An early village site of farming people on the southwest side of the Nile delta, inhabited late in the 5th millennium be, broadly contemporary with the Fayum Neolithic settlement. The oval houses were of insubstantial construction, but by contrast great care and expertise were devoted to the manufacture of flaked stone daggers, knives and concave-based arrow-heads, as well as to the production of polished stone mace-heads and axes. Cereals, notably wheat and barley, were cultivated, and large pottery jars appear to have been used for storing the crop. Meroe. A site located near the east bank of the Nile about 100 km upstream of its confluence with the Atbara, in the central Sudan. From about 600 bc Meroe was the capital of a prosperous kingdom over which, at least in the early centuries of its existence, the influence of ancient Egypt was extremely strong. Meroe was able to exploit a region of considerable agricultural potential with fairly regular, if not abundant, rainfall. In contrast with more northerly regions, there was also a supply of timber adequate to fuel the smelting of the local iron deposits. By the beginning of the Christian era, if not before, the iron industry had been developed on a considerable scale. Meroitic architecture included temples in the Egyptian style, and royal pyramid tombs. This Egyptian influence gradually diminished: for example, Egyptian hieroglyphs were abandoned in about the 2nd century BC in favour of a local script. The Meroitic language thus recorded cannot at present be understood. The tenuous nature of the link with Egypt is to be appreciated by considering the trade route, which it appears did not follow the inhospitable Nile Valley, but ran along the Red Sea coast. From about the beginning of the Christian era this route was increasingly endangered by local developments, notably the rise of the kingdom of Axum. By the 3rd century ad Meroe was in decline; its final collapse came at the hands of the Axumites early in the 4th century.