Ancient Nubia and the Kingdom of Kush
The history of northern Sudan stretches back to an astonishing 300,000 years ago. It was home to one of sub-Saharan Africa’s most ancient kingdoms, the renowned Kingdom of Kush (approximately 2500–1500 BC).
This culture was responsible for producing some of the finest pottery found in the Nile Valley, including the exquisite Kerma glasses. Sudan was highly sought after for its abundant natural resources, including gold, ebony, and ivory, which captivated the attention of many, including the ancient Egyptians during the Old Kingdom (about 2686–2181 BCE). This pursuit of wealth often led to conflict as Egyptian and Sudanese rulers vied for control of trade routes.
Around 1700 BC, Kush emerged as the dominant state in the Nile valley. This set the stage for a series of conflicts with Egypt, culminating in the conquest of Kush by Thutmose I (1504–1492 BC). In the western and southern regions, Neolithic cultures persisted, beyond the reach of Egyptian rule. Egypt eventually withdrew in the 11th century BCE, allowing Sudanese kings to rise in power. They not only invaded Egypt but also ruled as pharaohs (around 747–656 BCE), at the peak of their reign uniting the Nile valley from Khartoum to the Mediterranean. King Taharqo’s sphinx stands as a testament to the authority and influence of the Kushites. Although they were eventually expelled from Egypt by the Assyrians, their kingdom continued to flourish in Sudan for another millennium.
The monuments and art from this era are a fascinating blend of Pharaonic, Greco-Roman, and indigenous African traditions. This unique fusion can be observed in relics like the relief of the chapel of Queen Shanakdhakete and the aegis of Isis, both housed in the museum’s collection. Around 1070 BC, the Egyptians withdrew from Sudan, and in the 9th century, a second powerful Kushite dynasty emerged.
Seizing the opportunity presented by political instability and disunity in Egypt, King Kashta extended his control to Thebes in Egypt by the mid-eighth century BC. His successor Piankhi (Piye) went on to achieve complete dominion over the Egyptian Nile Valley around 716 BC, leaving an indelible mark on the pages of history.