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THE 1st NUBIAN AGE: 3100 -1000 BC

Kush began just north of the first cataract of the Nile River and extended beyond the sixth cataract to present day Khartoum. Early culture centered around a settlement at Kerma. In this first Bronze Age era, three people are identified as the beginning Nubian people. They are called the "A-Group", the "C-Group", and the "Kerma Culture". The "A" & "C" groups were largely dominated by Egypt and centered in the Lower Nile, while the Kerma Culture centered in the Upper Nile and traded extensively with Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean. Kerma itself was a trading center established as an Egyptian trading post with Egyptian administrators, soldiers, and artisans, but also seems to have been the residence of the Nubian chief and the center of Nubian government.

1550 - 590 BC

Egypt, during its Eighteenth Dynasty, took control of the Nubian territories and named Lower Nubia "Wawat", and Upper Nubia "Kush". During this time the Nubian culture was gradually "Egyptianized", but retained much of its special Sudanese/Nubian character. Shortly after the end of the Twentieth Dynasty, Egypt lost control of Nubia and the area declined until around 900 BC when a Nubian monarchy began to emerge with its capital at Napata. By 770 BC, the Kingdom of Kush had extended its borders north to the boundaries of the Upper Nile and began to take a leading role in African affairs that was to last 1000 years. From 750 to 730 BC, Kush pushed northward, captured Egypt from Libyan control and moved their capital to Thebes. Kushite rulers adopted a crown which has a double cobra signifying Nubia and Egypt as their domain. Some of the Egyptian people welcome Kushite rule, seeing them as civilized people and not barbarians (likely due to cultural similarities). Then in 666 BC, the Assyrians invaded Egypt and drove Kush back up the Nile (apparently in response to aid given to Palestine, Jerusalem and Syria against Assyria). As Kush retreated, they took with them the Egyptian religious traditions of Amon, performed worship ceremonies in the temple in Napata, supplanting the Kushite god Apedemak.


In 591 BC, Egypt invaded Kush and Napata was captured and the Kushite king transferred the capital to Meroe, near the sixth cataract creating greater distance between Kush and Egypt. When Persia invaded Egypt at about 525 BC, they stopped at Kush's northern border. Owing to the distance of Meroe to the Northern border, and that Kush posed little threat to the Persians, Kush remained relatively peaceful during this time. However, Napata remained the religious center and royal cemetery of Kush until about 300 when the royal burial site was moved to Meroe, as well, bringing an end to the Napatan Period. 


While the rulers of Kush were no longer buried at Napata, they still kept allegiance to the Temple of Amon, gradually making the transition to Meroe and the worship of the Kushite god Apedemak.
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Historical Timeline of Ancient Egypt

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Ancient Egyptian Religions

Map of Ancient Africa

Text on Rosetta Stone

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Rosetta Stone

Ancient Nubia












































































































The move to Meroe weakened the Egyptian influence and enlivened the Sudanese character of Kush. Trade with Egypt (Now under the rule of the Ptolomies) and with Asia (India especially) was growing, and Kush even entered into joint building projects with Egypt at their common border.


Trade routes from the interior of Africa passed through Kush and up the Nile to the Mediterranean and apparently through Kush to Asia as well. Images of the Kushite god Apedemak from this era show strong Indian influence as they were rendered in a classic Indian style. Kush enjoyed an economically strategic position, bolstering its power and importance in the Classical World.

This time marks the height of Meroitic Civilization. Kush is ruled by both kings and queens equally, with the queen, or Kandake (from which we get the present day female name of Candice) often taking the leading role in civil and international affairs.

Rome gained control of Egypt and all of the north African coastline and exacted tribute from Kush. Kush, called "Aethiopia" by the Romans (not to be confused with the present Ethiopia which was called Abyssinia by the Romans - see Axum), seeing Rome edge into lower Nubia, attacked and sacked the Roman outposts at Elephantine and Syene. the Romans retaliated and conquered the Kushite towns of Dakka and Premnis. Then Rome marched on Napata where the queen was in residence. She sued for peace and was refused. Rome then attacked Napata and razed it to the ground, making slaves of their captives. After that Rome fortified Premnis and kept it as their southernmost border while waging a three year war with Kush. 

