Kingdom of Kush | One of the great civilizations of African Antiquity, 6000 years ago


In this post get to know the Kingdom Kush . In the Nubian region – in modern day Republic of Sudan.

The Kingdom of Kush was home to three of the greatest cities in African antiquity: Kerma, Napata and Meroe.

This post is also available in; Português.

Text: Manuela Tenreiro, Online course African Art.

Cover image: Deffufa Temple, Kerma, Kingdom of Kush, 3,000 BCE, Sudan. 


Kingdom of Kush Menore

Pyramids of Meroe, Sudan.

The Kingdom of Kush

Up the Nile, heading south past the third waterfall, we reach the Nubian Desert in modern day Republic of Sudan.

In this region, ancient villages date from 6000 years with signs of agricultural activities, mining and ironwork.

As shown by the enormous grinding stones digged in precious metals’ processing fields and dated from the second millennium BCE, the Kingdom of Kush there situated was Egypt’s main gold supplier.

The strategic position of the Kingdom of Kush in the Nile gave it access to Sub-Saharan and Eastern Africa and granted it the role of trade mediator between southern Africa and Egypt to the north; a role the latter begrudged.

The Kingdom of Kush was home to three of the greatest cities in African antiquity: Kerma, Napata and Meroe.

The city of Kerma

Kingdom of Kush Kerma

The Deffufa Temple in the city of Kerma, Kingdom of Kush , 3,000 B.C.E., Sudan


Kerma’s architecture shows a fortified town, socially stratified and of great dimensions–with about 10,000 inhabitants, around 2500 BCE.

A 10 metre high imposing wall surrounds the city, encircling adobe constructions of round and rectangular houses with yards and gardens varying in size according to the social position of their history African art

Another indicator of status was their distance from the town center where the main monuments and graveyards were located.

The most important building was the Deffufa, a circular construction with a conical ceiling of unknown function, although probably of political or religious importance.

The richness of Kerma and its strategic location led to war with Egypt. A war from which Egypt came out victorious around 1500 BCE.

However, farther south, Kush culture survived and continued to resist from Napata and Meroe.

One of humanity’s first ‘holy wars’

Gradually, Egyptians took their culture and their gods to Kerma.

In a few centuries the assimilated population had incorporated and accepted Egyptian spirituality, centering religious life around pilgrimages to the Temple of Amu in the Jebel Barkal mountain, the Egyptian southern border.

Nubians even came to believe they were better faithful than the Egyptians themselves.

To the point when Nubian king Piye invaded Egypt to the north, taking power in 750 BCE in what we can consider one of humanity’s first ‘holy wars’.

The 25th dynasty had started, or as some historians call it, the era of black Pharaohs.

Kingdom of Kush Black Pharaos


Artistic production

The artistic richness of this period was produced between the 9th and the 5th centuries BCE.

Kingdom of Kush

But Nubian art had a somehow different tradition than Egypt.

Although the art absorbed the bi-dimensionality of Egyptian painting, there are stylistic differences such as less rigid and more naturalistic and rounded body shapes.

Online course – African art – from rock art to modern era

During the course, you will learn about the history of African art.

Starting with rock art and those that are considered the first artistic manifestations of humanity until modern era and the influence of African art in European avant-garde artistic movements.

  • To know the manifestations of rock art and its importance for the history of humanity.
  • To know the great African civilizations, their artistic manifestations and their processes of cultural interaction.
  • To know the great changes generated by Christianity and Islam in Africa and their artistic manifestations.
  • Understand the impact of European empires in the modern era in Africa and the influence of African art on European artistic movements.