The Kush kingdom was an ancient kingdom in Africa. An area called Nubia, south of Egypt, was the home of the kingdom of Kush. The kingdom first started at a trading center in Nubia called Kerma. Nubia was known as an important spot for the trade of gold, ostrich feathers, ebony and ivory. Compared to other kingdoms in the world, Kush was a small one. It had its golden age and later declined. Meroe was initially a metropolis of the ancient Kush kingdom, also referred to as the island of Meroe. The history of the Kushite kingdom is divided into two periods, the Napatan and Meroitic periods.
During 1800 B.C. the kingdom of Kush was Nubian’s trading center. It rose due to the rich trade with Egypt. Kashta was the first ruler of the kingdom of Kush during the Napatan period. The kingdom is believed to have had very close ties, both cultural and economic, with ancient Egypt or Kemet. The kingdom slowly conquered Upper Egypt. They ruled until the attack by the Assyrians. The invasion made the Kushites cut off ties with the Europeans and ancient Egypt. It regrouped itself and this marked the beginning of the Meroitic period. Kushites were forced by the Assyrians to move southwards. They settled at Meroe.
One of the earliest centers for ironworking was the Kush capital of Meroe. The Meroitic period is said to be the golden age of Kush. It was during this period when Kushite’s had impressive craftsmanship, they built temples and pyramids. The numerous temple, pyramids, palaces and temple ruins at Meroe are evidence of the artistic complexity and prosperity of the Kush kingdom.
Meroe was an important center of administration. So much so that after the Meroe city became the capital of the Kingdom after Napata. The Meroe king was autocratic and he shared his authority with Candace or the queen mother. Administration consisted of head of archives, chief scribes, and seal bearers. By the 3rd century BC, there was a new twenty-three letter alphabet and language called Meroitic, which replaced Kemetic hieroglyphics. During the Meroitic period, Meroitic language in form of alphabet and cursive was used.
There are more than 200 Nubian pyramids with distinctive sizes and proportions. The kingdom of Kush was well known for not just its riches but also the amount of economy the kingdom had. From time to time, the kingdom had rulers from various cultures, including the Assyrians and Kemites. Most of the Kushite culture was adopted from Kemet, for example, building pyramids.
Just like most kingdoms in the ancient world, the Kush kingdom finally declined. Its iron and other products trade with ancient Egypt declined by 300 CE. Information regarding its decline is not well known. Most people believe that the kingdom was succeeded by the kingdom of Aksum, present day Ethiopia.
In summation, the kingdom of Kush is seen as an important part of the Egyptian history. It is a key player in understanding the military and political dynamics of the ancient times. It can be also seen as evidence of ancient African civilization as gold characterized Kush’s wealth. However, the kingdom disappeared and left nothing for rescue. On the other hand, however, Meroe pyramids are still there in the present day. Today, in the Sudan republican, Meroe is the most extensive archaeological site.
Photo of Meroe Pyramids by: Fabrizio Demartis [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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