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Kush and Aksum Notes
Last Updated       12/6/2007      11/24/2007     11/23/2007      10/14/2007     10/15/2007


Kush began north of the first cataract on the Nile River.
It extended beyond the sixth cataract to present day Khartoum.

Called Kush (Nubia, Nuba, or Aethiopia) it became a rich and powerful nation.
Early culture centered around a settlement at Kerma.
Kerma was a trading center established as an Egyptian trading post.
It was staffed with with Egyptian administrators, soldiers, and artisans,
It was also the residence of the Nubian chief and the center of Nubian government.

Around 2000 BC, nomadic cattle herders existed in the Sudan.
From 800 BC - 350 AD, Kush was a center of culture and military might in Africa. 
Kush was also a land of natural wealth.
They had gold mines, ivory, incense, and iron ore.
Unlike Egypt, in Kush, they were not dependent upon the flooding of the Nile.
They had good soil to grow crops and long growing seasons.
They enjoyed rainfall all year long.
The Golden Age of Kush was 800 BC to 350 AD.


Egypt conquered Kush during the New Kingdom.
1160 BC, Egypt's power declined.
Kush won back their independence.
In 900 BC,  a Nubian monarchy began to emerge with its capital at Napata.
By 770 BC, the Kingdom of Kush had extended its borders north to the boundaries of the Upper Nile.
750 BC, Kushite King Kashta sets out to conquer Egypt.
He took some territory from Egypt.
From 750 to 730 BC, Kush pushed northward and captured Egypt from Libyan control.
They moved their capital to Thebes.
Kashta's son, Piankhi, conquered and ruled Egypt for 70 years.
This formed the 25th pharaonic dyansty in the eighth century.
666 BC, Assyrians drive Kushites to the south.
Kushites learned to smelt iron from the Assyrians.
They made iron weapons.
Kush became a great trading nation.
In 591 BC, Egypt invaded Kush.
Napata was captured.
Around 540 BC, the Kushite king transferred the capital to Meroe, near the sixth cataract

Kush Adopts from Egypt

Kush learned to worship the god Amon-Re.
The learned to work iron and bronze.
They changed Egyptian hieroglyphics to fit their own language.


The common people lived in farming villages.
They were able to grow large amounts of grain using iron hoes.


Sandstone palaces and houses of red brick filled the city.
Walls of buildings were tiled in yellow and blue or covered with paintings.


In Meroe there was a huge temple dedicated to Amon-Re. 
Small pyramids were modeled after Egyptian pyramids
They were in the Royal Cemetery. 
They mummified their dead, so they believed in an after-life. 
During the years 1570-110 BC, the Kushite elite adopted Egyptian gods.
They built temples like that dedicated to the sun god Amon at Napata, near present-day Kuraymah.
The temples remained centers of official religious worship until the coming of Christianity to the region in the sixth century


Archaeologists have found ceramic figurines, bowls and funerary objects.
Some were dated to at least 8000 BC. 
In an excavated temple, an interior wall was found with Egyptian pictures.
The pictures included Nile fishing boats, bullfights and an enormous crocodile.
Another wall was covered with rows of giraffes and hippopotamusesm.


1570 - 1100 BC, the Coptic language, spoken in Egypt, became widely used in everyday activities.


Kushites learned to work copper and bronze. 
They also learned the secret of iron-smelting from the Assyrians.. 
There were iron ore  deposits near Meroe. 
They also had plenty of trees to fuel the smelting furnaces. 
Blacksmiths were putting out iron hoes, knives and spears.

Kush exported iron products of iron hoes, knives and spears.
They exported raw materials frankincense, hides, and carnelian.
Carnelian is a stone used for jewelry and for arrowheads.
They sent caravans of camels loaded with trade goods into Egypt carrying gold, ivory, and ebony.  
Kush imported cotton textiles and goods from India, Arabia, and China.
Kush was an active trading center for 600 years, and then it began to decline. 

