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The Kingdom of Kush: A proper introduction [Illustrated]


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@balduin Wow, thank you for the thorough explanation and insights! I will definitely be spending some time trying to get to know the “0AD-environment” a little better, and figuring out what is possible and what isn’t.

I will continue to drop images and info in this discussion, for now, as the preliminary visual guide to Kush, while I figure out Github, and other things.

I’ve done some follow up research based on some of your questions, and here are some preliminary answers. I wasn’t able to find everything I was looking for though. It is true that the kingdom of Kush poses a considerable challenge in terms of information gathering, because most of the useful information is in primary sources, which haven’t been widely published. That having said, an amazing amount of good info is out there, if you’re tenacious enough.


Preliminary 'answers'

Temple: Model for temple should be the temples to Apedemak, one of the most important deities. He was also of local origin, which makes it more interesting. The great temples to Amun (to Nubian standards, massive temple complexes), built in Napata, Meroe and Dangeil should be the model for their special building. Temples to Amun were centers of economic activity: workshops, artisans, maintained large (fruit)gardens, extremely wealthy in earlier periods.  [crazy idea: Amun special building could recruit “Holy warriors of Amun”. Apedemak temple could recruit “Lion warriors of Apedemak”. These units would be Kush’s special units. Religious fanatics, although I’d have to check the history on that one :P ]

Each civ has a number of house models. Kush should also feature this variety. Based on the examples given, maybe 3 or 4 models can be made. For uniformity, they can all be plastered white, with similar geometric designs decorating the spaces around doors and windows.

Of all the buildings, civic center should be based on the typical Kushite palaces, like the one at Karanog (fig 14). These palaces were administrative centers, storehouses for food and luxery products/trade items, and served as living quarters to governors. This is where dignitaries would be received, and policies would be made. Literally town centers! Maybe reduce the height from 3 stories to 2 stories. Some miniature obelisks or stone inscriptions decorating the front. A set of pillars with papyrus shaped capitols at the entrance, with a single stone slab on top, to make it look inviting.   

Their fields shouldn’t necessarily look different from any other field in the game. They grew barley, wheat, millet, sorghum, cotton and dates. Interesting thing is that the Meroitic period saw the introduction of the Saqiya (Sakia), animal driven waterwheel, which made irrigation of lands further from the Nile possible.

Fig. 26  Drawing of an Egyptian Saqiya, which saw its introduction in Sudan around the Meroitic times, allowing much greater agricultural produce.


They bred (auroch-like) cattle, horses, sheep and goats, donkeys and to a lesser extent camels. Their desert neighbors, the Beja, made extensive use of camels.

Fig. 27 Massive horned cattle of the Dinka, in modern day South-Sudan



I think the Meroitic pyramids would be a good wonder. They’re not awkwardly big, but still imposing enough, and built with an eastward facing chapel, they have an interesting architectural element.


Things I don’t have answers to:

I have no clue what their dock would have looked like o.0 I might be able to find a floor plan for a blacksmith, but I suspect it’s just going to be an open courtyard, flanked by 4 walls with a simple rectangular structure in one corner. Not sure though. I suspect many other “work sites”, would follow this pattern, of simple walled courtyard, with a simple rectangular building. I know absolutely nothing of siege equipment in ancient Kush, although the 25th dynasty must have used them to conquer the walled cities of Egypt. As for boats, I know just as little. What I know is that they had them, and they used them. Nastasen captured “many fine (Egyptian) boats” in the 4th century BCE and Ezana in the 4th century AD says that they used boats to cross the Nile, fleeing his troops. What I do presume is that the 25th dynasty used boats identical to new Kingdom Egypt, and this might have continued until Roman times (pure conjecture on my part here). The typical straw fishing boats of the Nile are a given. I did find images of a scene in a Theban tomb belonging to the New Kingdom, Kushite vizier, Huy. It has been proposed that the Napatan Kings descended from these viziers.  

“Coming from Kush with all the goodly tribute consisting of all the choicest and best of the southern lands. Landing at the Southern City (i.e. Thebes) by the King’s son of Kush” - Theban tomb tt40

fig. 28 Huy, a Kushite vizier of the New Kingdom arriving in Thebes. Horses are among the products being brought to the Pharaoh, as tribute from Kush.


