The one & the same origin of the civilization of Sudan, Egypt & Libya

Mon, 09 Apr 2018

Prof. Al Samani al Nasri Mohamed Ahmed


There are many common grounds in the history of the three countries that can easily be remarked. Many researchers & scholars referred this resemblance to the neighborhood & interaction in modern history or perhaps to the process of (human) movement which dominated as a result of trade in the middle ages, particularly in the zone of Sahara where commodities & products were transferred from & to the wide region of Sudan in an active commercial movement with the Mediterranean world. Going back to ancient history gives a clearer image to the process of intermingling & communication between the three countries.

The outset of the appearance of civilization in these countries had seen a joint birth – especially between Sudan & Egypt- & the process of communication continued without interruption throughout the ancient historical periods since the Stone Age. The process of interaction was at its peak when one of the countries would impose its domination over the whole or a major part of the Golden Triangle (Sudan – Egypt – Libya) without that being described as an invasion or occupation. It rather meant spreading of security or securing the borders – a thing indicating that each of the three countries assumed that it had the legitimate right to govern the other two.

The sculptures left by the rulers & kings of those periods are evidence of this assumption. This also confirmed by the resemblance leading almost to coincidence between the contents of the three museums of Sudan National Museum, the Egyptian museum in Cairo & the Libyan Museum in the Red Palace in Tripoli.

A visitor to these museums would be astonished by the obvious coincidence of the contents & would think that these archeological pieces were found in one site then distributed to those museums.

Even the locations are coinciding in the sense that whereas  the Sudan National Museum emerges over the Blue Nile bank a few meters from the conjunction with the White Nile, the Egyptian museum stands on the bank of  the Nile. As for the Red Palace it lies between the arms of the Mediterranean.

Based on the above, the joint history of these countries indicates that their future is tied with their unity, politically, economically, socially & culturally & that the fate & luxury of this triangle’s human beings depend on achieving this unity, in the course of getting past the crisis & dissent threatening the whole region.



Emergence of museums:

The first attempt to establish a museum dates as back as 290BC. In Alexandria due to Ptolemy family. The museum was an equivalent to a research institution under the supervision of the State, employed a number of great researchers & was composed of a lecture hall, garden & a telescope, housing unit, monastery & a library. The museum also included a good number of animals, plants & rocks & minerals.

The second attempt was in Italy where a museum was built in Rome in 189BC. to display the booties seized by the Romans during their wars & to display sculptures immortalizing the heroes & rulers of Rome.

Museums disappeared after these two attempts for hundreds of years to reappear again in the 15th Century when the University of Oxford inaugurated its museum in 1671. A number of museums were opened in the 18th Century, such as the Museum of the Vatican in 1750, the British Museum in 1753 & the Louvre Museum in Paris – France that opened its doors for the public in 1793 & which was meant to display the works of art seized by Napoleon Bonaparte during his wars. The museum was carrying Napoleon’s name until the fall of the Empire.

In Spain, the Prado Museum was opened in 1809.

In the USA, the first museum was opened in 1773 in Charleston in South Carolina to display samples of the national history of the region. Another museum followed in 1794 in Philadelphia; two branch museums for that followed in New York & Baltimore, respectively. In 1870, the American museum of Natural History & the Museum of Art were founded. In the same year, the Museum of Fine Art was opened in Boston.

Such European & American museums as the British, the Louvre & Boston museums keep unlimited pieces of antiquities that enabled them to compete with our national museums in numbers, shapes & types of pieces displayed. Our antiquities had been looted in organized & precise methods when our countries were occupied by the Europeans. Europeans took everything they could lay their hands on to adorn their castles, palaces & museums with our antiquities. They enacted international laws that prevent us from regaining our antiquities or even demanding to regain them. They made it unlawful to retrieve our most precious possessions of inheritance & civilization, with their aim being confiscation of our memories, seeing that a nation without a civilization or history is a sterile nation. 

It is inevitable to insist on demanding the retrieval of all looted antiquities. We must do a joint work to ask for apology & compensation for every fault committed against our people. 

In Asia, the former U.S.S.R is considered the eldest in the field of museums. The number of museums in the U.S.S.R reached more than 200 museums at the end of the 19th Century.

In Arab countries, museums have only recently appeared. This is ascribed to a number of factors including political, economic, social & religious factors. Perhaps the religious factor is the most effective one, as museums in the Muslim mind are linked with the gathering & displaying of idols, reminding the Muslim of Arab countries before Islam when Arabs used to worship mud-made & other idols.

