The ancient region of Nubia was located in northeast Africa, in what is now southern Egypt and northern Sudan. The first group of Nubian people that we know much about, called the A-Group by archaeologists, lived around 3500 BC, but there is evidence of civilization in Nubia as far back as 8000 BC.
Because Nubians were great archers, the Egyptians called Nubia "Ta-Seti," or Land of the Bow. The name Nubia came into use in the Middle Ages.
Although it was a hot, dry land, ancient Nubia was a treasure trove of gold, ivory, stone, and other riches, and therefore a tempting target to foreign rulers. At times Egypt ruled Nubia; at other times, various Nubian kingdoms flourished.
The great kingdom of Kush (or Cush) was located in south Nubia. The ancient Greeks called it Ethiopia. In the 8th century BC, Kush -- led by King Piankhi (or Piye) and later his brother and successor King Shabaka -- conquered Egypt. These Kushite kings founded Egypt's 25th ruling dynasty. After Shabaka died, Piankhi's son Shebitku became pharaoh; he was succeeded by his brother Taharqa.
But the Nubian Dynasty's reign in Egypt proved to be short-lived. In the middle of the 7th century BC, Taharqa was driven out of Egypt by the Assyrians. He and his cousin Tanutamon, who succeeded Taharqa as king of Kush, tried but failed to regain the Egyptian throne.
Around 592 BC, Egypt sacked Kush's capital, Napata. After that, the city of Meroe became the capital of Kush. The kingdom lasted for some 900 years more.
One notable Kushite ruler was the fierce one-eyed warrior queen Amanirenas, who battled an occupying Roman army in the first century AD. Her ambassadors were conducted into the presence of the Roman emperor Augustus Caesar, and according to the Roman writer Strabo, they "obtained all that they desired, and Caesar even remitted the tribute which he had imposed." Queen Amanirenas had won; the Romans withdrew from most of Nubia.
It seems Kush gradually went into decline, and crumbled completely after the armies of Aksum (a kingdom of ancient Ethiopia) conquered Meroe around 350 AD. New kingdoms arose in Nubia, and these kingdoms started converting to Christianity in the 6th century AD. Around 1400, Nubia began falling under the control of Arab rulers, and many Nubians converted to Islam. But much of Nubian culture has survived through the centuries, and the Nubian language is still spoken today in Egypt and Sudan.
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Ancient Nubia: Egypt's Rival in Africa by David O'Connor. Based on a museum exhibition, this book includes drawings, maps, and photographs.
The Nubian Pharaohs: Black Kings on the Nile by Dominique Valbelle and Charles Bonnet. Illuminates the epic history of the little-known era when the pharaohs of Egypt came from Sudan. Illustrated with over 170 color photographs.
The Black Pharaohs: Egypt's Nubian Rulers by Robert G. Morkot. A powerful kingdom arose in northern Sudan (Kush) during the 9th century BC. Conquering Egypt, its kings ruled the Nile Valley from the Mediterranean as far as Khartoum for half a century.
From Slave to Pharaoh: The Black Experience of Ancient Egypt by Donald B. Redford. Examines the interactions between Egypt and the Nubian and Sudanese civilizations to the south, focusing on the role of racial identity in the formulation of imperial power in Egypt.
Piankhy in Egypt: A Study of the Piankhy Stela by Hans Goedicke. Piankhi or Piye was a king of Kush who invaded Egypt.
The Kingdom of Kush: Handbook of the Napatan-Meriotic Civilization by Laszlo Torok. Discusses the emergence of the native state of Kush, the rule of the kings of Kush in Egypt, and the history of the kingdom in the Napatan and Meroitic periods. Includes a genealogy of the kings of Kush from Alara to Nastasen.
The Kingdom of Kush: The Napatan and Meroitic Empires by Derek A. Welsby. A scholarly look at the ancient kingdom. Includes illustrations.
Egypt and Ethiopia
The Sudan of the Three Niles: The Funj Chronicle, 910-1288/1504-1871 by P.M. Holt. The Funj kings reigned in Sudan from the 16th century through the 19th century.
A History of the Sudan: From the Coming of Islam to the Present Day by P.M. Holt and M.W. Daly. A comprehensive introductory history of the Sudan.
Historical Dictionary of the Sudan by Robert S. Kramer, Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban. Focuses on the Sudan in Islamic times from the 14th century to the present, including info on the sultanates of Sinnar and Dar Fur, the Mahdiya, and the history of Islam in the Sudan.
The Ancient African Kingdom of Kush by Pamela F. Service is for children ages 9 to 12.
Princess Kandake: Warrior By Choice... Appointed to Rule by Stephanie Jefferson. In ancient Nubia, 14-year-old Princess Kandake learns she must be both queen and warrior to save her kidnapped brother. For young adult readers.