 Fig. 29 More of the viziers' boats, arriving with tribute for the pharaoh.


 Fig. 30 The Nubians sitting on top of the vessel are bound prisoners. Either to be sold as slaves, or put to death as criminals.



Walls and fortifications

I made somewhat of a breakthrough here. But more on that later. First I’ll share what I already knew. Kushites used a variety of techniques to build walls, and yes, they were quite good at it. Cut stone, dry-stone walls, mudbrick and fired brick were all used to varying degrees depending on the site you’re examining. These building materials were also used extensively in combination with each other. Some walls were built with a social/ritual/religious purpose, separating lower classes from higher classes. Separating the holy of holies from the unholy. In other places they served a purely defensive purpose, with walls that could be manned, and featured bastions.

Fig. 31 Some of the walls that form "the great enclosure" at Musawwarat es Sufra, a religious complex. They give a good impression of Kushite masonry skills. Tightly cut (usually sandstone) blocks, dress the interior section of the wall, made of rubble and uncut stone.


Fig. 32 Cerimonial walls in Musawwarat es Sufra 


Fig. 33 Typically narrow entrance gate to the walled town of Hamadab, 3km south of Meroe. Hamadab had square bastions on the corners of the walls, accessible by stairs.


Fig. 34 Plan of the walled city of Qasr Ibrim, showing remnants from many different eras, including the Christian era cathedral, and the "Taharqa temple". In Meroitic times, it was called Premnis, and formed a battleground for the invading Romans who occupied, and then ceded it back to Kush.


Fig. 35 New Kingdom entrance gate to Qasr Ibrim, rebuilt and narrowed during later (possibly Meroitic) times


Fig. 36 Kushite style, narrow entrance gate to Qasr Ibrim. 



The Governors’ palace at Karanog (fig. 14) can also easily be used as a model for a fort. It served a dual defensive purpose, and kind of looks like a castle. With a little creativity, it would look nice as a fort.

The breakthrough I was referring to was the site called “Gala Abu Ahmed”. Don’t get stuck up on the name though, radiocarbon dating puts this place between 700BCE – 350BCE, which makes it, Napatan and early Meroitic. It’s quite a large, trapezoid fort, with thick dry-stone walls, bastions, and staircases to reach the upper walls and bastions. Sadly, as with many places in Sudan, the site was mined for building materials for the nearby, modern town, making it difficult to estimate its height in the old days, but some walls still reach 4 meters. Notable feature, as with all Meroitic fortifications, is the conspicuously small gate entrance, undoubtedly a security measure making access more difficult.


Fig. 37 Plan of Gala Abu Ahmed


Fig 38. Aerial view of Gala Abu Ahmed


Fig 39. Aerial view of the main entrance gate to Gala Abu Ahmed. A very narrow passage way, with a pair of stairs in the middle, leading up to the walls and bastions


Fig. 40 Beautiful example of Kushite dry-stone walls in Gala Abu Ahmed



A final note on fortifications. The massive Middle Kingdom fortresses, such as Semna and Buhen, regularly fell to Kushite hands from the 2nd intermediate period onwards, well into Ptolemaic times. Although originally built by Egyptians, their style may well have influenced later Meroitic fortifications, and can be used for stylistic hints in models. 

Fig. 41 Historical reconstruction of the massive Middle Kingdom Egyptian fortress of Buhen, to the north of the 2nd cataract. Although unmistakably Egyptian, this fort fell in to Kushite hands many times since the fall of the Middle Kingdom, and even saw use by the Ptolemies in their Nubian campaigns. 


Lastly, some explanation behind the walls of the "Royal City", the central walled district of Meroe, and "The Great Enclosure" in Musawwarat es Sufra, from "Hellenizing Art in Ancient Nubia 300 B.C. - AD 250 and Its Egyptian Models", by Laszlo Torok 

1 Hellenizing Art in Ancient Nubia 300 B.C. - AD 250 and Its Egyptian Models ....png

2 Hellenizing Art in Ancient Nubia 300 B.C. - AD 250 and Its Egyptian Models ....png


Some more references and further reading:











Qasr Ibrim: The last 3000 years, Published on Mar 21, 2014  

by P.J. Rose — Sudan & Nubia, No 15, published by The Sudan Archaeological Research Society, 2011


Archaeobotanical Investigations at the Gala Abu Ahmed Fortress in Lower Wadi Howar, Northern Sudan:  

Published on Feb 10, 2016  

by F. Jesse et al — Sudan & Nubia, No 17, published by The Sudan Archaeological Research Society, 2013



Edited by Sundiata
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3 hours ago, Sundiata said:

Middle Kingdom fortresses, such as Semna and Buhen, regularly fell to Kushite hands from the 2nd intermediate period onwards, well into Ptolemaic times.

