Bonnet, Charles. The Black Kingdom of the Nile. Forward by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2019. xi +209 pages. Hardcover, $42.00..

AuthorFerguson, Dean T.

Charles Bonnet explained the purpose of The Black Kingdom of the Nile quite simply: "After fifty long years of excavation lasting three months per season, it is time for a report."(p. 4) And, indeed, the book is a detailed, well-illustrated report of his and his teams' excavations of the city of Kerma, in present-day Sudan, evidence of a black African civilization that developed alongside and often in competition with ancient Egypt. However, with a forward by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a hard cover, large-format, on glossy stock, with nearly every page featuring a color photograph or figures and plans illustrating the subjects of Bonnet's excavations, it has the luxurious feel of a coffee-table book and would be a welcome complement to most parlors. The audience for this beautiful and important publication is not likely made up of Egyptologists or scholars of early Africa, who will likely already be familiar with Bonnet's research and the implications of his scholarship as well as that of his collaborators and graduate students. Instead, The Black Kingdom of the Nile makes available for a wider audience Bonnet's presentations at the Harvard University Center for African Studies given in October 2016 as a part of the Nathan I. Huggins Lecture Series. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.'s forward perhaps best describes the significance of Bonnet's work in demonstrating that "sub-Saharan and Nilotic cultures existed in tandem, in mutual dependence, and with complex interactions of power," from the earliest period of the region's history. (p. xi)

Bonnet's archaeological findings thoroughly detail the existence in Kerma of fortifications, palaces, temples, bakeries, workshops, ceremonial gates and residences, and burial sites of a significant African political and cultural center. The excavations follow a chronology dating early Kerma culture to ca. 2500 to 2050 BCE, a period corresponding to the construction of significant fortifications, the development of centralized royal authority supported by a strong army, and the presence of a program of urbanization. In this early period of Kerma's development, the city was, according to Bonnet, "the capital of a kingdom at its peak" (p. 55) and a clearly African kingdom. Bonnet then describes in increasing detail the excavations of Kerma and the neighboring city of Dukki Gel through Kerma's Middle (2050-1750 BCE) and Classic Periods (1750-1500 BCE) before further examinations of upper Nubian ruins dating to the New...

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