The statues of kings & the sculptures have been classified as “Anîāb” & “Azlām” which were referred to in “verse no. 90 of Surat al Māida “O you who believe! Intoxicants, gambling & al Anîāb & al Azlām are abomination of the Satan’s handiwork so avoid that abomination in order that you may be successful”.

The establishment of museums in Arab countries started at the end of the 19th Century. Most of the museums concentrated on displaying Greek & Roman civilizations & on what was available of statues & findings made of clay, bronze & glass attributed to the two civilizations since they were opened during European occupation to these countries.

Prado Museum in Tunisia is one of the eldest Arab museums as it was founded in 1888. In Algeria, the museum of the Antiquities was established in 1897.


Sudan National Museum (SNM):


The first attempt to allocate a place in Sudan to display some precious items in 1504 when the Islamic Funj State was established & King U'mmāra Dungus & his A'bdallāb allies offered the invitation for people to go to “Sinnār” & see the booties they looted from the churches of “Sauba”. At the time, some presents, furniture & paintings were displayed but the statues & icons were destroyed because the people considered them as idols.

The second attempt to set up a museum in Sudan was during the Turkish Rule in 1834, when the Italian Friney destroyed “Bijrāwiya” pyramids with the purpose of getting the precious treasures included in them, &, having collected many antiquities he took the treasure of King Ummani Shiekhoo, considered as one of the greatest treasures on earth so far, & sent some historical pieces “antiquities” to “KhurshÌd” to display in his Palace in Khartoum. Senior employees & officials & the rich were allowed to see the antiquities according to a specified schedule*.

Sudan National Museum was established in Gordon Memorial College, later to be Khartoum University, whereas different groups of antiquities & folklore items were displayed along with a section for natural history. One year prior to that, the Antiquities Department was established in 1903 & the first Antiquities Act  was issued in 1905 thereby making Sudan one of  the first Arab countries to work on issuing special legislations to protect  antiquities & historical sites*.

Following the campaign of  the salvation of Nubian  antiquities, and because  of the huge amount of antiquities deposited in the stores of the Antiquities Department, the Sudanese Government decided to move the museum to a wider place that would accommodate the development that occurred in the national & official awareness regarding the importance of displaying the largest possible amount of historical pieces, whereas  it was chosen for this purpose a large piece of land neighboring the area of Mugran (the Confluence of the Blue & White Niles in Khartoum) directly west of the Friendship Hall.  

The Museum is made up of an exterior exhibition in the garden of the Museum whereas a group of temples are displayed around a lake extending 200 meters as a replica for the Nile, with the temples placed in the same order as they were before their movement. As for the interior of the Museum, it contained two large, main halls with the first being on the ground floor & containing pre-history antiquities, group civilizations & Karma, Nabta & Marawi civilizations, then the civilization of group S. The historical pieces were placed in accordance with their historical sequence. There was a yard for displaying gold antiquities but they were subject to stealing many times, and therefore, the Administration of the Museum decided to keep them in large safes within the buildings of the Corporation. The second hall included antiquities of the Christian era & some of the Islamic Funj Kingdom antiquities. Currently, work is going on to construct a group of displaying halls for the different Islamic & national governance period.

The Egyptian Museum – Cairo 

It contains the largest group of old Egyptian antiquities, even if it had competition by the British, French Louvre & the US Metropolitan museums. The Egyptian Museum had been there at the TaÊrÌr Square in the heart of Cairo since 1906 and includes 136.000 pieces of pharaonic antiquities in addition to thousands of antiquities hidden in the stores of the Museum.

The establishment of the Museum was an issue that started with the international concern regarding the Egyptian antiquities following the decoding of RashÌd Stone by the French scholar Champollion. The starting point of work for the Museum was a small house at the old Uzbakiya Lake whereas Mohamed Ali Pasha ordered the registration of fixed Egyptian antiquities & removal of valuable antiquities to the Museum of Uzbakiya in 1848. Following the death of Mohamed Ali Pasha, stealing of antiquities was continued once again & Mohamed Ali’s successors went on in the same way of giving antiquities as presents with the resulting dwindling of antiquities in the Museum. In 1858, Mariate was appointed as the first Chairman of the Antiquities Corporation (of that time) & he found that there had to be an administration & museum for antiquities, and that was why he chose the area of BŪlāq to establish a museum for Egyptian antiquities & moved to it the antiquities found during his period of administration. Mariate’s excavations included sites such as Amon utub cemetery. In 1878, a major flood of the Nile occurred causing the drowning of BŪlāq Museum & the loss of some of its contents, though it was reopened in 1881. In the same year, Mariate died & was succeeded by Maspiro as Manager   for the Antiquities & museum. When the groups of BŪlāq increased, they were moved to al JÌza Palace in 1891. When De Morgan, the scholar, was appointed as Chairman for the Corporation & Museum, he arranged those groups in the new Museum known as al JÌza Museum. Maspiro came back again in 1899 to manage the Museum & Corporation, continuing until 1914, whereas he moved the antiquities in 1902 to the current building in TaÊrÌ r Square. One of the best assistants of Maspiro in his second term of work was the Egyptian scholar Ahmed Kamāl Pasha who was the first Egyptian specializing in Egyptian antiquities & worked for many years in the Museum. The first Egyptian manager for the Museum was MaÊmŪd amza who was appointed in 1950. Maspiro set up a large manual at the Museum that has been printed & reprinted since 1915.

