By the seventh millennium BC, people of a Neolithic culture had settled into a sedentary way of life there in fortified mud-brick villages, where they supplemented hunting and fishing on the Nile with grain gathering and cattle herding. During the fifth millennium BC migrations from the drying Sahara brought neolithic people into the Nile Valley along with agriculture. The population that resulted from this cultural and genetic mixing developed social hierarchy over the next centuries become the Kingdom of Kush (with the capital at Kerma) at 1700 BC. Anthropological and archaeological research indicate that during the predynastic period Nubia and Nagadan Upper Egypt were ethnically, and culturally nearly identical, and thus, simultaneously evolved systems of pharaonic kingship by 3300 BC. Together with other countries on Red Sea, Sudan is considered the most likely location of the land known to the ancient Egyptians as Punt (or “Ta Netjeru”, meaning “God’s Land”), whose first mention dates to the 25th century BC.
Kingdom of Kush
Northern Sudan’s earliest historical record comes from ancient Egyptian sources, which described the land upstream from the First Cataract, or Kush, as “wretched.” For more than two thousand years the Old Kingdom of Egypt (c.2700-2180 BC), had a dominating and significant influence over its southern neighbour, and even afterward, the legacy of Egyptian cultural and religious introductions remained important.
Over the centuries, trade developed. Egyptian caravans carried grain to Kush and returned to Aswan with ivory, incense, hides, and carnelian (a stone prized both as jewellery and for arrowheads) for shipment downriver. Egyptian governors particularly valued gold in Nubia and soldiers in the pharaoh‘s army. Egyptian military expeditions penetrated Kush periodically during the Old Kingdom. Yet there was no attempt to establish a permanent presence in the area until the Middle Kingdom (c.2100-1720 BC), when Egypt constructed a network of forts along the Nile as far south as Samnah in Lower Egypt to guard the flow of gold from mines in Wawat, the area between the First and Second Cataracts.
Around 1720 BC, Canaanite nomads called the Hyksos took over Egypt, ended the Middle Kingdom, severed links with Kush, and destroyed the forts along the Nile River. To fill the vacuum left by the Egyptian withdrawal, a culturally distinct indigenous Kushite kingdom emerged at al-Karmah, near present-day Dongola. After Egyptian power revived during the New Kingdom (c.1570-1100 BC), the pharaoh Ahmose I incorporated Kush as an Egyptian ruled province governed by a viceroy. Although Egypt’s administrative control of Kush extended only down to the Fourth Cataract, Egyptian sources list tributary districts reaching to the Red Sea and upstream to the confluence of the Blue Nile and White Nile rivers. Egyptian authorities ensured the loyalty of local chiefs by drafting their children to serve as pages at the pharaoh’s court. Egypt also expected tribute in gold and slaves from local Kushite chiefs.
Once Egypt had established political and military mastery over Kush, officials, priests merchants and artisans settled in the region. The Egyptian language became widely used in everyday activities. Many rich Kushites took to worshipping Egyptian gods and built temples for them. The temples remained centers of official religious worship until the coming of Christianity to the region during the sixth century. When Egyptian influence declined or succumbed to foreign domination, the Kushite elite regarded themselves as central powers and believed themselves as idols of Egyptian culture and religion.
By the 11th century BC, the authority of the New Kingdom dynasties had diminished, allowing divided rule in Egypt, and ending Egyptian control of Kush. With the withdrawal of the Egyptians, there ceased to be any written record or information from Kush about the region’s activities over the next three hundred years. In the early eighth century BC, however, Kush emerged as an independent kingdom ruled from Napata by an aggressive line of monarchs who slowly extended their influence into Egypt. Around 750 BC, a Kushite king called Kashta conquered Upper Egypt and became ruler of Thebes until approximately 740 BC. His successor, Piye, subdued the Nile Delta and conquered Egypt, thus initiating the Twenty-fifth Dynasty. Piye founded a line of kings who ruled Kush and Thebes for about a hundred years. The dynasty’s interference with Assyria‘s sphere of influence in the Near East caused a confrontation between Egypt and the powerful Assyrian state, which controlled a vast empire comprising much of the Middle East, Anatolia, Caucasus and the Eastern Mediterranean Basin from their homeland in Upper Mesopotamia.
