THE KUSH KINGDOM
The Kush Kingdom was located in the southern part of ancient Nubia. It originally extended along the flood
plane of the Nile River around the third cataract, although the boarders extended and contracted over the
centuries due to wars.
The people of the Kingdom of Kush or Kushites as they were called, although of a different heritage than the
Egyptians, were influenced by and adopted Egyptian culture as it diffused southward through Nubia.
The first capital city of the Kingdom of Kush was Kerma. This city served as a major trading center for
goods traveling north from the southern regions of Africa. The Egyptians would trade grain for ivory,
incense, hides, and carnelian (a stone prized both as jewelry and for arrowheads). The Egyptian traders
particularly valued gold and slaves, who served as domestic servants, concubines, and soldiers in the
pharaoh's army. Even though during the Egyptian Old Kingdom, military expeditions penetrated Kush, no
permanent settlement was established in the area. However, during the time of the Egyptian Middle
Kingdom, Egypt constructed a network of forts along the Nile to guard the flow of gold from mines in
1700 through 1500
Around 1720 BC Asian nomads called the Hyksos invaded Egypt. This allowed the Kush to escape
Egyptian domination and to flourish as a culture.
This period ended when the Egyptian New Kingdom took control from the Hyksos and re-conquered and
colonized Kush and brought it under Egyptian rule.
1500 through 1100 BC
After Egyptian power was revived during the New Kingdom, the pharaoh Ahmose I incorporated Kush as an
Egyptian province governed by a viceroy. This control extended down to the fourth cataract. Egyptian
authorities ensured the loyalty of local chiefs by drafting their children to serve as pages at the pharaoh's
court. Egypt also expected tribute in gold and slaves from local chiefs.
Once Egypt established political control over Kush, Egyptian officials, priests, military personnel,
merchants, and artisans settled in the region. The Coptic language, spoken in Egypt, became widely used in
everyday activities. The Kushite elite adopted Egyptian gods and built temples like that dedicated to the sun
god Amon at Napata, near present-day Kuraymah. The temples remained centers of official religious
worship until the coming of Christianity to the region in the sixth century. When Egyptian influence declined
or succumbed to foreign domination, the Kushite elite regarded themselves as champions of genuine
Egyptian cultural and religious values.
1100 through 800 BC
By the eleventh century BC the New Kingdom dynasties had diminished and Egyptian control of Kush had
Around 1000 BC Kush conquered all of Nubia and again rose as a major power. Gold mines which were
controlled by Egypt since the fourth century were now in the hands of the Kushites.
At this time the capital city was changed from Kerma to Napata farther up the Nile.
The Kushites organized their society along Egyptian lines and assumed Egyptian royal titles. The art and
architecture of the day mimicked that of the Egyptians. The Kushites also built pyramids, however, they
were smaller and steeper than those built in Egypt. On the surface Napatan culture was not much different
than Egyptian culture.
800 BC through 350 AD
The Kushites invaded and conquered Egypt but their reign there was short-lived. The Assyrians invaded and
conquered Egypt in the seventh century.
The Assyrians, and later the Persians, forced the Kushites to retreat southward. The capital of the Kush
Kingdom was changed from Napata to Meroe, in the center of the Kingdom.
Although the Meroites continued the pharoanic traditions of Egypt, the retreat southward eventually closed
off much of the contact that the Kushites had with Egypt, the Middle East and Europe. As a result the Kush
culture began to develop its own culture and art and it became less like Egypt’s culture.
Many of the culture changes came in the realm of government. Unlike Egyptian government the king was
elected (from the royal family) and ruled through a customary law that was established and interpreted by
priests. Royalty was passed through descent based on the mother’s line. Eventually, the decent line in Kush
led to a series of female monarchs, an innovation not seen in any other major civilization up to that point.
The Meroitic Empire thrived throughout the last half of the first millennium BC. After three centuries of
decline, it was finally defeated by the Nubian people. Its commercial importance was replaced by Aksum to