NUBIANS - From Invaders to Rulers

nubians nav image.pngFrom 3000 BC onwards the wild tribes of Upper and Lower Nubia continually attacked the southern borders of Egypt. They were numerous and brave if not well organised, and posed a serious threat to the areas they raided. While the Old, Middle, and New Kingdom Egyptians seem to have had little trouble defeating Nubian incursions in open battle it is interesting to note that they also took them into their armies as auxiliaries in large numbers. During the post New Kingdom period (around 750 BC) the Nubians finally overwhelmed parts of Egypt and set up their own Kushite kingdom based on a fanatical devotion to Egyptian Gods.

There were two main groupings of Nubians: those of the Egyptian borders (Lower Nubia), named the Wawat, who were lighter skinned and more akin to the Egyptians; and the more distant Kush of Upper Nubia, who were more Negroid in appearance. Apart from details like hairstyles they were very similar in general appearance and fighting style. The Egyptians drew their Nubian mercenaries from the nomadic Medjay tribe of Lower Nubia, who could be distinguished by their carefully decorated hair set with mud.

Our Nubians were sculpted by Michael and Alan Perry. Scroll down for more historical information by Adrian Garbett.

Nubian Command - NUB001
Nubian Command - NUB001
Medjay Nubian Archers - NUB002
Medjay Nubian Archers 1 - NUB002
Medjay Nubian Archers Advancing - NUB003
Medjay Nubian Archers 2 - NUB003
Nubian/Kushite Archers - NUB004
Nubian/Kushite Archers - NUB004
Nubian/Kushite Clubmen & Javelinmen - NUB005
Nubian/Kushite Clubmen & Javelinmen - NUB005
Medjay Nubian Archers Running - NUB006
Medjay Nubian Archers 3 - NUB006

Nubian figures can be very colourful, with beads made from natural materials (including gold), Ostrich feathers (a common sign of warrior status for many peoples in this period), and wild animal skin clothing complete with leopard and cheetah spots. Shields would be simple affairs made from hide stretched over a wooden frame and would have the patterned hide showing on the outer face, adding to the spectacle. Some chieftains took to wearing their own versions of Egyptian dress and these would be worn with items of native dress to give a splendidly barbaric appearance.



The mainstay of any Nubian tribal force consisted of archers armed with a simple but powerful stave bow. They would saturate an enemy with arrows from whatever cover was available, grouping together or dispersing at need until the enemy faltered, upon which chosen warriors armed with clubs would rush forwards led by chieftains, to overrun the enemy line. There would also be a few javelinmen armed with little more than sharpened sticks, who would skirmish and harass the enemy but keep well away from the serious combat. Occasionally the Nubians would raid along the Nile in dugout canoes, but they seem to have preferred to fight on dry land.



The main troop-types needed are chieftains, clubmen, javelinmen, and archers, archers, and more archers! NUB001 gives you several variants of leader types. With the addition of a shield they can lead your warbands; otherwise they command the archer lines.

The club armed warband come from NUB005. It is easy to add even more variants by giving the open-handed figures clubs made from rolled out epoxy putty.  Shields are included in this pack but you could make variants from sheets of epoxy putty. Simply cut a rough oval or circle smaller than you need (use a metal shield as a guide) and then roll and push it into the desired shape with edges curled over and/or combat scars added for interest.

The open handed figures make excellent javelinmen, but if you use them as skirmishers you need to file down the boss on the left hand, as they did not carry shields. Thin brass wire is best for javelins and you do not need to model a spearhead as they could be simply sharpened staves. The more adventurous among you might like to depict flint and horn tips.

The archers forming the majority of the army can be taken from NUB004 with no modification. The Medjay [NUB002/3/6] packs are fine for Nubians in Egyptian service, and small numbers could be mixed in with the Kush unaltered; but with only a little work you can use all of them, giving 12 additional archer variants. All you need to do is add an ostrich feather to the hair. For this, flatten a roll of epoxy putty and press a feather pattern into it with a modelling blade, then glue it onto a piece of thin wire (fuse is OK) about 3 mm longer than the feather and bend it to a more realistic shape. Allow it to set, then drill a hole in the archer’s head and insert the wire — one feather head-dress!

Tactics: You are going to outnumber most armies you face, so make use of this advantage by swarming around your enemy, taking terrain, skirmishing where necessary and then unleashing a killing blow with the warband, led by the son of your chieftain. The Nubians were noted for their aggression, even though most people do not think half-naked archers are particularly worrying. Do not be afraid to pressurise the opponent.

Text by Adrian Garbett


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