Black Kingdoms of the Nile



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Wonder: Black Pharaohs


Photo: pyramid Kush, the Egyptian name for ancient Nubia, was the site of a highly advanced, ancient black African civilization that rivaled ancient Egypt in wealth, power and cultural development. The first capital of Kush lay at Kerma just south of the Third Cataract of the Nile. Here dwelt powerful and wealthy black kings who controlled the trade routes connecting central Africa with ancient Egypt. The Egyptians, who had few natural resources of their own, sought the precious, exotic products of central Africa to satisfy the demands of their luxury-loving populace. By about 1500 B.C., the Egyptians, feeling threatened by the Nubian kings, invaded Kush and conquered it. For the next four centuries, the Egyptians exploited Kush as a colony. Egypt's wealth in gold came from the desert mines of Kush. The Egyptian word for gold is nub, which is thought by some to be the origin of the name Nubia.

Centuries later the prophet Isaiah would refer to "Kush ... of whirring wings," likening it's army to a locust plague. Around 730 B.C., Kush's warrior hordes turned the tables on a weakened Egypt and conquered it. This event established the black Pharaohs of Kush. They ruled an Egyptian-Nubian empire that extended from the Mediterranean to the confluence of the Blue and White Niles for sixty years. Historians would count their reign as Egypt's 25th Dynasty.

The Kushite pharaohs promoted a renaissance in Egypt and incorporated Egyptian culture, art, and philosophy into their homeland. They built magnificent temples at Jebel Barkal and MeroŽ, filling them with statuary, cultic implements and religious papyri, which became the inspirational force for their culture for centuries to come. The pyramid, abandoned as the proper tomb type by Egyptian kings a thousand years earlier, was revived by the Kushites and used by their monarchs for a thousand years, which is why today there are many more pyramids in the Sudan than in Egypt.

By Timothy Kendall


Regional Map


Temples of Abu Simbel
Black Pharaohs
City of Jebel Barkal
City of MeroŽ
Pyramids at Giza