The Kushits must have known how to attack such a massive fortress. Fig: 41 shows a Buhen as being a fortress with unlimited water resources (Nil) and thick stone walls. Even though somebody sits in front for months and conducts a siege the fortress can get resources from the water side. Either the Kush besieged it from the water and land side or they used something else (ladder, siege weapon, tunneler, wall climbing units, catapult ships etc.). 

Notable are the entrance gates of Qasr Ibrim and Abu Ahmed as well as the fortresses itself. The stone walls are thick and gateways are small and massive. The gateways are something I have not seen before. They are more massive than most European fortresses and castles. The question is why did they invest resources (human, money [gold], material) into building such fortresses? Did they had internal problems (Kushits against Kushits) or external enemies, which made it necessary to build those fortresses?

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4 hours ago, Sundiata said:

I might be able to find a floor plan for a blacksmith, but I suspect it’s just going to be an open courtyard, flanked by 4 walls with a simple rectangular structure in one corner. Not sure though.

Blacksmiths in 0 A.D. are military research centers. Maybe the Kushits did this in temples or separate buildings. However, it is also completely fine to just assume how a blacksmith could have looked like.

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Thank you for your interest in the subject, it makes me happy.

Honesty compels me to tell you that the first time the fort at Buhen fell to the Kushites, the Egyptians had presumably already abandoned it, due to instability in Egypt itself. That's the official story, though it strikes me as a little odd, to just abandon the gateway to Egypt's largest source of gold (and ivory). In later times various forts were taken and retaken, but I have no idea how. Going by reliefs, ladders seem to be the main siege-equipement. I read stuff about flaming arrows, but that can't have done it alone. The forts are actually predominantly made of mud-brick, (which could potentially be undermined?). When Taharqa took the forts, the garrisons just surrendered, and swore loyalty to him. They just stayed at their posts, working for the Kushites instead of the Egyptians. Kushites seem to have enjoyed very amicable relations with the people of upper Egypt (to some extent) during most of the Napatan and Meroitic times. Probably owed to the fact that the High priest to Amun in Thebes was often a Kushite or a Nubian, and the temples around Thebes were traditionally garded by Nubians since very early times.


Fig. 42 Egyptians being besieged (by other Egyptians?) At least one Nubian is visible in the upper left corner (archer with feather in his hair). Interesting is the covered siege structure, were 2 men use a long spear to dislodge the defenders from their wall (lower right corner).




Kush definitely had a lot of internal issues. Areas controlled by the Kingdom of Kush were inhabited by a large amount of different tribes. Between the borders of Egypt, to the southern reaches of Kush, were many tribes, speaking many different languages, worshipping many different gods, and having unique cultures. These tribes would vie for power among one another, but the ruling dynasty at Meroe, represented the untouchable pinnacle of this “ethnocracy”. In addition, the strength of dessert raiders shouldn’t be underestimated. Without strong walls, communities on the fringes of the state would have surely fallen victim to the constant predation of these desert nomads.


In the case of Gala Abu Ahmed, the fort was built right next to a wadi (a seasonal “river”), and there is reason to believe there was an above surface source of water 2000 years ago. It would have been a main route in to the Nile Valley from areas further to the west in Sudan…


Anyway, I spent two hours looking for the model of a large Meroitic era, beehive structure at Wad Ben Naqa. Some claim it to be a granary (silo), and others a temple. At Gala Abu Ahmed, several similar, although seriously less monumental structures were excavated. The people of that excavation were pretty sure their structures were granaries. Grain would be added through a hole at the top with a tall ladder. It would subsequently be taken from an access hole at the bottom when needed. The silos at Abu Ahmed could have fed several hundred men for a year. Both the structures at Abu Ahmed and at Wad ben Naqa were plastered white on the outside. The structures are so architecturally unique, I originally dismissed them, thinking they were later Islamic tombs, but I was wrong. Their unique shape would be quite cool as a model for the farm building. The Saqiya (fig. 26) could be a special building that increases farm output.



