4 Categories Of Information On Ancient Kush

Our knowledge of ancient Kush comes from four categories of first-hand sources, namely Biblical evidence, ancient Egyptian records, archeological evidence, and Greco-Roman writers. The Biblical evidence is from the Book of Genesis (chapter 10 – “Table of Nations”), where Noah had three sons (Shem, Ham, Japheth), and his son Ham had the four sons of “Cush, Egypt, Put [Punt], and Canaan.” Biblical theologians agree that Ham is the ancestor of all black peoples, and it is worth noting that the Biblical writer listed Kush (Cush) in the position of the first-born son, followed by Egypt.

statue of ankhenesneferibreStatue 0f Ankhenesneferibre, on display at the Nubian Museum, Aswan.

A second category of evidence is the Egyptian records which consists of various texts and tomb scenes. There are about forty people with titles of “king’s son of Kush” (“viceroy of Kush” or lieutenant to Kush), and in the 25th and 26th dynasties the Kushite title, “god’s wife of Amen” or divine consort (a powerful high priestess) were common titles. There are also the travels records of the high official Harkhuf (2200 BCE) and Queen Hatshepsut (1500 BCE) who both took long peaceful trading voyages to Kush and other lands.

The third category is archaeological evidence which consists of the many artifacts at archaeological sites in Sudan, such as temples, tombs, pyramids, and residential sites. There are several museums in Sudan which house artifacts from antiquities, but many Kushite artifacts are now in various Western museums since the raiding of Kushite pyramids in the 1830s by the Italian treasure hunter Giuseppe Ferlini, and the early 20th century excavations of George Reisner. There were important Kushite artifacts housed in the basements of various Western museum collections for a half century or longer, and not only were very few of these artifacts ever on display, but there were no permanent exhibits ancient Kushite or Nubian anywhere in the world until the early 1990s. These two classical African civilizations were systematically ignored and relegated to obscurity for generations until after Black scholars, activists, and the general community through the Africentric (Afrocentric) Movement in the mid-1980s embraced these civilizations and connected them to ancient Egypt as part of an Nile Valley African cultural continuum. In response to this growing international debate about the historical role of ancient Kush and Nubia, museums began to dust off artifacts stored in basements and created the first permanent collections in the early 1990s. Some of these museums include: the British Museum (London), Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto), Smithsonian – African Art Museum (Washington, DC), Oriental Institute Museum (University of Chicago), Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the Nubian Museum (Aswan, Egypt).

The fourth category of information on Kush is the Greek and Roman records. The Greco- Roman writers were consistent in expressing their high regard for the Kushites, and these writers include the entire span of ancient Greek writing, beginning with Homer to the 2nd century CE, a period of about 1,000 years.

Ampim, Manu. “History Of African Civilizations, History 110 Course Reader.” Unit 3: Classical African Civilizations (Kush).  Oakland, CA: Advancing The Research, 2016. 41-42.

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