Back To CourseWorld History: Middle School
20 chapters | 223 lessons
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Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.
The Kush were a civilization that developed to the south of the Egyptians, but also on the Nile River. Originally, the Egyptians established trading outposts in this region, which attracted many of the locals in search for a better life. However, instability back in Egypt meant that many of the Egyptians went home. Left behind were a large number of people known as the Kush, who had a great deal of admiration for the culture of Egypt.
By the way, just as a quick note, sometimes you see books refer to the Kush as the 'Cush' or even as 'Meroë' (Mer-o-ee). The first one is just a different spelling, but we'll talk more about the second one in a minute.
The Kush civilization was located where the Nile River splits into two branches: the White Nile and the Blue Nile. The Blue Nile flows in from the east, with its source in the Ethiopian highlands, whereas the White Nile, the longer of the two, stretches down into East Africa. Today, those two branches of the Nile meet at the city of Khartoum, the capital of modern-day Sudan. This location heavily affected the type of civilization that the Kush developed.
For example, the Kush would never be a maritime power, as even though the Nile did lead to the Mediterranean, the rapids of the river made it impossible for any ships to pass. Also, Egypt, by this point a very powerful empire, would not have been too pleased with ships belonging to Kush sailing so close to its cities. This meant that even if there were no rapids or waterfalls, chances are the Kush would have still been focused more on land trading.
Instead, the Kush took advantage of their natural surroundings in a different way. For example, the highland region meant that there was more rain than in Egypt, which combined with the cooler temperatures, meant that crops that would wilt in Egypt could grow in the Kush lands. Also, with access to the grasslands of East Africa, trade in natural resources, such as ostrich feathers, animal hides, and ivory, became important.
However, geography played a role in defining one of the most notable aspects of Kush culture in placing many metal sources in the kingdom's borders. Some historians even think that the Kush invented a blast furnace, a special chamber which blasts extra air into the furnace to let the iron get hotter, making the metal sharper and harder. In fact, iron from the Kush was renowned for its quality, and appears as far away as India and China. Not surprising, the Kush were also expert goldsmiths and jewelers.
Obviously, the Kush had great admiration for the culture of the Egyptians, and this is very evident even though we still haven't figured out the Kushite language. Instead, it is apparent from any trip to ruins of a Kush city. The most striking aspect of these ruins is that they look almost Egyptian. In fact, many of the very same gods are portrayed with their traditional symbols, and there are even pyramids. However, the pyramids of the Kush look different than the Egyptian ones, as the Kushite pyramids are shorter, have much smaller bases, and are typically skinny.
The Kush and the Egyptians were very often competing for control of parts of the Nile River, and on occasion, this led to war between the two. The Kushites were able to seize control of all of Egypt for a few decades, and even ruled the country as the pharaohs of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty. However, they were so similar to the Egyptians that the only thing really different about the period was how much extra time was spent reviving the artistic styles from a few hundred years prior that the Kush found so appealing about Egypt. Instead, it was the Egyptian invasion of the Kush that would have the greater impact.
Until this time, the kingdom of the Kush had ruled from a town fairly close to Egypt called Napata (NAP-uh-tuh). However, after this invasion, it was determined that perhaps the capital of the Kush should be further away from the Egyptians. As a result, they moved the capital to a new city, Meroë. Some historians treat this as an entirely new culture, but in all honesty, that makes about as much sense as a family changing its name just because it moved down the street.
That's not to say that the Kush, now living around Meroë, were doing things the same as always. Instead, the Kush really found a new balance between the different groups of their kingdom. Hunters were encouraged to hunt as much as possible, which in turn provided not only a highly-trained group of soldiers in times of war, but also a great deal of furs, feathers, and hides for trade with other cultures.
Trade was expanded, and while Egyptian customs were still kept, more and more the oldest parts of the original Kush culture began to sneak back into people's daily life, especially with regards to the king. In fact, one of the most important people in the capital became the king's mother. In any event, moving the capital worked well for the Kush - whereas Egypt was conquered soon after by the Persians, the Kush were able to maintain independence for almost another thousand years.
We just discussed the Kingdom of Kush, learning that the country was located to the south of Egypt, and learning about the significant cultural influence that the Egyptians had on that country. The importance of trade and metalwork, especially the role of iron, was explained. We also talked about the wars that were fought between the Kush and the Egyptians, and how the Kushites moved their capital from Napata, relatively close to Egypt, to Meroë, quite some distance away, and were able to exist for a longer period of time.
This lesson on the Kush civilization provides the facts you'll need to:
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Back To CourseWorld History: Middle School
20 chapters | 223 lessons