Finally, the Kandake marched upon Premnis and sued for peace, appealing to August Caesar. Impressed with the Kandake's appeal, and probably being aware that Rome had overextended itself at so distant a border, He accepted at about 20 BC. Kush was freed from further tribute, the borders were established at their Ptolemaic location, and Premnis was returned to Kushite control.


While the Kushite kingdom was economically and politically strong at the beginning of the Late Meroitic period, it was soon to enter a cycle of decline. With the rise of Axum, trade routes shifted, and Kushite commercial interests faded. Decline was further complicated with an ecological decline of the area causing less agricultural production and the gradual migration of the population from the area. Border skirmishes with tribal factions and internal struggles also added to the decline.

With Rome trading with Axum and shifting its interests from Kush, the Kushite Kingdom became more and more isolated. In 298 AD, Rome finally evacuated the northern borders of Kush. In an apparent bid to regain some economic parody, Kush seems to have attacked Axum, in retaliation for which Axum over-ran Kush, occupied Meroe, and brought about the total
collapse of Kush as a civilization in 350 AD.

~ Axum (Aksum) ~

"The Axum (Aksum) people developed when Kush speaking people in Ethiopia migrating from the Sahara and Semitic speaking people from southern Arabia (the Sabaeans) settled in the   area known as the Abyssinian Plateau around 500 BC and intermingled into one culture. This was a strategic position in the trade routes between Asia and Kush affording easy access to Arabic trade routes and the Mediterranean via the Red Sea. The area was agriculturally well suited, politically defensible, and allowed the possibility of undisturbed cultural development. They spoke a Semitic language and wrote in a Semitic "alphabet". 

We have scant knowledge about the early Axumite kingdom. Apparently following a feudal system, they had a single king (the "Negus"), who ruled over princes who paid him tribute. By the first century A.D. the principal city was Axum, and the port city of Adulis became a major trading port that attracted Greek and Jewish traders and merchants.

Adulis served as a crossroads to a variety of cultures: Egyptian, Kushite, Sudanic, Arabic, Middle Eastern, and Indian. 

In the second century A.D., Axum acquired tribute states on the Arabian Peninsula across the Red Sea, overtook northern Ethiopia, and then finally conquered Kush. The conquest and destruction of the Kushite Empire gave Axum complete control of the most important trade routes and one of the most fertile regions in the world. 

The original Axumite religion was a polytheistic religion which believed in gods that controlled the natural world. In the fourth century, King Ezana, converted to Christianity and declared Axum to be a Christian state, and began actively proselytizing the population. Not many of the people accepted Christianity at first, but Christianity gradually supplanted the old religion. The move was politically and commercially beneficial to Axum in that Rome was undergoing similar conversion, and the Roman capital was being relocated to Constantinople.

Axum remained a strong empire and trading power until the rise of Islam in the seventh century AD. As Islam spread, the trade routes changed and commercially isolated Axum. The fall of Rome spelled out a fall for Axum as well as Axum could not maintain the linking trade routes that Rome had so long maintained. By the end of the seventh century, Axum as a power had ended giving rise to the modern Ethiopian people.

~ North Coast ~


Early indigenous Libyan and North coast cultures have left few clues and no written history. Prior to the Phoenician invasion, there seem to have been mostly Neolithic, pre-bronze age   cultures. Since these cultures were introduced to iron by the Phoenicians, they never passed through a bronze age of their own.

The founding of Carthage was precipitated by Phoenician migration into the western Mediterranean (traditionally from Tyre) in search of raw materials, principally metals such as gold,   silver, copper and tin. The Phoenician name for Carthage was "Kart Hadasht", "New City". Earliest archaeological evidence places settlement at the middle of the 8th century BC, while tradition places it's founding at 814 BC.

