By Fatema Marvi and Mathew Brendon Kim
The kingdom of Kush was another African society which was also Egypt's powerful southern neighbor.
It is located south of the third cataract of the Nile river in upper Nubia.
The history spans more than 1000 years- from approximately 1000 BCE to 350 CE.
It was divided into two periods, the Napatan period from 1000-310 BCE , and the Merotic period from 275 BCE to 350 CE.
Napata was the capital city of Kush. It was located at the foot of the so called mountain at Gebel Barkal near the fourth cataract.
Around 785 BCE, a local chief known as Alara united upper Nubia. He is acknowledge by later kings as the founder of the Napatan dynasty of Kush, and is believed to be the one who restored the cult of the God Amun.
It was not only a political capital, but also was an important religious centre.
The latter priest shifted their religious headquarters to Napata, which already was the site of major temples erected by the Egyptians to honor Amun, the sun god.
The remainder of the Napatan period comes from kushite royal documents, which were still written in Egyptian using hieroglyphics. These documents and wall inscriptions come mostly from temples and royal burials.
Very little is known of this period, especially regarding the local general populace.
Around 1700 BC it was invaded and destroyed.
The kushite royal family moved up the Nile and established the city of Meroe as their new capital.
From Meroe, the kushites also carried a trade with Egypt, Arabia and India through the Red Sea ports.
Kush was also a major exporter of elephants, ivory, ostrich features and hides. Such trade brought wealth and new ideas into Meroe.
Trade was vital to the prosperity of Meroe because the relatively limited productivity of the land, which was insufficient to support a centralized state for long.
The peak of Meroe's greatness seems to have been between 250 B.C and A.D 150, secure in its distinctive identity, yet in contact with outside world. It's powers and culture spread over an area stretching nearly a thousand miles up and down the Nile.
Meroe had 3 advantages over Napata.
- It had sufficient rainfall to permit grass and trees to grow.
- It had large iron deposits.
- It was far enough away from Egyptian power to avoid unwanted influence and attack.
Kush also gathered goods such as ivory, ebony and animal skins from other African states for trade to Egypt and other parts of the ancient world. In return, kushites received glassware, fine metal work, jewelry and other manufactured goods.
The artists and craftsmen showed great skill and high productivity. Pottery, which is found in great abundance in all ruins, was especially of high standard.
The more refined pots, evidently made to adorn the homes of the wealthy, are beautifully finished and decorated with drawings done in ochre (iron ore pigment)
Merotic pottery was technically and artiscally the equal of any in the Asian world.
The kushites used centuries old pharaonic influences and ideas from the Mediterranean world and incorporated them with their ancestral customs to create something different and truly their own culture.
When Meroe became the center of the kingdom of kush, important cultural changes occured during the Merotic period as the kushites gave their own traditions and custom prominence over many borrowed from Egypt. The most significant change is that of the language. For the first time in kushite history, the native language, Meroitic, became the official language of the kingdom, and the hieroglyphic alphabets derived from Egyptian signs was created to write it.
Kushites religion is a combination of ancient Egyptian religious traditions and goes with traditional Nubian customs, beliefs, and gods. A ram headed form of Amun was the new god to the kushites since it was mix of the Egyptians and Nubians belief of who their god is. Amun was to be the most important in the kushites pantheon. Temples were very common since they were thankful for Amun for great success.
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The kushites copied the Egyptians and took their hieroglyphics and made it their own. They seemed very similar to the Egyptian because they are known to copy very successful empires.