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The Kingdom of Kush: Location, Events & Leaders

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  • 0:01 Kerma
  • 1:04 Kush
  • 2:09 25th Dynasty
  • 3:15 Meroe
  • 4:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

Often relegated to second-class status after their powerful neighbors to the north, Kush was able to survive as a culture that dated back more than 10,000 years and existed until the fall of the Roman Empire.

Kerma

Civilization along the Nile River did not confine itself solely to Egypt. Far to the south, in modern Sudan and Ethiopia, another civilization began to take hold. This early culture was centered on the town of Kerma and proves elusive even today for historians and archaeologists. However, this was no mere village. The ruins left by the people of Kerma are impressive, but the really impressive aspect is their age.

Ancient Egyptian civilization is typically dated from 3100 BC, but these ruins go back another 7,000 years, to 10,000 BC. That means that these ruins are from about the same time as the first villages were established. Also, the ceramics produced by the people of Kerma show a high level of technical mastery, with dyes that were not developed in Egypt for quite some time later. As archaeologists continue their excavations of Kerma, historians may have to rewrite the history of humanity's earliest settlements.

Kush

Unlike Kerma, we know significantly more about the Kingdom of Kush, which existed at around the same time as the Egyptians. Much of this is because the Egyptians tended to write a great deal about their neighbors, but within the last few years, scholars have been able to read the Kush language, so we hear about Kush from the Kush themselves.

Kush was written in hieroglyphs, but it wasn't just a writing system that the Kush borrowed from the Egyptians. Kush leaders began styling themselves as 'Pharaohs,' worshipping the Sun God Amon, and even building pyramids, just like their neighbors to the north. It was also during the time of the Kingdom of Kush that trade routes started to be established that linked Kush with the rest of the world.

Far from being an outlying kingdom, Kush was at the center of a trade network that linked India, Europe, and the Middle East, and all parts of Africa, including West Africa. Such wealth made the Kush a tempting target, and the Egyptians routinely tried to conquer it. In fact, this was a cause for much of the cultural admiration that the Kush had for the Egyptians.

25th Dynasty

For centuries, the Egyptians were the more powerful of the two kingdoms on the Nile; however, as the Assyrians became more powerful in the Near East, more of Egyptian resources had to be spent protecting that frontier. This meant greater instability for the rest of Egypt, and the Kush were able to capitalize on this weakness. Under King Kashta, the Kush conquered the southern part of Egypt, while his son Piye conquered the northern half, establishing what is known in Egyptian history as the 25th Dynasty.

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