For about the first two hundred years, it remained little more than a small settlement, but the loss of influence of Tyre, and Tyre's subjugation by Babylon, and growing competition from Greek settlements (starting in about 580 BC) in Sicily (principally Selinus and Syracuse) thrust Carthage into the need to enter into alliances with other Phoenician settlements in the western Mediterranean and Spain, and with the Etruscans on the west coast of Italy. Joint victories in repelling the Greeks propelled Carthage into a position of power. From this point, Carthage began to hire mercenary troops (mostly native Libyans) as its citizenry was too small to maintain the burden military of regional leadership. A final defeat of a Carthaginian invasion of Sicily in 480, and the Persian invasion of Greece brought seventy years of peace and a western Mediterranean trading monopoly for Carthage. 

For Carthage, trade seems to have been the singular industry, and since very little archaeological evidence of the legendary wealth of Carthage remains, it would seem that their trade was in raw materials and non-durable goods. At this point, Carthage maintained control of settlements in northern Africa and in southern Spain, and controlled the shipping routes through most of the Mediterranean.


The three Punic Wars (264 to 146 BC) gradually whittled away Carthage's dominance of the Mediterranean, and ended in the utter destruction of the city of Carthage, the enslavement of it's citizens, and the creation of the Roman province of Africa. The first Punic War gave the Roman Republic undisputed control of Corsica and Sicily, and of the western Mediterranean sea lanes. The second Punic War resulted in Carthage's loss of Spain all its island outposts, and its entire navy. The third Punic War finished Carthage and established Rome as the military, political, and economic power in the western Mediterranean and north Africa. 

From 146 to 30 BC, Rome gradually overtook the northern African coastal lands. The small portion of Tunisia that Rome took with the destruction of Carthage was largely held as an after-thought, while recognizing a series of client kingdoms that Rome largely left to their own devices. Finally, alliances with the Pompeian side of the Roman Civil Wars which destroyed the Roman Republic (and left the Roman Empire in its place) brought Rome's final conquest of northern Africa. The last to fall was Egypt in 30 BC when the Octavian (Roman Emperor Augustus) defeated Marc Antony and Cleopatra VII in the Battle of Actium in 31 BC and opened the door to the conquest of Ptolemaic Egypt.

~ Southern & Southwest Africa ~

Iron work seems to first appear as early as the first century AD, apparently resulting from diffusion of Bantu people who migrated from what is now Nigeria and Cameroon into Southern Africa. Their skill in metal working seems to have been learned from trade with Kush and achieved a high order of craftsmanship.

The Khoisan People (formerly referred to as Bushmen or Hottentots) were already settled in the area as "stone-age" hunter-gatherer societies. As the Bantu people moved into the area, the Khoisan People gradually moved west but never completely vacated the area. 

The earliest settlements at Great Zimbabwe date from the fourth century. Agriculturally favorable land and rich mineral deposits, along with the ability of the Bantu speaking people to mine, smelt, and work metals like iron, tin and gold, gave the Bantu a strong foothold resulting in the kingdoms of Great Zimbabwe and Mutapa and wide dispersion of Bantu people throughout the southern region of Africa.


**Pre-Colonial Africa: Her Civilizations and Foreign Contacts   F.J. Nothling   BSL DT20 N67 1989
**The Atlas of Africa     Regine Van Chi-Bonnardel    BSL Oversize G2445 N45 1973
**Kush, the Jewel of Nubia: Reconnecting the Root System of African Civilization   Miriam Ma'at-Ka-Re Monges   BSL DT159.6 N83 M66 1997
**Atlas of African History   Colin McEvedy   BSL G2446 S1 M3
**General History of Africa / UNESCO International Scientific Committee for the Drafting of a General History of Africa BSL DT20 G45 1981

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