History Files
 

 

African Kingdoms

East Africa

 

 

 

Nubia / Kerma
c.2500 BC - c.AD 350

The first developed societies appeared in Africa's Nubia region before the time of the First Dynasty in Egypt (3100-2890 BC), including at the important site of Kerma (modern Doukki Gel, or 'red mound', located north of Khartoum, relatively close to modern Egypt's southern border). Around 2500 BC, Egyptians began moving south, and it is from them that most of our knowledge of Kush originates. This expansion was halted by the fall of the Middle Kingdom in Egypt, by which time a strong Nubian society had emerged. This early Nubian society formed its own kingdom, founding a capital at Kerma. By circa 1500 BC Egyptian expansion had resumed, but this time it encountered organised resistance (either from multiple city states or a single unified empire based at Kerma, it is unclear which). The Egyptians defeated this and made the region a colony.

It has long been thought that Nubian society was heavily influenced by Egypt, and may only have begun as an Egyptian outpost. However, more recent discoveries have helped form a theory that Nubian society emerged at the same time as that of its northern neighbour, and was entirely indigenous, albeit born out of a shared Nilotic culture. The two cultures may have evolved in competition with one another, both producing pyramidal structures (the tumuli at Kerma were sometimes larger than the pyramids at Giza), and their own unique art forms.

(Additional information by Dr Ray Kerkhove.)

c.3000 BC

Discovered by archaeologists, a storage pit is dug at this time for the storage of wheat and barley at the very beginnings of Nubian civilisation as it emerges from a further 4,500 years of pastoral existence. The earliest levels of Kerma as a small town are laid down during this period.

Kerma
The remains of part of the ancient Nubian city of Kerma, which may also have given its name to the kingdom and which housed a population of around ten thousand in the second millennium BC

c.2500 BC

Apparently a Nubian kingdom already exists by this time and is already large enough to rival Egypt in size.

c.2000 BC

The Nubian kings build their oldest-known mud brick temple at Kerma. They appear to have funerary rituals which involve taking the entire royal court to the grave, retainers, relatives and all. One tomb holds an incredible four hundred skeletons, along with a few thousand sacrificed cattle which have been brought to the tomb from across the length and breadth of the kingdom.

c.1950 BC

Pharaoh Senusret I officially establishes the southern border of Egypt 'in order to prevent' any people from Kerma 'crossing the frontier, by water or by land unless for trading or other approved purposes'.

c.1850 BC

The heavily policed Egyptian border is used as a launch pad for a series of raids against Kerma under Senusret III. A canal is built around the Nile's first great series of rapids (the First Cataract) near Aswan to facilitate troop movements. The pharaoh launches a series of invasions and boasts of his exploits in the kingdom of Kerma.

fl c.1850 BC

Awawa

Ruled at Kerma. A powerful king.

fl c.1650 BC

Nedjeh

Extended the Nubian kingdom northwards.

c.1650 BC

During this period, the Nubian kingdom continues to rival that of Egypt in its size and power. This is during Egypt's Second Intermediate Period in which the country is divided into at least three kingdoms, ruled by the short-lived and unstable thirteenth to seventeenth dynasties. Nubia occupies territory as far north as Elephantine Island near Aswan. The chaos to the north frees Nubia from interference and intrusion in its own affairs and may even offer a more stable environment for settlement. When Nedjeh takes over the Egyptian forts in Nubia towards the beginning of his reign, some of the Egyptian soldiers based there remain and work for him.

1475 BC

FeatureKerma remains the capital of the Nubian kingdom, surrounded by at least three kilometres (two miles) of ramparts and dozens of bastions to protect it. However, the city falls, and the Egyptians also found the city of Napata as they re-take control of the gold trade following the resurgence of the New Kingdom. A viceroy governs the district on behalf of the pharaoh, and seemingly the whole of a conquered Nubia, although there are frequent uprisings during the next three hundred years.

Wall painting of Nubians
This Egyptian wall painting depicts Nubians taking offerings of gold to Egypt around 1850 BC, at which time the two kingdoms seemed to be of relatively equal power, although Egypt was frequently the aggressor in their military encounters

1075 BC

Egypt becomes divided at the start of the Third Intermediate Period (1075-664 BC). The Nubians take the opportunity to regain autonomy under their Egyptianised local ruling families and maintain their capital at Kerma.

fl c.1020 BC

?

Name unknown.

c.1005 - 950 BC

Kandake Makeda

c. 950 - ? BC

Aserkamani

Queen Kadimalo

Depicted in Semna.

c.900 BC

The capital of the Nubian kingdom is moved to Nepata, but it also descends into obscurity for over a century, perhaps suggesting a loss of central control and a retreat to a more defendable location.

785 BC

At this time King Alara reunites the Nubian region and founds a new kingdom (or re-founds the existing kingdom), now known as Kush, which is centred on Napata.