Fig. 43 A model of one of the granaries at Gala Abu Ahmed. Sand stone foundation, and brick for its upper courses. Plastered with white lime plaster. 



Fig. 44  3d image of the remains of the "circular building" (WBN 50) at Wad Ben Naqa.


Fig. 45   3d reconstruction of the Circular Building (WBN 50) at Wad Ben Naqa. Some claim it is a silo. Others say that with a diameter of 18meters and a height of 20 meters, it was too monumental to be a silo. An access ramp hints at its possible use as a shrine or temple. Access ramps are common in religious structures. 


More reading: 



Wad ben Naga. A history of the site. Sudan & Nubia 18


Onderka, P. - Vrtal, V.: Preliminary report on the sixth excavation season of the Archaeological Expedition to Wad Ben Naga


The round structures of Gala Abu Ahmed fortress in lower Wadi Howar, Sudan


Edited by Sundiata
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Kush and later Aksum have been trading in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. The Kushit empire, as you mentioned earlier, produced a lot of Iron. I was only able to find some sources which mentioned the trading routes of the Kushits:

Golden Age of Meroe (slide 17)

- Became the capital
- Closer to red sea
- Trade with Africa, Arabia, and India
- Natural resources
  - Significant rainfall
  - Iron ore
  - Made weapons and tools


I think finding out more about the trade and trade routes of Kush can lead to a better understanding of their naval capabilities. Transporting goods into the Indian Ocean requires ships.

The Kushits exported Elephants to Egypt and other empires. See here:


According to an recent article South-Sudan had 80,000 Elephants in the 1960s, sadly the number of Elephants declined to 5,000 during the civil war in Sudan. I am pretty sure the Kingdom of Kush was using War Elephants.


Edited by balduin
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I used to have a very nice book on military architecture, from what I recall Egyptian fortresses generally had evidence being the recipients of massive sapping attacks given the mud brick did not hold up too well against hand tools and determined attackers, i forget the details but i think i remember one of which nearly had an entire wall torn down by hand

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@Sundiata I am quite impressed with your passion and research.  I thought you should know that I am responsible for a 0 A.D. mod, Aristeia Bronziron, that for now spans from 1000-500 BC. The four main civs we are working on are the Saite Egyptians, the Archaic Hellenes, the Divided Kingdom Judahites, and the New Empire Assyrians.  However, it is possible we will add more civs in future (no promises, though :D).  If so, the Kushite 25th Dynasty would definitely be a viable candidate for representation!

I support what others have suggested as far as combining the Han Chinese, Zapotecs, and Meroitic Kushites into an Empires Ascendant-concurrent mod.

Edited by Zophim
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Use of elephants for war purposes is definitely a controversial subject. Some people seem absolutely sure they had them, other seem absolutely sure they didn't. Truth is, we don't know. If they had any, they were never used to any impressive degree against either Egyptians, Persians, Ptolemies or Romans, as none of these are known to have ever actually fought against Kushite elephants. Several classical writers do mention them though. There's also a number of depictions of them, mainly in Musawwarat es Sufra, which might have been a cult place for the worship of elephants. 

Fig. 46 Images of Elephants, wearing some kind of decorated cloth, leading a group of bound prisoners by a rope. From Musawwarat es Sufra



I actually found pictures of an elephant statuette from Meroe, dating to the Meroitic period, with a mahout and all! You'd think this closes the question, but in fact it opens up a lot more. This piece is one of a kind, and has no parallels in Nubian art. It's completely unique (so far), and doesn't seem to be of Meroitic production. But the rider does seem to carry a typical East African round shield. The features of the Mahout don't look African, perhaps even Indian. And the elephant itself actually looks Indian (two lobes on its front head). Maybe just an Indian import. Maybe a Ptolemaic import (known to use Indian Mahouts). Maybe an original Meroitic artist, depicting what he saw in Meroe. Who knows. It does seem weird to export war elephants, and not use them yourself… 

Fig. 47 Elephant and mahout statuette from Meroe


Fig. 48 Elephant statuette from Meroe. The ring on the Mahouts' head was used to suspend the piece in the air.



