Land of the Blacks

The Sudan

السودان

“Land of the Blacks” or “The land of the Black Pharaohs 

“The land of the Bows”

             Land of the Blacks

Artwork by Asim and Omer Elrayah, Rana Hossam, and Samitha A.

The Kingdom of Kush originated in Northern Africa, corresponding to modern-day Sudan.1 The kingdom was present during the 1st dynasty of Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs in 3000 BC.1 

It was very well known that the Kushites were a powerful region that the Ancient Egyptians feared.1  They would call the people of Kush, “The land of the bows”' because they were renowned for the skill of their horsemanship and archery skills. They would dip their arrowheads in poison to make them more deadly. Their specialty was to shoot their opponents in the eye.1  

Tensions between the two kingdoms were constant, often resulting in battles for control of the Nile River.1 In 1550 BC, the Kushites were defeated and lost control of the Nile; they were now forced to move their kingdom further south to an area called Napata.1,2

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The Kushite dynasty is divided into three periods: Kerma, Napatic and Meroitic, named after their respective capitals. 1,2 

Kushite heartland and Kushite Empire of the 25th dynasty circa 700 B.C.E.

Kushite heartland and Kushite Empire of the 25th dynasty circa 700 B.C.E. (map: Lommes, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Kerma: 

Kerma was the most powerful Nubian city-state between approx. 2450 BC and 1450 BC.2 Egyptian records are the first to identify this Nubian civilization as Kush.2 During this time, Nubians practiced agriculture, hunting, and produced ceramic and metal goods.2 The people of Kerma were well-known for their pottery, experts believe that the Ancient Sudanese were the first to develop the technique of enameling pottery.1

Napata:
At its peak the Kingdom of Kush ruled over an empire extending from central Sudan to the Mediterranean, its capital in Napata, which corresponds to modern day Jebel Barkal.1 Napata was the capital of Kush at its peak. Kushite civilization shared many cultural and religious connections with Egypt during this time.2 Historical records show marriages between Egyptian and Kushite royal families.2 In Egyptian art, Kushites are depicted with darker skin and a cropped hairstyle.2 Kushites depicted themselves wearing animal-skin cloaks, patterned fabrics, and large earrings.2
Nubian Pharaohs
History and Hardware of Warfare. "Nubian Pharaohs". November 4, 2019. https://weaponsandwarfare.com/2019/11/04/nubian-pharaohs/

Meroë:

The final capital of the Kingdom of Kush was in Meroë.2 The most significant artifacts of Meroitic culture are the pyramids.2 A single necropolis at Meroë has more pyramids than all of Egypt.2 Meroë also had an abundance of iron, which the Kushites traded all throughout Africa, the Mediterranean and Asia. Like Egyptian pyramids, the pyramids at Meroë are tombs, however the burial chamber lies beneath the pyramid.2 More than a dozen Kushite kings, queens, and other nobles are interred with pyramids. Kush had its own dynastic leaders, trade systems, adaptations of Egyptian religion, and even its own alphabet and languages.1,2

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The Six Black Pharaohs:

King Kashta (8th century- 745 BC): Owned gold mines in Kush and controlled trade routes on the Nile River and land routes for luxury goods from Egypt to further south in Africa.1

King Piye (747-714 BC): The son of King Kashta. He was a skilled fighter, his victory stele has 159 lines. King Piye overthrew and ruled Egypt for 30 years. He had a close bond with his horses, it was said that when his favorite horses died Piye would have them buried near his future tomb. King Piye is also credited with rebuilding pyramids as royal tombs.1,3 

King Shabaka (714–705 BC): King Piye’s younger brother. Established the Kushites as an African superpower because of their incredible military strength.1,3

King Shebitku (705–690 BC): King Shabaka’s son who ruled a coregency with King Shabaka before he died.3

King Taharqa (690–664 BC):  King Piye’s son. King Taharqa created numerous construction projects throughout Egypt. He is credited with building the largest pyramid in the Nubian region at Nuri.1,3 

