When people speak of African civilization, they mainly mention Ancient Egypt. Unlike Egypt, other great civilizations of pre-colonial Africa fell into oblivion before the advent of Europeans or declined soon after that contact. Few people know about Ancient Nubia or Ancient Ethiopia with its great state of Axum. This essay will discuss these great kingdoms, highlight their roles in the development of human civilization, and focus on their achievements and contribution to the world history.
Ancient Nubia is considered a root of the black African civilization. It emerged approximately at the same period as Ancient Egypt and was its trade partner, ally and rival at different times. Nubia occupied the south of the modern Egypt and the territory of modern Sudan. The Kingdom of Kush, as Egyptians called it, had two periods of history. The first Kingdom known as Kerma existed between ca. 2000 and 1500 BC. The settlement of Kerma appeared around 2400 BC and became a capital in 2000 BC. Kush flourished when the Egypt was weak. That enabled the Kushites to use gold mines in the north of the country and generate great wealth. However, the Pharaohs of the New Kingdom forced the rivals to the fourth cataract of the Nile, took control over its territory, and installed a Viceroy of Kush. After the decline of the New Kingdom of Egypt by the 11th century BC, Kushite Viceroys started ruling as independent Pharaohs. The Second Kushite Kingdom existed from ca. 1000 until ca. 400 BC. By 730 BC, it had conquered Egypt and ruled it for a century. The Assyrians drove the Kushites back to Nubia where they built their last kingdom around Meroe. The Kingdom in Meroe had declined by 100 AD and was destroyed around 400 AD by Axum warriors (Boddy-Evans, 2015).
The Kushites had their language. At first, they used Egyptian hieroglyphics, but around 300 BC, they invented own cursive script. The particular specialization of Meroe craftsmen was pottery; it was often combined with artistic jewelry and metalwork. The Nubians borrowed Egyptian architecture and art, although they merged their distinctive national features into it. The Kushite pyramids differ from the Egyptian ones (Swart, 2012).
The Kushite genius was military and administrative. When Nubian King Piye conquered Egypt, he restored peace and order to the land. The Kush rulers established the 25th dynasty of Egyptian pharaohs. As the rulers of Egypt, they revived and restored the religious, cultural, and intellectual life of the country. The 25th dynasty left many constructions, especially in the region of Thebes, enlarged and decorated the existing temples. Egypt saw cultural renaissance under the Kushite rulers (Swart, 2012).
Ancient times left many significant memorials in Ethiopia. The Kingdom of the Bronze Age on this territory was Yeha. Though the earliest buildings and shaft-tombs date back to 1000 BC, a centralized kingdom appeared in 8th centuries BC. The Yeha period was over at the end of the 1st millennium BC. The kingdom traded mainly with southern Arabia. The ruins of the Great Temple, a cemetery, and a palace still exist. The Kingdom of Yeha was a direct precursor to Axum civilization (Hirst, n.d.-b).
Axum or Aksum was a powerful civilization of Iron Age. It existed from the 1st century BC to 700 AD. The first traces of a would-be state formation are dated 4th century BC. Already in that time, the city had administrative buildings and was large. In 350 AD, the people adopted Christianity. Ethiopia preserved strong Christian tradition till our times. By the 6th century, it was a society with well-developed social structure consisting of elite, farmers, and craftsmen. The buildings of this period are huge elaborate palaces and monasteries. Specific memorials are intricately decorated obelisks (Hirst, n.d.-a).
Archeological excavations on the territories of ancient Ethiopia and Nubia prove that the African continent was home to the great civilizations. While the history and achievements of Ancient Egypt are explored and studied, the heritage of Aksum and Nubia are still to discover and popularize.
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