Another thing about the elephants, is that the African elephants used in warfare were "forrest elephants", a much smaller version of the African Bush Elephant. Bush elephants are notoriously difficult to train. The smaller size of the forrest elephants made them much easier to handle, but it also put them at a serious disadvantage against larger Indian war elephants.

On the trade routes with India, it must me said that the Meroites probably didn't participate in it directly, but were dependent on Beja traders going back and forth with their camels to the red sea coast, to the port of Suakin, and later Ptolemais Theron. I think its almost certain the Kushites didn't operate ships on the Red Sea during 0AD's timeframe. Perhaps in earlier times, during the 25th dynasty? The main trade routes led up and down the nile, and into Darfur, Chad areas to the West, and Ethiopia, Great Lakes area to the south. 

The specific species of cattle you're looking for is Sanga cattle, also known as "Bos Taurus Africanus". An indigenous, African-domesticated species. Many subspecies exist throughout the continent (of which Ankole Watusi is one example). Smaller, short-horned, modern day cattle of Northern Sudan have been mixed with Indian Zebu's over the past centuries. I think it goes without saying that cattle was extremely important to Kush. 

Fig. 49 A herd of Sanga cattle, somewhere in central Africa. 


Fig. 50 Neolithic Rock Art, from Algeria. Similar scenes are widespread in the Sahara, before the aridification of the desert in modern times. This cow might have well been the ancestor to the cows pictured above   

Screen Shot 2017-01-19 at 01.46.14.png

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1 hour ago, Zophim said:

I support what others have suggested as far as combining the Han Chinese, Zapotecs, and Meroitic Kushites into an Empires Ascendant-concurrent mod.

I think it is a good idea to merge them together. However, the Rise of the East Mod is by far the most complete mod of all. I do not thing it is a good idea to merge them right now. In my opinion it would be far better to start with the Meroitic Kushites as a separate mod and at the time the mod has a similar quality it should be merged into an 0 A.D. Empires Ascendant - Rise of the Empires mod (maybe somebody has a better name for that mod).

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@Zophim Thank you!  

I think 25th Dynasty would be an awesome choice for Aristeia. I looked through your forum, and it looked really interesting. It's a very interesting timeframe to depict. Before the rise of Rome… Before Alexander… If you need some help with research or something, let me know. I will go through the forum again and see what I could contribute.




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I think Fig: 46 shows elephant and slaves together, which highlights the fact that they traded elephants and especially tusks. Another article I found about the usage of war elephants in Carthage. According to the article [1] Carthage imported those war elephants and the mahouts and according to another article the ancient Egypts pharaohs did not use war elephants either. The first who used war elephants in Egypt have been in the Ptolemy I, which was motivated from his experience under Alexander the Great and his Indian expedition.

Conclusion, no war elephants.

[1] http://www.historynet.com/carthaginian-war-elephant.htm

[2] http://history.stackexchange.com/questions/17071/use-of-war-elephants-in-egypt#17074

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The first elephant species to be tamed was the Asian Elephant, for use in agriculture. Elephant taming - not full domestication, as they are still captured in the wild, rather than being bred in captivity - may have begun in any of three different places. The oldest evidence comes from the Indus Valley Civilization, around roughly 4500 BC.[2]Archaeological evidence for the presence of wild elephants in the Yellow River valley during the Shang Dynasty (1600–1100 BC) of China may suggest that they also used elephants in warfare.[3] The wild elephant populations of Mesopotamia and China declined quickly because of deforestation and human population growth: by c. 850 BC the Mesopotamian elephants were extinct, and by c. 500 BC the Chinese elephants were seriously reduced in numbers and limited to areas well south of the Yellow River.

Some interesting info, mostly of people don't know.

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I think I found something about siege weapons:

"By the time the Nubians made their incursions into Egypt, around 715 BC, walls, siege tactics and equipment had undergone changes, mostly influenced by developments in the Asiatic East. Early shelters protecting sappers armed with poles trying to breach mud-brick ramparts gave way to battering rams." (source: http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/siegewarfare.htm)



"Piye attacked the city of Ashmunein which was ruled by Nimlot, once an ally of Piye. Using wooden siege towers, the city fell after five months." (source: http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/piye.htm)

The picture I found and picture fig: 42 show both a similar siege weapon. It seems to be some sort of cage with man in it having a long spear to kill people on the wall.

