Kush was an ancient kingdom in Nubia, centred along the Nile valley in what is now Northern Sudan and Southern Egypt. The region of Nubia was an early cradle of civilization, producing several complex societies that engaged in trade and industry.
The city-state of Kerma emerged as the dominant political force between 2450 and 1450Bc, controlling the Nile valley between the first and fourth cataracts, an area as large as Egypt. The Egyptians were the first to identify Kerma as “Kush”, and over the next several centuries, the two civilizations engaged in intermittent warfare, trade, and cultural exchange.
The extent of cultural/political continuity between the Kerma culture and the chronologically succeeding kingdom of Kush is difficult to determine. The latter began to emerge around 1000Bc, 500 years after the end of the kingdom of Kerma. By 1200Bc, Egyptian involvement in the Dongola Reach was nonexistent. By the 8th century, the New Kushite kingdom emerged from the Napata region of the upper Dongola Reach. The first Napatan king, Alara, dedicated his sister to the cult of Amun at the rebuilt Kawa temple, while temples were also rebuilt at Barkal and Kerma.
The Kushites buried their monarchs along with all their courtiers in Mass graves. Archaeologist refers to these practices as the “pan-grave culture. This was given its name due to the way in which the remains were buried. They would dig a pit and put stones around them in a circle. Kushites also built burial mounds and pyramids. They shared some of the same gods worshipped in Egypt, especially Ammon and Isis with the worshipping of these gods, the Kushites began to take some of the names of the gods as their throne names.
The Kush rulers were regarded as guardians of the state religion and were responsible for maintaining the houses of the gods. Some scholars believe the economy in the kingdom of Kush was a redistributive system. The state would collect taxes in the form of surplus produce and would redistribute to the people. Others believe that most of the society worked on the land and required nothing from the state and did not contribute to the state. Northern Kush seems to have been more productive and wealthier than the southern area.
The Meroitic language was spoken in Meroe and Sudan during the Meroitic period. It became extinct about 400AD. It is uncertain to which language family the Meroitic language is related.
In battle, Kush was famous for its archers and the bow and arrow were often depicted in the art of Ancient Kush. Sometimes the region was called the “Land of the Bow” because of its famous leaders of Kush was Piye who conquered Egypt and became pharaoh of Egypt.
The kingdom of Kush continued on with Meroe as its capital until an invasion by the Aksumites c. 330CE which destroyed the city and toppled the kingdom. Overuse of the land, however, had already depleted the resources of Kush and the cities would most likely have been abandoned even without the Aksumite invasion.
Long overshadowed by its more prominent Egyptian neighbour, archaeological discoveries since the late 20th century has revealed Kush to be an advanced civilization in its own right.
The Kushites had their own unique language and script. They maintained a complex economy based on trade and industry. They mastered archery and developed a complex urban society with uniquely high levels of female participation.