Kush or Cush was a civilization south of Ancient Egypt in southern Nubia.
The name given this civilization comes from the Old Testament where Cush was one of the sons of Ham who settled in Northeast Africa. In the Bible and archaically a large region covering southern Egypt and parts of Ethiopia were known as Cush. The Bible refers to Cush on a number of occasions. Some contend that this Cush was in southern Arabia. See Biblical Cush for a full discussion.
Kush is known to us mostly by the reports of the Egyptians who first began moving south in about 2500 BC, but this was halted by the fall of the Middle Kingdom. About 1500 BC Egyptian expansion continued, but this time is was resisted by organized forces. Historians are not sure if this refers to multiple city states in the region, or if it was then united into one empire. There is also debate as to whether the notion of forming states was indigenous in origin or whether it was borrowed from the Egyptians.
Despite this new organization the Egyptians still prevailed and the region became a colony of Egypt, supplying it with resources and ruled from a number of sturdy fortresses erected in the region.
In the eleventh century BC internal disputes in Egypt caused colonial rule to collapse and there are became an independent kingdom with its capital at Napata . It is unknown if this kingdom was ruled by Egyptians prefects who elevated themselves once disconnected from Egypt, or by locals who overthrew the colonial regime. It is clearly visible that this New Kingdom learned much of its technology and culture from the Egyptians, including the building of pyramids and the worship of the Egyptian gods.
This kingdom became quite potent and under king Kastra and then Piye they invaded Egypt establishing the twenty-fifth dynasty. The Kushites were forced to withdraw from Egypt due to the Assyrian invasion of 671 BC and Kush once again an independent state. Over time it became less Egyptian and shifted southwards moving the capital to Meroe. This move south was caused by the revival of Egypt that resumed attempting to expand to the south and jeopardized the northern regions. It is believed Napata was sacked by them in 590 BC. Moreover iron had become a commodity of central import, but this required large quantities of timber to fuel the smelters. Northern Kush was, like Egypt, desert, but the southern regions had large stands of timber. The arrival of Greek merchants throughout the region also meant that Kush was no longer dependent on trade along the Nile, rather it could export its goods east to the Red Sea and the Greek trading colonies there.
Kush continued for several centuries but we have little information on it. While earlier Kush had used Egyptian hieroglyphics Meroe developed a new script that has yet to be deciphered. When the Romans reach the area the people were known as the Nobatae the Ethiopian kingdom of Axum, which began expanding into the region also refers to the people as the Noba. The capital of this New Kingdom no longer seems to be Meroe. Many historians thus believe that Kush was conquered by the Noba sometime in the first millennium. The list of kings of Kush is unbroken through this period, however and thus some historians consider Noba to be a continuation of Kush.
The rise of the Ethiopians, caused by the same Red Sea trade and iron that had benefited the Kush, eventually destroyed the kingdom. Around AD 350 Kush was invaded by the Ezana of Axum and the kingdom collapsed. It would be succeeded by three smaller states. In the north Nobatae with its capital at Faras , Makuria with its capital at Dunqulah and Aloda with its capital at Soba .
See also: List of Kushite Kings
- On Kush http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~dee/CIVAFRCA/KUSH.HTM
Last updated: 02-05-2005 07:19:47
Last updated: 04-25-2005 03:06:01