Ancient Nubia and the Kushite Civilisations (2500BC-400AD)

2500BC to 400AD

By Dr Shadia Taha, published 13th October 2023

The Kingdom of Kush

In this podcast Dr Shadia Taha of Wolfson College, University of Cambridge, looks at the long and fascinating history of Ancient Nubia and the Kingdom of Kush. The Kingdom of Kush is divided into three kingdoms: The Kingdom of Kerma (2500BC to 1500BC), the Napatan Empire (1100BC to 590BC) and the Kingdom of Meroe (590BC to 400AD).

Nubia is a region along the Nile river encompassing the area between the first cataract of the Nile (at Aswan in southern Egypt) and the confluence of the Blue and White Niles (in Khartoum in central Sudan). It was the seat of one of the earliest civilizations of ancient Africa, the Kerma culture, which lasted from around 2500 BC until its conquest by the New Kingdom of Egypt under Pharaoh Thutmose I around 1500 BC, whose heirs ruled most of Nubia for the next 400 years. Nubia was home to several empires, most prominently the Napatan Empire (also known as the Kingdom of Kush), which conquered Egypt in the eighth century BC during the reign of Piye and ruled the country as its 25th Dynasty and had international relations with the Phoenicians, Assyrians and the Judeans.

The capital was moved from Napata to Meroe in 590BC and the Kingdom of Meroe would thrive for a further thousand years with leaders such as Queen Amanirenas I engaging in trade, war and diplomacy with Roman Egypt. 

Dr Taha discusses why the history of the Kingdom of Kush has historically been neglected, why colonial interpretations and the interpretations of Egyptologists are being challenged, and why the Kingdom of Kush should be recognised as one of the great civilisations of the ancient world.

1. Introduction.
2. What sources do historians use to explore this history?
3. Can you tell us about life in Ancient Nubia?
4. Why did this part of the world prove to be one of the cradles of civilisation?
5. When do we start to see the development of the Kerma civilisation?
6. What do we know about the politics and economy of the Kerma?
7. Can you tell us about Kerma architecture, art, and culture?
8. Can you tell us about temple decorations and Kerma religion?
9. Can you tell us about Kerma at its zenith?
10. How did the Nile cultures of Kush and Egypt influence each other?
11. What was the impact of the Egyptian New Kingdom period on Nubia?
12. Can you tell us about some of the changes and continuities between the Kingdom of Kerma, the Napatan Empire and the Kingdom of Meroe?
13. What do we know about the culture and technology of the Kushites?
14. What gods did the Kushites worship?
15. What sources do we have?
16. What was the relationship between Kush and Egypt?
17. What led to the Nubian Dynasty (the 25th Dynasty of Egypt)?
18. What was the impact of this dynasty on Nile civilisation? What were their achievements and innovations?
19. Can you tell us about the Kingdom of Meroe and the Meroitic Period?
20. What led to the decline of the Kingdom of Meroe?
21. Can you tell us about the role of women in Ancient Kush?
22. High Priestess Amenirdis I
23. Queen Amanirenas 40BC-10BC

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