King Tantamani (664-657 BC): King Taharqa’s nephew. His defeat by the Assyrians marked the end of Egypt’s rule by the Kushite Kings.1,3

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During the 8th century, the Kingdom of Kush was growing richer and more powerful, while Egypt was diminishing due to internal rivalries.1 

When Egypt was conquered by the Princes of Libya, Kushites were upset that Libya had imposed their culture & religion onto the territory; leading King Kashta to invade and save the Egyptians from further ruin.1

King Kashta ruled for about 13 years and died 3 years after his invasion into Egypt.1 He defeated the Libyan princes and established Kushite rule over Egypt, as the Kingdom’s 25th dynasty. 1

King Shabaka managed to rule all of Egypt and move the capital from Napata to Thebes.1,3 According to the Biblical narrative and through their successful conquest, the Kushites gained the attention of King Hezekiah of Judah who was being threatened by the Assyrians.1,4 King Hezekiah appealed for King Shabaka’s help to ward off the Assyrians.1 This was the beginning of Kush’s bloody rivalry against the Assyrians.1,4 

King Taharqa defeated the Assyrians, but during their second battle the key city of Memphis, former capital of Egypt, fell to the Assyrians. King Taharqa would then withdrew south to Thebes.1,4

King Tantamani was able to reclaim Memphis from the Assyrians, but it was short-lived as the Assyrians would reinvaded Egypt in 664 BC and retake the city of Thebes and destroy it.1,4 After his loss to the Assyrians, King Tantamani returned to Napata, and later to the southern Kushite capital of Meroë until his death.1,4 

His defeat by the Assyrians marked the end of Egypt’s rule by the Kushite Kings.1 The Assyrians and Egyptians of the Late Period attempted to erase Kushite leadership and the 25th Dynasty from history by destroying their statues, steles, and even their names from the historic record. 1,3,4

Around the mid 4th century the Aksumite Empire was responsible for the decline of Kush. The fall of Kush meant a glorious chapter in the history of Ancient Sudan. 200 years after the fall of Kush to the middle of the 6th century is still unknown.

The region is known as The Sudan, which is short for the Arabic translation of Bilad Al-Sudan: Land of the Blacks.

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The Kandakas (Queens) of Kush

Kandaka was the Meroitic term for the sister of the king of Kush who, due to the matrilineal succession, would bear the next heir, making her a queen mother.1 The queens of Kush were able to succeed as monarchs and oftentimes ruled jointly with their husbands or sons.1 

Queen Amani-Renace is one of the most famous kandakas, because of her strength and role in leading Kushite armies against the Romans despite being blinded in one eye.5 It is said that Queen Amani-Renace fought so fiercely to defeat Caesar Augustus that the Romans never went past again.Amani-RenasAmani Renas

One carving depicts Amanirenas with two swords feeding captives to her pet lion.  Other accounts describe Kandakas using war elephants on their foes. (History Heroines. Amanirenas – One-Eyed Warrior Queen. Feb 28, 2020. historyheroines.com/2020/02/28/amanirenas/)

"Queen Amanirenas and Prince Akinidad, possibly her son, watch the burning of the fort housing the Roman garrison in 27 BCE, during their invasion of Upper Egypt." (History and Hardware of Warfare. "Nubian Pharaohs". November 4, 2019. https://weaponsandwarfare.com/2019/11/04/nubian-pharaohs/) (art from “Splendors of the Past: Lost Cities of the Ancient World, National Geographic Society, 1981.) 