The Museum is made up of two floors, with the ground floor allocated for heavy antiquities & the upper for light antiquities & complete groups. Antiquities were divided according to their importance & their available quantities. They were arranged according to time-sequence & the most important antiquities were included in a section with the other of main periods in another section.


The Red Palace Museum in Tripoli:

The first antiquities museum was established in Tripoli in 1919, inside an old structure adjoining the Red Palace from the Southern side, occupying the part between the southern entrance & the West-South Tower. It was overlooking the old Khandaq Street. The structure was established during the Turkish era 1308 of Hijra, corresponding to 1891, during the rule of Tripoli’s Governor – Ahmed Rāsim Pasha & was used as a centre for Turkish police & Officers.

During the early days of Italian rule, in June 11, 1911, & up to October of the same years, the Italians used the structure as a military depot for the Italian army. In the early days of 1912, the structure was delivered to the Department of Archeology by the Military Commander of that time to become a date-stone of the new museum in Tripoli. The building was not suitable with 30 meters in length & 19.6 meters in width. The roof, which was of iron & wood, stood on 6 pillars & was more like a simple room. Encouraged by the many findings they obtained from various parts of the country, the Dept. of Archeology made some renovations in the building.

In 1925 - 1423, all the buildings, which were adjacent to the Red Palace including the Museum, were demolished. The antiquities were kept in stores & corridors in the Red Palace. In 1430, the governor of Tripoli decided to transfer all governmental units to new sites in al Shuð Street. Saint George Tower was allotted as a house for historic collections. This is the south-eastern tower of the castle which overlooks the square of the Palace.  Because of the narrowness of the tower, some inner parts of the eastern palace were used as a museum.

In 1437, the contents of the museum were preserved in some corridors of the Red Palace to protect them during the Second World War. They were transferred to Muîrāta, then back to Tripoli again. In 1954, Ernesto Fergara Kavilli was appointed as manager for the Archeology. The collections were transferred to a new building amidst the Palace where it is located now.

The Museum of Antiquities in Tripoli is located inside Tripoli Castel, which is called the Red Palace – at its north-eastern corner facing the coast of the Mediterranean directly. It is one of many museums in the Castle, such as the prehistoric Museum, Museum of Sarlaptural scripts & the Museum of Antiquities & the Museum of Natural History. The Castle is also considered as one of the most outstanding archeological features of Tripoli. The Museum is composed of two floors. Each floor contains archeological collections from ancient times & important sites in Tripoli area. The collections are organized in halls as per their sites with a short briefing about their importance, e.g. there is a special hall for the discoveries of Gerezeh, one for Gose & another one for Watering Places of Hadrian & the old square in al KŪbra. There is yet another one for antiquities discovered in al Dākhil. Thus the visitor will have a simple idea of the discovered archeological sites. The upper floor is composed of nine halls for exhibitions. It is similar to the ground floor. The contents are organized as per the archeological sites & are complementary to what is exhibited in the ground floor.

The archeological pieces are presented in chronological arrangement, starting with the Stone Age & ending with the present. The visitor will find there the Libyan history in precise details. The way it is displayed is splendid & attractive. It reflects the ability & awareness of Libyans of the importance of their country’s history & museums in providing knowledge to the citizen in a simple, direct & swift way. This enables people to know their national history & glory & their participation in the march of human civilization.


History of Sudan:

In their “History of Sudan in Ancient Ages”, Hassan Sulaimān MahmŪd & Jalāl JanjÌsh  considered that the first human being lived in Sudan longer than anywhere else. The eldest evidence of the settlement of humans in Sudan known till now is the skull which was discovered in Sinja in Eastern Sudan. The skull belongs to the ancient Stone Age & its history goes as far back as about 250000 BC & to some extent it looks like the Bushmen.