Siege weapons are important in 0 A.D. otherwise it is hard to destroy enemy towers, fortresses or walls.

Edited by balduin
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Other interesting questions are:

  • How does a priest or priests have looked like?
  • What animals did trader use and how did the trader look like?
  • How did a marketplace look like?
  • How does a fisher boat look like?
  • How did a trading ship look like?

the whole ship thing is not clear yet.

the questions you answered in your last research are:

  • war elephants: no
  • agriculture
  • farm animals
  • walls (towers)
  • fortress
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Some answers and thoughts


I still didn’t get very far on this one, and I don’t think I’m going to get a lot further. I just can’t seem to find a depiction of a boat during the Meroitic period, even though we know they used them. I do have an interesting proposal. Just use simple versions of high prow “Egyptian style” boats as models. Here’s why. I believe the entire Nile Valley has been using the same basic high prow- boat design since the Neolithic era. After a long search, I found pictures of some petroglyphs dating to the Kerma-, or pre- Kerma-period, long before the timeframe of 0AD, but more importantly, before the Egyptian occupation of Nubia. Along with other obscure depictions of boats in the Kerma period, including from Kerma itself, we can safely deduce that even the earliest Kushites used boats similar to those of the Egyptians. Since the Naqada period, the first “Egyptian style” boats appear in petroglyphs in both Egypt and Nubia. In later times larger models become possible for the Egyptians, in the calmer waters of the Nile. Because of the rapids around the cataracts, large vessels can’t easily pass, so Kushites depended on smaller sized vessels of this type, as well as rafts. We also know of the presence of large, complex, “Egyptian style” boats with large rectangular masts, and many oars, in Kush during the New Kingdom (fig. 28). The fact that the 25th dynasty (successfully) fought naval battles on the Nile, combined with other activities up and down the entire length of the Nile for almost a century, also suggests they were completely familiar with “Egyptian” style boats. Maybe we should just call them “Nile valley boats” instead. Nile Valley boat culture forms a continuum from the delta to the Sud. Starring us in the face the whole time, fig.1 (first post) shows a beautiful golden religious barque in Napata. Although ceremonial, its shape is influenced directly by some of the earliest Nile valley boats. I don’t see why these specific high prow Nile valley boats would have gone extinct in Kush until after the fall of Meroe.

Fig. 51 Rudimentary Kerma-era petroglyph of a high prow boat showing a typical rudder


Fig. 52 Kerma-era petroglyph showing a high prow boat with a center cabin


Fig. 53 Kerma-era petroglyph showing a hyppo-hunt in a Nile Valley boat with typical rudder mechanism. 


Fig. 54 I believe that the boat designs in fig 51-53 evolved in to the more familiar "Egyptian" style boats, which have similar shapes, and the same rudder mechanism. I think the boat bellow is an ideal model for a Kushite vessel. 


Fig. 55 Another Egyptian variation of the same basic design. These models would serve well as Kushite trading ships, or with the addition of garrisoned archers, war vessels.   



Fishing boats could possibly be simple hollowed out canoes, as they’ve been attested since the Pre-Kerma period and are still used by some of the populations of South Sudan today. Alternatively, papyrus boats are an attractive option as models for fishing boats. Papyrus (reed-) boats are considered one of the oldest forms of riverine transportation, and they can still be seen to some extent in Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia today.

Fig. 56 A modern example of a reed boat, in Ethiopia.


Fig. 57 A modern example of a hollowed out canoe in Sudan. Please note that the shape of the paddle being used is identical to the shape of the paddles on Khufu's solar ship, in Giza. Perhaps another indication of cultural continuity along the Nile. 


Fig. 58 Khufu's Solar Ship.



A clear challenge is the seeming absence of sea faring vessels. I don’t think Kushites ever ventured on to the red sea, although the Beja had direct access to the port of Suakin, and other vassals on the periphery of modern day Ethiopia controlled the trade route that led to Adulis (Axumite), another important port in the Indian Ocean trade.



