The History and Origins of the Kingdom of Kush

The Kingdom of Kush was a powerful ancient state that existed (twice) in what is now the northern part of Sudan. The second Kingdom, which lasted from 1000 B.C.E. until 400 C.E. is the better known and studied of the two, but it was preceded by an earlier Kingdom that was a center of trade and innovation between 2000 and 1500 B.C.E.

Kerma: The First Kingdom of Kush

The first Kingdom of Kush may be the oldest African state outside of Egypt. It developed around the settlement of Kerma (in Upper Nubia). Kerma arose around 2400 B.C.E. (during the Egyptian Old Kingdom), and became the capital of the Kush Kingdom by 2000 B.C.E.

Classical Kerma thrived between 1750 and 1500 B.C.E. Kush flourished most when Egypt was at its weakest, and the last 150 years of the Classical Kerma period overlap with a time of upheaval in Egypt. During this era, Kush had access to gold mines and traded extensively with its northern neighbors, generating significant wealth and power.

The resurgence of a united Egypt with the 18th Dynasty (1550 to 1295 B.C.E.) brought this bronze-age kingdom of Kush to an end.

The Second Kingdom of Kush

Over time, Egyptian control over Nubia declined, and by the 11th century B.C.E., the Viceroys of Kush had become independent kings. A new Kushite kingdom emerged, and by 730 B.C.E., Kush had conquered Egypt right up to the shores of the Mediterranean. The Kushite Pharaoh Piye (reign: c. 752-722 B.C.E.) established the 25th Dynasty in Egypt.

Conquest and contact with Egypt had already shaped Kush culture. This second Kingdom of Kush erected pyramids, worshiped many Egyptian gods, and called its rulers Pharaohs, though the art and architecture of Kush kept Nubian characteristics. In 671 B.C.E. Egypt was invaded by the Assyrians, and by 654 B.C. they had driven the Kush back into Nubia.


Kush remained safe south of Aswan. It developed a separate language and architectural style. Kush did maintain the pharaonic tradition. Eventually, the capital was moved from Napata south to Meroe where the new Meroitic Kingdom emerged. By 100 C.E., Kush was in decline and was destroyed by Axum in 400 C.E.

Source: The History and Origins of the Kingdom of Kush
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