Kingdom of Kush (Nepata / MeroŽ)
785 BC - c.AD 350

The Nubian city of Napata was situated on the west bank of the Nile, about 400km north of Khartoum (the modern capital of Sudan). It was built by the Egyptians around 1450 BC. Since the early dynastic period the Egyptians had been interested in Nubia and its rich gold reserves, and they soon controlled trade there. As a result of this contact, Nubia became very heavily influenced by Egyptian culture. The area achieved independence during the breakdown of power in Egypt's Third Intermediate Period.

c.795 - 760 BC

Alara

Kingdom's (re-)founder at Napata.

c.760 - 747 BC

Kashta

Attacked Upper Egypt.

747 - 721 BC

Piye / Piankhi

Son. Founder 25th Dynasty of Egypt. Pharaoh 732-721 BC.

721 - 707 BC

Shabaka

Brother. 25th Dynasty pharaoh 721-707 BC.

707 - 690 BC

Shebitku

Son of Piye. 25th Dynasty pharaoh 707-690 BC.

690 - 664 BC

Taharqa

Younger brother. 25th Dynasty pharaoh 690-664 BC.

677 BC

Esarhaddon, the Assyrian king and Egypt's enemy, leads several campaigns against Taharqa.

673 - 670 BC

Assyria invades Egypt and conquers Lower Egypt. Upper Egypt's kingdoms are allowed to remain, as the Assyrians hope to use them as allies against the Ethiopians.

664 - 653 BC

Tantamani

Son of Shabaka. 25th Dynasty pharaoh 664-663 BC.

663/653 BC

The Nubians revolt against the Assyrians but are overpowered, and Tantamani and other leaders are deported to Ninevah. Once the Assyrians appoint Necho as a vassal with special prominence in Egypt (and father of the first pharaoh of the Twenty-Sixth Dynasty), they leave Egypt, Tantamani marches down the Nile from Nubia and reoccupies all of Egypt including Memphis. Necho is killed in Tantamani's campaign but Assyrian reinforcement of Necho's successor forces Tantamani to give up Egypt entirely and return to Napata.

Ancient MeroŽ
The ruins of ancient MeroŽ lie in Upper Nubia, now within Sudan - in its day it was a wealthy metropolis that stretched along the east bank of the Nile

653 - 643 BC

Atlanersa

643 - 623 BC

Senkamanisken

620 - 593 BC

Anlamani

Great-grandson of Taharqa?

593 - 568 BC

Aspelta

Brother.

591 - 590 BC

FeatureFollowing a powerful raid by the Persian empire and Egyptian forces which seriously affects Napata, the capital is moved further south to MeroŽ. The Island of MeroŽ, the peninsula formed by the Nile and the Atbara courses, is an area rich in iron, which quickly becomes an essential source of wealth. It seems that the reason for the raid had been due to Aspelta's own plans for a re-invasion of Egypt.

From this point the list is incomplete, with dates being rough estimates. These are based on estimates made by Fritz Hintze, calculated on the average length of reigns, and shortened or lengthened based on the size and splendour of the monarch's tomb, the assumption being that monarchs who reigned longer had more time and resources to build their burial sites. An added complication is that in recent years there have been disputes about which monarch belongs to which tomb.

568 - 555 BC

Amtalqa

555 - 542 BC

Malenaqen

542 - 538 BC

Analmaye

538 - 519 BC

Amaninatakilebte

519 - 510 BC

Karkamani

510 - 487 BC

Amaniastabarqa

487 - 469 BC

Siaspiqa

468 - 463 BC

Nasakhma

463 - 435 BC

Malewiebamani

435 - 431 BC

Talakhamani

431 - 405 BC

Amanineteyerike

405 - 404 BC

Baskakeren

404 - 369 BC

Harsiotef

369 - 350 BC

?

Name unknown.

350 - 335 BC

Akhraten

350 - 335 BC

Candace of MeroŽ

Queen. Unknown apart from her name.

335 - 310/05 BC

Nastasen

310/05 - 279 BC

Aktisanes

310/05 - 279 BC

Alakhebasken

Queen.

c.300 BC

Anti-Egyptian feeling incites the people of Kush to make their culture distinct from that of the Egyptians. The capital is suffering politically and economically. Napata has lost its economic influence since Egypt lost its autonomy, and the Napatan region itself has been desiccating for some time, leading to less cattle and agriculture. Napata is finally abandoned in favour of MeroŽ, although there is a short list of names that are said to originate in Napata, suggesting that when the royal court moves to MeroŽ, some elements remain behind and attempt to continue in increasingly poor conditions. These names are shown in light grey.

270 - 260 BC

Arrakkamani / ErgamenÍs

First ruler to be buried at MeroŽ.

c.270 - ? BC

Aryamani

At Napata.

260 - 250 BC

Amanislo

At MeroŽ.

Kash---merj

At Napata.

250 - 235 BC

Aman-tekha

Imen Barkal

At Napata.

Irike-Piye-qo?