The remains of the early human beings were found in various areas of Sudan, on the Nile, in the east, the west & in the Southern parts of the middle areas of Sudan. Tools from 100.000 BC were found in Abu A'nja Creek in Omdurman. In Wādi alfa  close to the 2nd Cataract, a collection of skeletons as old as the  stone age were found as were found  in Muses Creek dated  to 25.000 BC. In Haure Valley, north of Dārfur, tools dating as far back as 15000 BC were discovered. 

Then came the middle Stone Age in B.C.8000 with its most important site being in Khartoum, when using of clay for the first time in human life & spreading this invention to other areas began. There followed the modern stone age & its sites covered all over Sudan. Then appeared the outstanding civilization recognized as the civilizations of groups before the advent of the civilization of “karma” during which the Sudanese civilization flourished to a great extent of development in B.C.2500

The most explicit ages of Sudanese history were the age of Kush, Napta & Marawi which would later form the characteristics of Sudan history. It rose on the ruins of Karma civilization. It added to its achievements everlasting accomplishment represented by the building of temples, palaces & pyramids. During that age, Sudan added all the Egyptian lands & some sites in Asia to its territory. The kings of that State     ruled Egypt about 100 years from the era of Kashta in B.C.806 to the middle of the 7th Century B.C. & were known by the Sudanese 25th Dynasties. & when they were expelled by the Assyrians, they returned to their original land & remained ruling Sudan up to 350C., when different periods of Sudan’s history followed.


History of Egypt:

Thousands of years ago, a deep-rooted civilization rose in Egypt when man attempted to control the natural forces around him to exploit the potentials provided to him to meet his essential needs. When a change in the climate led to scarcity of rani & vast areas became desert because of the draught, modern Stone Age man was compelled to migrate to the Nile Valley, around al FayŪm Lake & the swamps of El-Delta & around the springs of the oases. The most important centers of the old Egyptian civilization were in al FayŪm Island, of Murmadat Bani Salāmma west of Cairo, al A'mri, north of ilwān & the Island of Deer Tasa in Asyouð governorate.

In B.C.3200 during the reign of the first Dynasty, Egypt moved to the stage of Central State & political unity. There followed a successful stage in the history of human beings due to the achievements of this deep-rooted, advanced civilization. It accomplished great achievements unprecedented by any nation & its influence extended to its neighbours & far away to the North, East, and West & South. It formed the characteristics of the African man & supplied the world with outstanding systems in politics, economy, religion, sociology, etc. it became the pioneer of the world civilizations because of the fast development it achieved in all aspects of life & its light spread all over the world. Egyptians ruled Sudan & Libya many times during the ancient, middle & modern history. As the Egyptian history is known to everyone inside & outside the Arab world, with its impact which extended to modern age & shall remain as a source of inspiration, admiration & challenges for human mind. This paper will concentrate on the history of Libya with some details for the benefit of all.


History of Libya:

Here, I am going to present a brief account of the history of Libya starting since the oldest ages of prehistoric periods. There is evidence which confirms the existence of archeological remains that go back to the three ages of stone. Some archeological remains which belonged to the ancient upper Stone Age were found in Hugfut Uddeba’a in “Wādi al kŪfa/ElkŪfa Valley” confirming the rise of this civilization in Libya. The carbonic analysis proved that the remains of this cave go back to B.C.14000. There is yet another cave called “Hugffat al iyŪr/Birds’ Cave”. The importance of this cave lies in the fact that its contents of stone tools & bones were found in the state in which they were left without any change inflicted by the hands of man!

The cave also contains tools of various ages including the middle stone ages but they are comparatively less. The tools of the middle stone age were also found around Sart Bay & in other various areas of Libya from the Western Mount to the Green Mount.

Before unification of Egypt, Libyans settled & lived in the north western part of the Delta. About Libyans from pre-dynasties age, to B.C.4500, there have been tales about them being with long hairs, wearing belts to cover their genitals. Tehnu tribe was referred to in a part of a board which belonged to King Nermer, al A'grab (the Scorpion) from the first dynasty there was also a detailed description of the physique & clothes of the Tehnu in Sarkhore’a Temple of the fifth dynasty (B.C.2300).

