Ancient Kush, Medieval Nubia

Map of Ancient Kush.
Map by Lorene Sterner.

Kush was the earliest empire of sub-Saharan Africa. Arising along the Middle Nile River in what is today northern Sudan, its rulers controlled much of the Nile Valley for more than 2,000 years, from before 2000 BCE to about 300 CE.

Ancient Egypt was the northern neighbor of Kush. People moved back and forth between the cultures, exchanging goods and intermarrying, but the relationship could also be hostile. During Egypt’s New Kingdom, Egyptian pharaohs conquered and ruled Kush (ca. 1500–1070 BCE), and later kings of Kush conquered Egypt and ruled as its 25th Dynasty (ca. 715–653 BCE). All this interaction led to extensive borrowing of religious ideas, particularly by the rulers of Kush.

Later kingdoms along the Middle Nile converted to Christianity in the 6th century and, 800 years later, to Islam. Graffiti continued to be a devotional practice in the medieval Christian kingdoms of this area, which was then known as Nubia.


1100 BCE
Napatan Period

715 BCE: Kush conquers Egypt

653 BCE: Kush is driven out of Egypt

325 BCE: Construction of pyramid and temple at El-Kurru

300 BCE
Meroitic Period

270 BCE: The royal capital moves to Meroe

100 BCE: Beginning of pilgrimage and devotional graffiti in Kush

31 BCE: Roman conquest of Egypt and conflict with Kush

300 CE
600 CE
Medieval Christian Period
1400 CE