At Napata.

Sabrakamani?

At Napata.

235 - 218 BC

Arnekhamani

218 - 200 BC

Arqamani

200 - 190 BC

Tabriqo (Adikhalmani?)

190 - 185 BC

-iwal

Name incomplete.

185 - 170s BC

?

Name unknown.

177 - 155 BC

Kandake Shanakdakhete

150s - 130 BC

?

Name unknown.

130 - 110 BC

Naqyrinsan

110 - 90 BC

Tanyidamani

90 - 50 BC

-hale

Name incomplete.

90 - 50 BC

-amani

Queen. Name incomplete.

50s BC

Nawidemak

50 - 40 BC

Kandake Amanikhabale

40 - 10 BC

Teriteqas

At MeroŽ.

40 - 10 BC

Kandake Amanirenas

At Napata. Female. Ruled as a sub-kingdom or province?

23 - 22 BC

The Roman governor of Egypt, Petronius, invades Nubia in response to a Nubian attack on southern Egypt, pillaging the north of the region and sacking Napata in 22 BC before returning north.

10 BC - AD 1

Kandake Amanishakheto

Queen.

AD 1 - 12

Kandake Amanitore

Queen.

12 - 20

Natakamani

Kush continues for several centuries but little information exists on it. While earlier Kush had used Egyptian hieroglyphics, The inhabitants of MeroŽ develop a new script and begin to write in the Meroitic language, which has yet to be fully deciphered. The state seems to prosper, trading with its neighbours and continuing to build monuments and tombs.

MeroŽ pyramids
Never quite as grandiose as the pyramids of Giza, the pyramids of MeroŽ contain the bodies of a large number of kings, although sadly most of the structures are in ruins

Arikhankharer

Arikakahtani

c.20 - 30

Shorkaror

c.30 - 40

Pisakar

c.40 - 50

Amanitaraqide

c.50 - 62

Amanitenmemide

62 - 85

Kandake Amanikhatashan

c.85 - 90

Teritnide

c.90 - 114

Teqerideamani I

114 - 134

Tamelerdeamani

134 - 140

Adeqetali

c.140 - 155

Takideamani

c.155 - 170

Tarekeniwal

c.170 - 175

Amanikhalika

c.175 - 190

Aritenyesbokhe

c.190 - 200

Amanikhareqerem

c.200 - 215

Teritedakhatey

c.200 - 350

The kingdom goes into decline. Gaps in the known names of rulers begin to appear.

215 - 225

Aryesbokhe

225 - 246

?

Name unknown.

246

?

Name unknown.

246 - 266?

Teqerideamani II

266 - 283

Kandake Maleqorobar

283 - 306

Yesbokheamani

297

Roman Emperor Diocletian calls in a people known as the Nobate from the oases of the western Egyptian desert, to defend the southern frontier of the empire at Aswan from raids by the Blemmyes, who are probably the Beja of the Red Sea Hills. These Noba and Nobatae settle along the river, and soon intermarry with the native population and replace the local language with their own. The Blemmyes are defeated, as is known by the Silko Greek inscription at Kalabsha which may be dated to around AD 530. Here Silko, who calls himself 'Basiliskos' or kinglet of the Nobatae, describes fighting the Blemmyes from Ibrim to Shellal and extracting an oath of submission from them.

306 - 314

Kandake Lahideamani

Queen.

314 - 329

Maleqorobar

329 - 340

Akedaketival

340 - 355

?

Name unknown.

c.350

The traditional theory is that the kingdom is destroyed during an invasion by Ezana of the Ethiopian kingdom of Axum. To contradict this, the Ethiopian account seems to describe the quelling of a rebellion in lands they already control. It also refers only to the Nuba, and makes no mention of the rulers of MeroŽ. However, no details of rulers are known after this date, making their survival unlikely. There is a possibility that the kings, or at least something of the royal family, move to Pachoras and re-found the kingdom as Nobatia.

c.350 - c.590

Details of the two hundred years from the fall of Kush to the middle of the sixth century are unknown. Nubia is inhabited by a people whom ancient geographers call the Nobatae (and have been labelled the X-Group by modern archaeologists, who are still at a loss to explain their origins). The Nobatae are clearly the heirs of Kush, as their whole cultural life is dominated by Meroitic crafts and customs, and occasionally they even feel themselves sufficiently strong, in alliance with the nomadic Blemmyes (the Beja of eastern modern Sudan), to attack the Romans in Upper Egypt. When this happens, the Romans retaliate, defeating the Nobatae and Blemmyes and driving them into obscurity once again.

When Sudan is once more brought into the orbit of the Mediterranean world by the arrival of Christian missionaries in the sixth century, the middle course of the Nile is divided into three kingdoms: Nobatia, with its capital at Pachoras (modern Faras); Makuria, with its capital at Dunqulah (Old Dongola); and the kingdom of Alodia in the south, with its capital at Subah (Soba) near what is now Khartoum.