Taharqa (688-663 BC), the last Kushite pharaoh, was defeated and driven out of the Near East by Sennacherib of Assyria. Sennacherib’s successor Esarhaddon went further, launching a full-scale invasion of Egypt in 674 BC, defeating Taharqa and quickly conquering the land. Taharqa fled back to Nubia, and native Egyptian princes were installed by the Assyrians as vassals of Esarhaddon. However, Taharqa was able to return some years later and wrest back control of a part of Egypt as far as Thebes from the Egyptian vassal princes of Assyria. Esarhaddon died in his capital Nineveh while preparing to return to Egypt and once more eject the Kushites.
Esarhaddon’s successor Ashurbanipal sent a general with a small army which again defeated and ejected Taharqa from Egypt. Taharqa died in Nubia two years later. His successor, Tantamani, attempted to regain Egypt. He successfully defeated Necho I, the puppet ruler installed by Ashurbanipal, taking Thebes in the process. The Assyrians then sent a powerful army southwards. Tantamani was heavily routed, and the Assyrian army sacked Thebes to such an extent it never truly recovered. A native ruler, Psamtik I was placed on the throne, as a vassal of Ashurbanipal, thus ending the Kushite/Nubian Empire.
Egypt’s succeeding dynasty failed to reassert full control over Kush. Around 590 BC, however, an Egyptian army sacked Napata, compelling the Kushite court to move to a more secure location further south at Meroë near the Sixth Cataract. For several centuries thereafter, the Meroitic kingdom developed independently of Egyptian influence and domination, which passed successively under Iraniann, Greek, and, finally, Roman domination. During the height of its power in the second and third centuries BC, Meroë extended over a region from the Third Cataract in the north to Soba, near present-day Khartoum, in the south. An Egyptian influenced pharaonic tradition persisted among a line of rulers at Meroë, who raised stelae to record the achievements of their reigns and erected Nubian pyramids to contain their tombs. These objects and the ruins of palaces, temples, and baths at Meroë attest to a centralized political system that employed artisans‘ skills and commanded the labour of a large work force. A well-managed irrigation system allowed the area to support a higher population density than was possible during later periods. By the first century BC, the use of Egyptian hieroglyphs gave way to a Meroitic alphabet adapted for the Nubian-related language spoken by the region’s people.
Meroë’s succession system was not necessarily hereditary; the matrilineal royal family member deemed most worthy often became king. The kandake or queen mother’s role in the selection process was crucial to a smooth succession. The crown appears to have passed from brother to brother (or sister) and only when no siblings remained from father to son.
Although Napata remained Meroë’s religious center, northern Kush eventually fell into disorder as it came under pressure from the Blemmyes, predatory nomads from east of the Nile. However, the Nile continued to give the region access to the Mediterranean world. Additionally, Meroë maintained contact with Arab and Indian traders along the Red Sea coast and incorporated Hellenistic and Indian cultural influences into its daily life. Inconclusive evidence suggests that metallurgical technology may have been transmitted westward across the savanna belt to West Africa from Meroë’s iron smelteries.
Relations between Meroë and Egypt were not always peaceful. As a response to Meroë’s incursions into Upper Egypt, a Roman army moved south and razed Napata in 23 BC. The Roman commander quickly abandoned the area, however, deeming it too poor to warrant colonization.
In the second century AD, the Nobatia occupied the Nile’s west bank in northern Kush. They are believed to have been one of several well-armed bands of horse- and camel-borne warriors who sold their skills to Meroë for protection; eventually they intermarried and established themselves among the Meroitic people as a military aristocracy. Until nearly the fifth century, Rome subsidized the Nobatia and used Meroë as a buffer between Egypt and the Blemmyes.
Meanwhile, the old Meroitic kingdom contracted because of the expansion of the powerful Kingdom of Aksum to the east. By 350, King Ezana of Axum had captured and destroyed the capital of Meroë, ending the kingdom’s independent existence and conquering its territory.
From Wikipedia: History of Sudan