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Pyramids

The Kushite pyramids differ from those in Egypt, as they are smaller, steeper and made of red sand stones.1 There are 1,000 pyramids that have been discovered in Sudan, but unfortunately only about 300 of them are still standing.1

The tips of the Kushite pyramids were believed to have been covered in gold foil, but since then they have been destroyed and the gold has been removed.1

Kushites Pyramid Patience, Nicolas [MrBasabose.]  "Egyptian Pyramids vs Sudanese "pyramids"". Twitter. Oct 14,2015. https://twitter.com/mrbasabose/status/654394436009488385

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Modern day Sudanese people share similar lifestyles with their ancestors:

Kushite women would wear elaborate jewelry gold and stain their long nails, feet, and hands with henna.1 They would also darken their eyes with coal. We still see the same practices today.1

Henna and Gold on Sudanese Women

[beautifuleastafricanbrides:]. Tumblr. https://ohyeahsudan-blog.tumblr.com/post/147229491002/beautifuleastafricanbrides-henna-and-gold

The Kushites were renowned wrestlers.1 Today in Sudan, especially in the Nubia mountains, in the south-west of the country, wrestling tournaments are held regularly.1 

Sudanese Wrestling

Pan African Visions. South Sudanese using wrestling as a tool to promote culture of peace and unity. May 15, 2018. https://panafricanvisions.com/2018/05/south-sudanese-using-wrestling-tool-promote-culture-peace-unity/

People still eat the same grains and use similar earth storage urns to cool water. The style of beds is one that has been in continuous use since ancient times. The continuity of traditions are very much alive among the natives in Sudan today.1 

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Modern day Sudanese people share similar lifestyles with their ancestors:

Around the mid-4th century Kush attacked Axum and the Aksumite Empire responded with large force sacking Meroë and leading to the decline of Kush in the 4th century AD.4 The fall of Kush meant a glorious chapter in the history of Ancient Sudan.1

The 200 years from the fall of Kush to the middle of the 6th century is an unknown age in the Sudan.4

In the 6th century CE, Christian missionaries arrived in Sudan and converted the kingdoms into Christianity.4 Sudan once again receded into a period about which little is known, and it did not reemerge into the stream of recorded history until the coming of the Arabs in the middle of the 7th century.4

During the 16th century, new powerful Islamic kingdoms developed – the Funj Sultanate at Sennar and the Abdallab state in the Butana. These thrived until the region was invaded and colonized by Ottoman forces from Egypt in 1820.4

References:

1. Zeinab Badawi.  Kingdom of Kush - History Of Africa with Zeinab Badawi [Episode 4]. Youtube, uploaded by BBC News Africa. April 9 2020.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwaP1kyAqqo

2. Caryl-Sue, writer. Jeannie Evers, editor. National Geographic. The Kingdoms of Kush. July 20, 2018. https://www.nationalgeographic.org/media/kingdoms-kush/

3. Fisher Jack. Lee Bailey's Eur Web. Black Pharaohs: The Kings of Kush – Egypt’s 25th Dynasty. March 1, 2016. https://eurweb.com/2016/03/01/black-pharaohs-the-kings-of-kush-egypts-25th-dynasty/

4. Britannica. History of Anciet Nubia, Sudan. https://www.britannica.com/place/Sudan/Cultural-institutions#ref281162

Additional Resources: 

Dr. Shadia Taha, Department of Archaeology, Trinity college Cambridge University

Dr. Abdul Rahman Ali, director of Sudan National Museum

History and Hardware of Warfare. "Nubian Pharaohs". November 4, 2019.  https://weaponsandwarfare.com/2019/11/04/nubian-pharaohs/

The British Museum. Khan Academy. Ancient Nubia and the Kingdom of Kush. https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ancient-art-civilizations/egypt-art/x7e914f5b:kingdom-of-kush/a/ancient-nubia-and-the-kingdom-of-kush-an-introduction

The British Museum. "Sudan, Egypt, and Nubia". https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/galleries/sudan-egypt-and-nubia

Rejected Princess. Amanirenas. https://www.rejectedprincesses.com/princesses/amanirenas

Oluoch, Patricia. Africa "On the Rise". A Brief History of The Nubian People. December, 28 2020. https://africaotr.com/a-brief-history-of-the-nubian-people/

 

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