Again, fig. 1 shows us Taharqa leading a religious procession in Napata. He’s actually wearing the traditional outfit of a high-priest (A white loincloth with a leopard skin draped across his chest, with the leopards’ head dangling at the height of his lower belly/crotch area). On the left side, in front of the chariot, another priest is seen in the same outfit, but without royal regalia.  

Fig. 59  25th dynasty Kushite priest, with inscription of Osiris




I think the marketplace might have looked quite generic. For 0AD, some rectangular stalls, constructed with 4 simple pillars supporting a roof covered with palm branches or reeds, for shade may be sufficient. Maybe a statue of Arensnuphis, a Kushite deity, on a pedestal in the middle as eye-candy.

Fig. 60 Arensnuphis, a Kushite deity




Donkeys were the favorite travel companion for Kushite traders. They seem to have liked these rather small, hardy desert animals a lot. Long after the introduction of horses and camels, donkeys remained popular, even today. They would just pack whatever is needed on their backs, and form small, to large caravans, for long or short distance travel. The trader himself might have ridden the front donkey. Alternatively, the Beja used camels to trade back and forth with Kushite territory.

Fig. 61 Petroglyphs in Sudan, depicting a donkey caravan


Fig. 62 Donkeys in Sudan




The links you ( @balduin ) shared were very interesting and enlightening. So we can confirm the use of battering rams and siege towers for the Kushites. The excerpts from the “Piankhi stela” are especially interesting. I read several times in other sources that later Kushite Kings obsessively studied these texts, to learn about military tactics and strategy. You could almost say that the emulation of Egypt in Kushite culture stems from their obsession with Piye (Piankhi) and Taharqa, and their dedication to Amun, rather than an obsession with Egypt itself.   

“Then they fought against Tetehen, great in might. They found it filled with soldiers, with every valiant man of the Northland. Then the battering-ram was employed against it, its wall was overthrown, and a great slaughter was made among them. of unknown number; also the son of the chief of Me, Tefnakhte. Then they sent to his majesty concerning it, (but) his heart was not satisfied therewith.”  -Piankhi stela-

Fig. 64 I found a slightly better quality of the siege tower, with some interpretation. 




Kushites should definitely have a bonus in terms of their cattle production. Maybe one cow can be twice the meat of one goat? Even Herodotus mentions the large quantities of meat made available to the population in his description of “the table of the sun”. It’s been proposed that Meroitic society had a redistributive system.



I think Beja tribesmen (Blemmyes), would serve as ideal mercenary units. Beja were traditional enemies, vassals and overlords of Kush at various times. A strong sword infantry unit, and a camel unit with lance (and perhaps javelins) would be nice compliments to the Kushite unit roster. Perhaps a Beja embassy could recruit them. The embassy could be a simple Kushite rectangular structure with two Beja tents next to it, and some round shields and lances lying around.

Fig. 65   A typical Beja swordsman, wearing a white loincloth, animal hide round shield, and dagger tucked away in a broad leather belt protecting his abdomen. I believe the material culture presented in this picture is identical to that of the Meroitic times. Even the shape of the swords' scabbard is a strong reminder of the earlier Kushite Kings and their swords.


Fig. 66   A Beja camel warrior.



Nuba tribesmen are another good mercenary unit. The Nuba are a collection of tribes to the south of Kush, were a very tall and very muscular people. Virtually naked, with no armor at all, they used very small round shields, or rectangular wicker shields. They painted their bodies with elaborate geometric designs, and these might be the “Ethiopians” Herodotus mentions in his Persian Wars, when he writes When they went into battle they painted their bodies, half with chalk, and half with vermilion” They would make a fearsome mercenary unit, but no match for heavily armored opponents. Their upside is that they’re extremely cheap and can easily outrun other units. Their embassy could be a Kushite rectangular structure with two round huts next to it.

Fig. 67  Modern Nuba 



 Obvious weaknesses and strengths

 All this reading has made a few things clear to me. The Kushites had particular strengths and weaknesses relevant to the game-play of 0AD.



 - Weak armor: Basic units barely used armor. Special units, champions and heroes have (quality) quilted cotton and scale armor, but they should be relatively expensive.

 - Weak navy. Apparently no real seafaring capability (which means they’d be a weak choice for an island map). But they did have boats, and transport of troops, and basic naval defense is a definite yes. Weak boats can be compensated with garrisons of archers, firing volleys of flaming arrows (fig. 7a).

