The Kingdom of Kush

The ancient civilisation of Nubia was significant, not only in terms of its sheer extent, but also for its age. Indeed, the society, its remains and its records date this civilisation back some 5000 years. The area once loosely defined as Nubia today comprises of the southern part of Egypt and the northern area of Sudan. However, the specific area has changed over the centuries. It certainly ran along the banks of the valuable Nile River, which provided water, as well as an effective transportation system, to this group of ancient Africans. It is still held to have been bordered by both the Libyan Desert and the Red Sea.

Image of Relief of a ruler, a Candace of Meroë named Kandake Amanitore.
Relief of a ruler, a Candace of Meroë named Kandake Amanitore.

Nubia was vulnerable in its situation because of its close proximity to Egypt as well as its narrow stretches of fertile land that could not always sustain the growing population. Cush was the Nubian kingdom of the south. This was such a significant power that it even ruled over Egypt for over 50 years in the 8th and 9th centuries Before our Common Era (BCE). The three capitals of the kingdoms that made up the Cush Empire were Kerma (2400 to 1500 BCE), Napata (1000 to 59 BCE) and Meroë (590 BCE to 300 CE). These dates are approximations.

Because of the limited space available, Nubia was never going to reap wealth from agricultural pursuits. In fact, there was scarcely enough to sustain the Nubian people. Their trade and commerce had to rely on other resources. Nubia was fortunate in that it enjoyed the ample supply of the land, which yielded gold, diorite stones and copper. The Nubians traded with Egypt, which was a financially prosperous nation, and this gave them the economical security that they required.

The Nubian civilisation was a black race, setting it apart from states like Egypt, who appeared lighter and more ‘Arab’ in their physical structure and features. Their cultural and societal norms were taken largely from the surrounding civilisations, like the Turks and Arabs. A major indication of this type of ‘hijacking’ was the Nubian fad of building pyramids, a distinctly Egyptian trend. These buildings have taught archaeologists and historians much about this ancient civilisation, proving most useful even to the present day. The Nubians injected their own style into these cultures and even influenced them in a reciprocal way. Egypt adopted many of the art techniques and religious ideals from Nubian travellers. The Nubian society, as a whole, converted to Christianity in the 6th Century of our Common Era (CE). In the 13th Century, the Arab invasion meant that these ones then adopted Islam as their religion of choice.

Image of  At Meroë, in Sudan, pyramids of the Kushite rulers.
At Meroë, in Sudan, pyramids of the Kushite rulers.

Such ancient civilisations have laid the foundations of the political, social and religious orders that are effective today. They reveal much of Africa’s early societies and how these ones affected the movements and development of man on this continent. As such, they are invaluable.
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Effects Of Climatic And Environmental Changes On Ancient African Civilisations

Hundreds of thousands of years ago, the entire planet earth looked very different to what modern man experiences today. Continents were not yet divided, and the vegetation and animals were different. Significantly, the climate was also vastly different to what it is today. Climate plays an integral role in determining the plants and animal that live in a certain areas, as well as how habitable a place is for human beings.

In fact, even the theory of the evolution of man was dependent largely on the climatic influences on our ancient ancestors. It is hypothesised that the ancient versions of man were forced to walk upright, lose body hair and develop their coordination for survival in a changing environment. New skills also needed to be learned as farming techniques and living habits had to be adapted.

Ancient Africa experienced major vacillations between mega-droughts and Ice Ages, although these fluctuations occurred over thousands and thousands of years. As humans continued to develop and evolve through these phases, they needed to make major adaptations, not only to their ways of life, but also to their personal body structure. Prior to 135 000 years ago, the whole of Africa was lush and fertile, with a tropical climate. Then, the most intense mega-drought ever to occur hit the continent in the period referred to as the early part of the Late Pleistocene epoch. This is believed to have led to the migration of most of our human ancestors into other areas that were more habitable and fertile. Lake Malawi has been used by scientists as a rain gauge to ascertain water levels in ancient times. Research has shown that, during this mega-drought, the lake’s level dropped at least 1968 feet, or 600 metres! Evolutionists claim that this severe lack of water not only pushed ancient man from the area, it also forced aquatic animals (such as fish) to develop the facilities to be able to survive on dry land, thus evolving into land animals.

As people flocked out of the continent, only a very small proportion of this specific generation remained. Humankind as we know it is widely believed to have come from these few remaining on the continent, who evolved significantly and in response to the climatic changes.

These conditions continued until about 70 000 years ago, when the climate was again characterised by wetter conditions. These led to the growth and renewal of fresh vegetation, as well as an increased water supply to the region. More people were in the area during this time of abundance, and the population grew. This increase in numbers eventually led to migrations due to space limitations and the ownership of land.

Then, about 20 000 years ago, an Ice Age overcame the entire earth. This meant that the planet underwent a long-term period of cold temperatures over most of its surface. In places like North America and Eurasia, giant ice sheets covered enormous proportions of the land, making it impossible to farm and, sometimes, even live in these areas. This final Ice Age lasted for about 9 500 years. It forced most of the populations to migrate to the highlands, where they would be relatively protected from the ice sheets. Again, these civilisations had to adapt their farming methods, and change their diet, social habits, clothing and migratory patterns. This forced an evolution to a certain extent. Body hair was necessary to keep people warm, their skin lightened due to a lack of the harsh rays of the sun that they experienced during the mega-droughts, etc…

When this Ice Age came to an end 10 500 years ago, areas like the Sahara were left fertile and healthy. This made it and the other areas like it the ideal spots in which to settle as ancient man began to descend from the highlands. Animals and plants thrived in this environment, which made it very desirable in the eyes of mankind. The abundance of food, water and sunshine again changed the habits and physical structures of our earliest forefathers.

These conditions lasted for some time, but the Sahara in particular continued to experience fluctuations between humid and dry conditions. These eventually left the entire area unable to yield crops or sustain life for any extended period of time. Today, it remains a large stretch of desert. Then, approximately 2500 years ago, the group of people who had made their home in the Sahara began to follow the direction of the Nile River, which held promise of a rich water supply. The arid conditions of the Sahara and its surrounds continue to the present day.

Africa has, since prehistoric times, proven to be a place of fascination, life and evolution. Changes in the climate were often dramatic, and these were, to a great extent, responsible for determining the ancient civilisations that inhabited this vast continent. It is no wonder that many researchers and scientists maintain that Africa is the Cradle of Mankind, and research continues to yield fascinating evidence of this theory.