Egypt dominated the history and culture of North Africa and the Middle East for millennia. By the eighth century B.C., however, Egyptian strength had waned, opening up possibilities for new powers. One such rising power was in the region the Egyptians called Nubia, in what is today the Sudan. Kush, sometimes known as Cush, was an important center of trade in the region. Its location, resources and social structure contributed to the kingdom's success in trade.

Location, Location, Location

Kush’s location was ideal for trade. The Nile River provided a route to Egypt and the rich ports of the Mediterranean Sea. In the east, Kush had access to the Red Sea, opening up trade to the Arabian peninsula, the southern east coast of Africa and ports even farther away. With mountains to the south and desert to the west, these water routes proved invaluable for Kush’s trade.

Elephants and Iron

Among the resources that Kush traded were elephants, rare outside of the region, and iron, which the Kushites likely learned to work from the Assyrians, according to Steve Sofferan and Sarah Wood Purdue University. Less directly influential but still important to trade was the stable government of the kingdom. Sofferan and Wood describe the state as “slightly less autocratic” than that of Egypt, and more decentralized. The stability of the Kushite government allowed the state to weather incursions by Rome in the north and to survive a move of the capital from Napata to Meroe.