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Soon after the uniting of the kingdoms of Egypt, in about 3100 BC, the pharaohs extend their control as far up the Nile as a boat can easily travel.This brings them to the first cataract (or rapid), in the region of modern Aswan.But it is another 200 years before Dongola, by now the main kingdom in Nubia, is brought within the Christian fold.In about543 the king of Dongola is converted to the monophysite version of Christanity, associated in particular with the Coptic church of Egypt and Ethiopia.
The whole region is rich in gold mines, and the name probably derives from the word for gold (nub in Mahasi, though this is only one among the many dialects of Nubia past and present).From about 705 BC, when Assyria has a new king (Sennacherib), there is a widespread rebellion in the middle east against Assyrian rule. In 663 the Assyrian king (Esarhaddon, son of Sennacherib) captures Memphis, seizes the royal treasure and harem and claims the title 'king of Egypt'.In support of the rebels the pharaoh (now Shabaka's nephew Shebitku) marches north from Memphis with an Egyptian army. When the Assyrian army withdraws, leaving Egypt under the control of vassal rulers, the Cushites briefly recover Memphis.Over the centuries the Egyptians push further south, past a succession of cataracts, first to raid and then to build fortified settlements among the people of these middle reaches of the Nile.