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THROUGH SEPTEMBER 4

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Egypt did rule Nubia for a time, and later Nubia overran Egypt, but that’s not really the point of this exhibition of artifacts from the region, much of which is now in the Sudan. Though some still see history as the tale of conquerors—even a sort of my-ancient-ancestor-could-beat-your-ancient-ancestor taunt—what the objects on display here demonstrate yet again is that civilizations mingle in many ways. It was not just Egyptian influences that traveled down (and up) the Nile, but those of Greece, Rome, southern Africa, and elsewhere. Not until Egypt became a colony of Middle Eastern and European powers did the connection become weak, perhaps as the result of Christianity (which dominated Nubia for some 500 years longer than Egypt) and then Islam. The objects here, which come from the collection of the University Museum and were mostly excavated in the early 20th century, range from the crude to the sophisticated, the expected to the exotic. Like the example of the still-undeciphered Meroitic language, these statues, shards, and arrowheads suggest how little even scholars know of Nubia. At the National Museum of African Art, 950 Independence Ave. SW. (202) 357-4600. (Mark Jenkins)