The sources of the 6th Dynasty (B.C. 2300) refers also to Temehou tribe. According to the third journey of HarkhŪf, it seems that their abode was near Sudan in the lower Nuba where Group C Civilization was who looked Nubians in their physical construction & clothes. This idea is confirmed by the resemblance of the clay products of this group with that discovered in Wādi Haure (Haure Valley) at a distance of 400km. south west the 3rd Cataract.

It seems that the Temehu were strong warriors & many times the pharaohs of the Middle State were compelled to expel them. Their weaponry was arrows & sometimes swords & bent (at the end) sticks. These were very coincident with the weapons of the Nubians who were so competent in using arrows that Sudan was called the Land of Arrows for a long period till the Middle Ages. Herodotus of the Fifth Century B.C., the historian referred to the features of Libyans Sart. From this we can conclude that the Temehu as the ancestors of Libyans whom the Greek knew in Burgah & that they resemble the Nubians – dwellers of the Nile Banks.

In his “The Bartle Temples” of 1916, G.A. Reisner & also M.F.L. Macadam in his “The Temples of Kawa of 1949, reported that the tribe Temehu lived in Kawa near Dungula around Napta & moved in wide areas & left some antiques there. That was why Reisner believed the ancestors of the kings of Kush of Sudan belonged to the Temehu. He based his assumption on the resemblance of the arrow heads found in the graves of the ancestors of Kushite people of Karu with Libyan arrows in shape & kind. The invasion of Temehu became more dangerous during the era of the 19th dynasty. After Saity, the 1st, in B.C. 1317 expelled them, King Ramses, the 2nd, attached the Libyan division to the Egyptian army & set up a defensive line along the Mediterranean. Up to al A'lamain area. Monuments in the last battle site confirm the occupation of Ramses, the 2nd, of the area. That was the first time when the term Libya was referred to. From this term, the Greek drove the geographical term Libya.

The two most known wars that broke out between Egypt & Libya were in B.C.1194-1188, during the era of Ramses, the 3rd, & were recorded in the Great Harris Papyrus & in the sculptures of the temple of this King in the City of Haboe. The Libyans tried in vain to suppress the resistance of the Egyptians in the Nile Delta & were defeated, time after time. Many of the captives were forced to join the Egyptian army. The military competence of the Libyans was greatly appreciated. Some of the Libyan officers, at the end of the modern State, had a great influence & control over some affairs. Some tribes became so powerful that they ruled the country, i.e. the 22nd Dynasty which was in power from B.C.10th Century to B.C. 8th Century. The founder of that Dynasty, King Shaishneg, unified Egypt, swept Palestine & left many antiquities wherever it extended his rule but its dominion was put to an end by the Sudanese kings known as the 25th Dynasty. The series of developments in Libya continues in different ages as shown below.

Neolithic age

1.9 million years B.C

1.1 million years B.C.

Ancient lower stone age

1.1. million years B.C.

49 thousand years B.C.

Middle ancient stone age

49 thousand years B.C.

35 thousand years B.C.

Ancient upper stone age

35 thousand years B.C.

15 thousand years B.C.

Modern stone age

10 thousand years B.C.

03 thousand years B.C.

Ancient Libyan tribes

13th century B.C.

Up to the conquest of the Arabs, 643C. 

Phoenician Karthago age (Tripoli)

B.C.12 century

Up to B.C. 116

Greek age (Burga)


Up to B.C.96

The Nomide age (Tripoli)


Up to B.C.46

Roman & Catholic age (Burga)

Up to B.C. 96

Up B.C.643.

Roman age (Tripoli)


Up 455C

Wendal period (Tripoli)


Up to 534C

Byzantine period (Tripoli)


Up to 643C

Islamic period, direct rule


Up 800C

Age of al Aghālba


Up 910C

Fatimid era


Up to 972C

Descendants of Zizi


Up to 1054C

Descendants of Hilal


Up to 1146

Normandy people


Up to 1151C



Up to 1205C



Up to 1460

Local rule


Up to 1510C

Spanish rule


Up to 1530C

Knights of Malta


Up to 1551C

First Ottoman period


Up to 1781C

The family of Qara Manli


Up to 1835C

2nd Ottoman period


Up to 1911C

Italian occupation


Up to 1943

Anglo-French period


Up to 1951C

National royal rule


Up to 1969

Gaddafi rule


Up to 2011C


  Here are similar & coincident archeological pieces in the three museums. In case there are 8 pieces, Khartoum comes first, then Cairo, then Tripoli. If they are two, at the right is Khartoum & the other is either Cairo or Tripoli. They are a very simple collection because photographing was prohibited & the pictures were taken by a mobile telephone.


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