Supply and Demand
As the demand for iron grew, Kush ran into a problem.
To make iron, they needed to wood to burn.
They had wood, lots of wood.
But they burned so much wood in the process of making iron, and they quickly used up supplies.
The forests could not keep up.
Trees did not grow fast enough to replace those than had been chopped down for firewood.
This led to deforestation.
The land began to lose its fertility.
Without as much wood to burn, Kush could not produce as much iron as they had in the pas.  
Traders began to look elsewhere for iron.
As trade dwindled, the country began to weaken.

Becoming the capital of the Kushite Empire between 590 BC until AD 350.
There are 84 pyramids in the city.
May of the pyramids are built with their own miniature temple.
There are ruins of a bath house sharing affinities with those of the Romans.
Its central feature is a large pool approached by a flight of steps with waterspouts decorated with lion heads.

Islamic traders were the first to use camels.
They transported goods across the desert using the Trans-Sahara Trade Route.
Camels can carry heavy loads.
They can keep their footing in sliding sand.
They can go a long time without water. 
On flat ground, they can run very fast. 
Camels soon were nicknamed the "Ships of the Desert".

Decline of Kush
With the rise of Axum, trade routes shifted.
Kushite commercial interests faded.
Decline was further complicated with less agricultural production.
This caused the gradual migration of the population from the area.
Border skirmishes with tribal factions and internal struggles also added to the decline.
With Rome trading with Axum the Kushite Kingdom became more and more isolated.
In 298 AD, Rome finally evacuated the northern borders of Kush.
Kush seems to have attacked Axum.
Axum retaliated and attacked Kush.
In 350 AD, Axum occupied Meroe, and brought about the total collapse of Kush as a civilization.


Kush and Aksum History Time Line

3000 BC Egyptian writings record attack on Ta-Seti "Land of the Bows."
2000 BC

First African kingdom, the kingdom of Kush.

  First capital of Kush at Kerma south of the Third Cataract
Kerma served as the major trading center for goods travelling north from the southern regions of Africa.
1720 BC Asian nomads called Hyksos invaded Egypt.
Ending the Middle Kingdom
Severed links with Cush.
Destroyed the forts along the Nile River
1700 - 1500 BC

Kush attained its greatest power and cultural energy.

1570-1100 BC Pharaoh Ahmose I incorporated Kush as an Egyptian province.
Governed by a viceroy.
Egyptians officials and priests,military personnel, merchants, and artisans settled in Kush.
1550 BC Kings at Kerma were ruling Nubia.
1500 BC

Egyptians, feeling threatened, invaded Kush and conquered it.

1460-1200 BC Egyptians construct temples at Jebel Barkal.
1160 BC Egypt's power declined. Kushites win back independence.
1000 BC Kush again arose as a major power by conquering all of Nubia.
1000 BC Kushites moved their capital city farther up the Nile to Napata.
800's BC Napatan kings formed the twenty-fifth pharaonic dyansty in Egypt.
One king, Taharqo, was a great builder.
750 BC

Kushite king called (Kashta or King Piye or Piankhi) conquered Upper Egypt.

747 BC City of Thebes in southern Egypt was threatened by northerners, and the Egyptians called upon the Nubian king for protection.
740 BC (Kashta or King Piye or Piankhi) ruler of Thebes
663 BC Invasion of Assyrian armies.
The Nubian king fled south to his capital at Napata.
650 BC Taharqo, the last Kushite pharaoh, and his successor, Tanutamani,  were defeated and expelled from Egypt by.
600 BC Assyrians invade Egypt.
Armed with iron weapons Kushites are driven back south.
Kushites learned to make iron.
591 BC Napata, the Kush capital was conquered by Egyptians.
540 BC Kushites move capital to Meroe.
The inhabitants worship Zeus and Dionysus alone of the Gods.
200 BC Capital had shifted yet farther south to Meroe
23 BC Roman army moved south and razed Napata.
250 AD The culture of Nubia changed radically, perhaps due to the immigration of new peoples into the Nile Valley.
328 AD Axum  became a Christian kingdom under King Ezana.
350 A.D. Kingdom of Kush was burned to the ground by the neighboring kingdom of Axum (Aksum).