 - Weak siege equipment: Only cursory mention of siege equipment and tactics, which include ladders, ship-masts, sapping attacks on walls, but also siege towers and battering rams.



 - Infantry should have a speed bonus, because low armor makes them faster (and cheaper)

 - Their cavalry should be particularly strong and fast. Highly desired by the Egyptians and Assyrians, the specific breed of Kushite horses was large, fast and strong. I believe it is the ancestor to the rare Dongola, or Dongolawi horse, an important breed throughout the greater Sudan in later times (disregard Wikipedia on this one. Their page dismisses the Sudanic origin of this breed, apparently based on the axiom that horses were introduced to Sudan in much later times. By now we know they were being bred by the 2nd millennium BCE, but this isn’t common knowledge I guess. In addition, the page fails to distinguish, or even identify the unique physical features of this breed. The author seems to be conflating barb and Arab horses with older African breeds).

 - Fast chariots (drawn by two horses), shooting accurate volleys of arrows. Perfect for hit and run tactics.

 - Large-scale food production, due to irrigation and cattle herding. Allows recruiting many, fast and cheap units early in the game, ideal for early raiding.

 - Strong buildings and defenses. Thick walls of cut stone, dry-stone or fired brick. Mud-brick foundations provide a certain plasticity, which in turn ensures the stability of larger structures.

 - Strong weapons. Early iron (steel) production gives them strong swords, spears and arrow tips. Maybe they should have a weak defense, but a strong attack.

 - They were world renowned for their archery skills for several millennia. They should be the most accurate archers in the game. Even in later times, Heliodorus of Emesa mentions their “unerring skill in hitting their target, their adversaries’ eyes”. This was repeated by the invading Arabs of the Rashidun Caliphate, who called them “pupil smiters”, and were forced to retreat from Sudan with many eyes lost (battle of Dongola). 

Fig. 68 Beautiful and rare example of the Dongola or Dongolawi horse in Cameroon. It's features include a short gait, tall legs, standing manes and its head features a typically concave profile, unlike most horses.


Fig. 68 Another beautiful example of a horse with strong Dongolawi features. (Dongola was an important town, and capital of the post Meroitic Kingdom of Makuria. A horse breeding area since ancient times)






Edited by Sundiata
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On 15/1/2017 at 7:30 AM, Sundiata said:

@Wowgetoffyourselphone: Thank you :)

@Lion.Kanzen: I understand, and I'm not expecting any magic to happen or anything. I just thought the Kushites deserved a proper introduction. I saw the two posts you linked before, but I didn't think they did the Kushites any justice. I love the work you guys are doing, and I don't want to come in here with an accusatory tone. I just want people to have an accurate visual reference for the Kushites, and how they might be a valuable addition. 

And the term Nubian, in Meroitic history is problematic. The term "Nubia" only sees widespread use after the collapse of the Meroitic state, and is related to the rise of the Nobatae (Noba). In addition there are many Nuba speaking people in Sudan who essentially had nothing to do with Meroe. It's a term that refers to everything and nothing at the same time, confusing peoples understanding of the history of the region. It's a bit like equating Samnites and Etruscans with Romans.

Great job... Sundiata, I need an expert like you. I've started to conceptualize what it is supposed to be an African minifaction that I've identified with Nubians but after reading your post i ask myself if I should call them Kushites or finish Nubians and start Kushites as two separated civ..

May I advance something here...


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This is one of the finest threads I've seen in this forum. Kudos to you!

I've always wanted a Black civilization represented in 0 A.D., but the limited resources available was a huge setback. Even trying to search for some of these using my university's library system didn't provide much information.

If you don't mind me asking, what is your background?

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Bueno Lion, Ahora mismo estoy un poco confundido, casi mejor te escribo en español. 

Tengo varios conceptos a medias para la civ Nubia pero tengo poca información, si embargo Sundiata ha aportado mucha información de otra civ. muy parecida aunque diferente. Tampoco he acabado de entender el significado de mini-facción. ¿Quiere decir una civ inferior a las ya representadas en el juego?, ¿con menos edificios?, ¿mas primitiva?, ¿con limitaciones específicas?, tampoco ahí ningún ejemplo en el Juego. todas estas dudas me impiden concentrarme.

¿por donde seguir? :(

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