal or a glimpse of what might have been?

Off Season

By Randy Kraft,

What is this book about?

When Sharon's ex-husband, Red, invites her to join him for a winter retreat, she agrees. After all, they've moved past what ails them, she will be on sabbatical fine tuning a PhD dissertation, and he needs a respite from an illness. Why not enjoy the charms of a southern California beach town off season? On the other hand, what else might he have in mind and what will she face if she lets her guard down? Soothed by sea breezes and ocean views, they become fascinated with their mysterious landlord and her late partner, a Fauvist painter. Then, Red is…


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Interested in Nubia, the Nile river, and Boston?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Nubia, the Nile river, and Boston.

Nubia Explore 8 books about Nubia
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