Unit 1: Ancient Africa - The Cradle of Civilization
(200,000 B.C. - 476 B.C.)

Unit 1: Class 4: Ancient Nubia/Kush (6,000 B.C. - 320 A.D.)
Part 1

Learning Objectives
After completing this lesson, students 
will be able to:

  • Recognize the cultural contributions of Ancient Nubian civilization, including those that predate Ancient Kemet/Egypt, and the Nubian-ruled 25th Dynasty.

  • Identify the Nile Valley region on a map including the Nile River and the major cities and religious sites of Egypt, Nubia, and surrounding African countries.

  • Understand the complex relationship between Nubia and Kemet/Egypt including trade, mutual cultural customs, and conquer.


Egypt is often considered synonymous with Nile Valley civilization. Its dominance in the historical record and popular imagination overshadows the prominence of other Nile Valley kingdoms, including those of Ancient Nubia—the oldest civilization to emerge along the Nile River.

Geographically, Nubia describes an area located in southern Egypt (Lower Nubia) and northern Sudan (Upper Nubia), which in ancient times extended more than 1,000 miles from the first cataract to the sixth cataract in the city of Khartoum. There was continuity throughout Upper Egypt and Lower Nubia that resulted in strikingly similar architectural, religious, and cultural achievements. For many years, archeologists dismissed the significance of Nubia and often portrayed these dark-skinned Africans as inferior and attributed their cultural developments to the people of Ancient Kemet/Egypt. However, recent discoveries reveal that Nubian civilization predated Kemet by thousands of years and likely provided the foundation for Kemetic/Egyptian dynastic rule. 

Not at all an inferior or secondary kingdom, Ancient Nubia thrived alongside Kemet, and was rich with its own cultural traditions. Its central location, which linked southern and northern Africa, including the Mediterranean, made it the most powerful trading center in the world. Rich with natural resources and access to fine goods such as gold, copper, ebony, ivory, incense, semi-precious stones, animal skins, and ostrich feathers, Nubia was attractive to Egyptian elites, but it was also a potential threat. Although these two civilizations overlapped, they also competed with each other for control over land, trade, and resources. 

Much of what we know about Nubia comes from Kemetic artifacts and texts as well as documentation from the Greeks and Romans. It is believed that the word Nubia derived from the Egyptian word nub—meaning gold. In fact, Nubia had the greatest supply of gold in the ancient world. The Ancient Egyptians called Nubia “Ta-Sety” or “The Land of the Bow,” referring to the skillful use of the bow and arrow (archery) among Nubian hunters and warriors. During the Middle Kingdom (2030 – 1640 B.C.E), the name “Kush” was used to refer to the powerful Nubian empire that once stretched into northern Ethiopia. Among Ancient Greeks and Romans, Nubia was actually called “Ethiopia,” a broad term used to describe Africans to the south of Kemet. 


Page 1 of 1