Kush, Meroe, and Nubia

Archeologists have confirmed the inhabitation of the Nile above Aswan in the Paleolithic period that lasted more that 60,000 years of the Sudanese history. By the 8th millennium BC, during the Neolithic era, people had settled in the brick houses and their economic life was characterized by fishing, hunting along river Nile, cattle herding and grain gathering. The skeletal remains give an evidence of blending between the Mediterranean people and the Negroid during the Neolithic period that has existed until today.

The northern Sudan oldest history evidence originates from the Egyptian sources that described the land upstream starting from the first cataract as wretched or Cush. For 2000 year and more in the time of old Kingdom, the economic, political and social life of the central Nile region was influenced by the Egyptians, even as the political power of the Egyptian waned in the Cushite, the Egyptians still had a substantial influence in the Cushite way of life.

For many centuries, the Egyptian caravan exchanged grain for ivory, carnelian, hide and incense with Cushite. Slaves and gold were highly valued by the Egyptian traders. The Egyptian penetrated the Cush in the Middle kingdom after construction of fort at Sammah to guard the gold flow from Wawat mines.

Asian nomads that were referred to as Hyksos invaded Egypt destroying many links to the Cush in around 1720 BC. During the reign of Pharaoh Ahmose 1, Egypt revived its political power during the New Kingdom around 1110BC and took the Cush as one of its provinces; however there were Egyptian tributary districts as far as blue and white Nile and red sea. After gaining full control over the Cush, the Cush adapted every way of life and temples became their center of worship up to the 6th century after the coming of Christianity.

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 By the 11th century, the new kingdom had collapsed, got divided and Cush emerged again as an independent kingdom that was governed from Napata. The Cush Kingdom conquered and ruled Egypt between 750 and 740 BC after which Egypt was re-united. Confrontation between the Assyrians and the Egyptians in 688-663BC resulted to Cush Pharaoh retaliating returning to dynasty in Napata where he originally ruled from prior to the unification of Egypt. In 590 BC, the Cush court was compelled to move to Meroe, a safer place than Napata due to the Egypt attack as it tried to regain its control over Cush again. Meroe developed for several centuries independent of Egypt and extended its dynasty to the present day Khartoum from the third cataract located at Sawba.

The pharaoh traditions still persisted in Meroe, a well managed irrigation system sustained the huge growing population at Meroe. By the 1st century BC, there was development of the Meroitic script that was similar to the indigenous Egyptian script. The succession system at Meroe was not necessarily hereditary and crown was passed from brother to sister or to brother and selection of the queen was very crucial to smooth succession. The Cush fell after it was invade by the predatory Blemmyes who were nomads but Meroe continued to be with contact with the Indians and Arabs.

By the 2nd century, the Nobatae occupied the North of Cush at West Bank, this was subsidized by the Romans as a buffer between the Blemmyes and then the Axum in the 5th century, now the current Ethiopia that capture and demolished the city of Meroe ad there from Meroe kingdom ceased. In the 6th century, three states that were descendants of Meroe Kingdom emerged; these were Nobatia, Muqurra and Alwa.

These kingdoms used Greek titles to rule the Meroetic population in imitation of the Byzantine Court. Missionaries started to preach in Nobatia in 540 AD and the Nubian kings were converted to Monophysite Christianity that was being practiced in Egypt, many bishops and religious leaders were consecrated in Egypt. The Mediterranean civilization was rekindled by the coming of Christianity.

The use of Greek in liturgy led to development of the Nubian language that combined both the Coptic and old meroitic scripts. The Nubian kingdoms survived many centuries but with the arrival of Arabs in 640 and subsequent conquering of Egypt posed a threat to these Christian kingdoms. Historians believe that the Muqurra and Nobatia kingdoms were forced to merge by the Arabs to form the Dunqula kingdom around 700 this resulted to isolation of the Nubian church since Egypt became dominated by the Muslims.

The introduction and spread of Islam after Muhammad’s death lead to division between the south and north Sudan society. Islam encouraged economic growth, political stability and education development to its followers. Islam was spread to the east and north by the Arab armies who also attacked the Nubian territory in 642 and 652 thereby demolishing its cathedral.

Though with continued arabization of the Nile valley, there were tension between the Arabs and Nubian territory and the resulted to a peace treaty which encouraged trade between the two opposite sides and other regions. This lead to emergence of two Arab speaking groups, the Juhayna and the Jaali. These groups aided in bringing down the Nubian territory.

The Nubian territories remained independent up to the 13th century when they were overruled by the Muslims due expansion of Islam  to the continuous intermarriages between them and Arabs which resulted to the dark age of Christianity as slavery intensified. This forced the Nubian communities to seek Arab protectors for fear of their security. The Islam was not part of the old Nubian territory until15th to 16th century


Kush, Meroe and Nubia, retrieved on 13th, October, 2007, available at www.shsu.edu/~his_ncp/Sudan.html

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