Askum (Axum) was located in what is today the country of Ethiopia.

Around 500 BC, The Axum (Aksum) people developed.
Kush speaking people in Ethiopia migrated from the Sahara.
Semitic speaking people from southern Arabia (the Sabaeans) settled in the area.
They intermingled into one culture.
By the 1st AD,  the principal city was Axum,
The port city of Adulis became a major trading port.
Adulis attracted Greek and Jewish traders and merchants.
In the second century A.D., Axum acquired tribute states on the Arabian Peninsula across the Red Sea.
They overtook northern Ethiopia.
They then finally conquered Kush.
The conquest and destruction of the Kushite Empire gave Axum control of the trade routes.
They also controlled  one of the most fertile regions in the world. 

The written language of Aksum was called Ge'ez, a form of Greek.

They had a single king (the "Negus"), who ruled over princes who paid him tribute.

100 AD Zoskales
270 AD Enduis  Coinage begins
320 AD Ezana
400 AD Eon
500 AD Kaleb
600 Gersem
614 AD Armah
705-715 AD al-Walid

Axum was a strong trading kingdom. 
Axum's location allowed the people to gain wealth from trade.
Goods were passed between Europe, Arabia, Asia, and eastern Africa. 

Gold mined from the earth


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270 AD, Aksumites first began producing coins under King Endubis.
Aksumite coins were issued in gold, silver, and bronze.
The first Aksumite coins used had writing in Greek. 

The original Axumite religion was a polytheistic religion.
They believed in gods that controlled the natural world.
In 328 AD, Axum became a Christian kingdom under King Ezana.
Not many of the people accepted Christianity at first.
But Christianity gradually supplanted the old religion.

Farmer, merchant, builders, architect, monks

Farmers used irrigation to bring water to their fields. 
Farmers built level areas on hills called terraces which helped hold water.

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Archaeologists have found monuments, palaces, thrones, and stone pillars that were built by the Askum people.

Legend has it that a foreign boy named Frumentius was attacked and made a slave of the royal court.
Frumentius was well liked by the royal family and became a tutor to the royal children.
When the king died the queen asked Frumentius to help rule Axum.
He had been promised his freedom, but instead remained until the queen's son, Ezana, was old enough to rule.
Frumentius established a number of Christian churches.
When Ezana became king he made Christianity the official religion of Axum.

Decline of Aksum
Axum remained a strong empire and trading power until the rise of Islam in the seventh century AD.
As Islam spread, the trade routes changed and commercially isolated Axum.
The fall of Rome spelled out a fall for Axum as well.
Axum could not maintain the trade routes that Rome had so long maintained.
Long-term cutting down of trees and over-exploitation of the soil caused deterioration of the environment.
By the end of the seventh century, Axum as a power had ended giving rise to the modern Ethiopian people.

Comparison of Kush and Aksum

Kush Aksum (Akum)
Older Younger
Inland On the coast
Many Gods Christian
Rich in Natural Resources     Rich in Natural Resources  
Developed writing and Language Were Traders

Donn, Don. "Mr Donn's Ancient History Web Site." 14 October 2007   10 Nov. 2007.

Freeman, Joel A. "Ancient Nubia." Freeman Institute. 24 Nov. 2007.

Greenblatt, M. and Lemmo, P.S.; "Human Heritage." Glencoe McGraw-Hill, New York, New York  2001.

"Who Are the Nubians?" 15 Oct. 2007  11 Nov 2007.

Wysinger. "Ancient Ethipoian City of Askum." 6 Dec. 2007.