The Kushites wore diverse types of clothing. Excavated graves dating to early periods of Sudanese history indicate that clothes were mostly made of leather and linen fibers. Loin clothes, kilt, and sandals were uncovered in considerable amounts in the Kerma graves. Clothes also showed signs of heavy coloration.
Jewelry was found in large amounts throughout Kushite graves including necklaces, bracelets, earrings, finger rings, ostrich feathers, and beads of faience.
Men in Kushite graves were usually accompanied with loin clothes and tunics made of linen. Women were accompanied with simple long skirts but were often bare chested.
A pastoral scene engraved in a bronze bowl dating to the second century CE, depicts Kushite men wearing tunics that were tucked under their belts and tied to their fronts in a butterfly tie (see the figure to the left). A seated women is depicted wearing a squire piece of cloth with tassels dangling from its lower edge. The woman is also shown wearing heavy ornaments including a headband, a large bracelet, and armlets.
Royal Clothing in Early Nubia
Rich graves were excavated in Sudan containing abundant types of clothes such as leather loincloths and tunics. Personal ornament materials were also abundantly discovered, such as kohl pots, and jewelry made of finance beads, ostrich shells, copper, and ivory.
Clothing of the Pharaohs of the Napatan period:
The Napatan pharaohs usually wore simple kilts that were sometimes adorned with colored bands. The pharaohs wore tight skullcaps as their crowns. Two urea (Cobras) were attached to a golden headband that was worn over the skullcap. Kushite rulers always wore two urea to indicate that they were the rulers of both Sudan and Egypt. The pharaohs are often depicted bare chested except for large gold necklaces that were sometimes shown hanging around their necks. However, in few cases, such as on the tomb of Tanwetamany, the pharaoh is depicted as wearing a tight shirt with short sleeves and a coat fastened over his left shoulder.
Napatan pharaohs favored little jewelry; however, armlets were typically worn. They also wore false-beards sometimes. Necklaces were popular among the royalty decorated with symbols of religious themes such as the falcon wings of Horus (sun god) or ram horns of Amon ( god of the universe).
Kushite royalty usually wore leather sandals consisting of a strap that ran across the foot from which rose another stripe that joined the inner corner of the toe in the front of the sandal.
Clothing of the royal women of the Napatan period:
The common type of female crown was consisted of a tight skullcap that extended to the back of the neck. A uraeus (the Eye of Re) often projected from the skullcap. Above the cap, rose several types of crowns, each representing a different rank of royalty.
The crown of the first wife to the pharaoh consisted of two horns with a sun disk in between. Above the horns and the sun disk were the shapes of, perhaps, two long feathers that rose in great height. The second wife, lesser in rank wore a crown supported with a small object, which has the shape of a jar, beyond which was a circular structure. Other wives wore four long feathers. What seems to have been the crown of the handmaids is consited of three elongated plums that rose and dangled over the back.
Napatan queens are depicted wearing transparent linen loose robes usually plain with little or no decorations. The robes were folded down the back of the dress. They were accompanied with broad collars and simple, but elegant, jewelery.
Napatan royal women usually wore elegant leather sandals consisting of a stripe that ran across the foot from which rose another strap that joined the inner corner of the toe area at the front of the sandal.
Clothing of the royal pharoahs of the Meroitic period:
The Meroitic Pharaoh is usually depicted wearing the traditional skullcap with the two uraei (the Eye of Re) projecting from them. A heavily decorated headband was sometimes tied around the head. This type of crown was usually accompanied with a tight leather dress with long sleeves. The dress, like most Meroitic clothes, is heavily decorated with complex designs.
Pharaohs and queens wore other types of dresses. However, the most common one is consisted of a long skirt that reached the ankles; over which a fringed shawl was sometimes worn. A long robe is usually depicted dangling with three tassels.
Different types of crowns are depicted. In a temple, at Naqa, a pharaoh is depicted wearing a skullcap that supported two horns. At the ends of each horn is a urea. Farther more, above each horn rose three feather like objects (see the figure above).
Meroitic pharaohs usually wore sandals. One stripe of the sandal crossed over the back of the ankle, a second stripe crossed over the front, and a third stripe connected the front stripe to the sole of the toe. Some sandals had leather extensions that provided a protective cover to the heel, while another stripe extended from the sole of the toe to another stripe that ran across the foot.
Meroitic pharaohs and queens wore extensive jewelry including hand bands, bracelets, necklaces, girdles, earrings, anklets, and finger rings.
Unfortunately not much archeology had been done regarding this period. Some of the excavated tumuli at Balana revealed few cotton materials. However since Sudan is notorious for its cotton production, cotton was certainly the main material used for making fiber in the ancient Sudan.
Clothing of the royal women of the Meroitic period:
During the Meroitic period, women fashion differed considerably from that of the Napatan period. Meroitic kings and queens favored wearing extensive jewelry and heavily decorated their clothes with complex designs. Women were depicted as obese, as a sign of beauty, in long skirts that reached down to their ankles.
The Meroitic queen’s dress is often consisted of a long skirt over which a fringed shawl was worn and a long robe was left dangling with multiple tassels at its end. Meroitic crowns usually consisted of skullcaps with uraeus.
Royal women often wore transparent loose robes of linen that reached down to their ankles and folds of the dress were draped over the right shoulder and folded down the back. This type of dress is very similar to the modern Sudanese Toab, worn by women. Royal women crowns were varied; however, a popular crown is consisted of a skullcap over which rose two crowns consisting of two elongated plums that rose and dangled over the back.
Royal clothing of the X-Group:
One relief at Kalabsha dating to the fifth century CE, depicts a king wearing fancy cloth with crowns (see the figure to the right). The first and larger relief depicts the king riding on a horse wearing a kilt up to his knees decorated with bands that were probably colored. The figure is also depicted wearing a thick belt decorated with vertical bands and a horizontal band on each edge. On his chest he wore a shield of, probably, leather or iron. He wore a couple of armlets and bracelets. His chest is covered with a rectangular piece of cloth with an opening for the head.
The piece is decorated with vertical bands and tassels aligned along its bottom edge. The king wore a band that is tied around his head and a crown held on two horns of a ram. The upper part of the crown is consisted of three leaf-like shapes with spherical objects at their top ends.
A secondary part of the relief, depicts a king wearing the same kind of skirt and a chest shield extending below the armpits. Two horizontal bands decorate the top and bottom ends of the shield. The shield is held by belts that pass over the shoulders and meet at the middle of the upper edge of the shield. Around his neck he is depicted wearing a broad collar decorated with vertical bands. On his head, he wears a crown shaped like a cylinder. From the inside of the cylender-crown a second crown emerges towards the top shaped like a plum and conglobed at its top-end.
Daily Life Clothing The Kushites wore diverse types of clothing. Excavated graves dating to early periods of Sudanese history indicate that clothes were mostly made of leather and linen
Kush culture clothing
The Kingdom of Kush was an ancient civilization in Africa. It is often referred to as Nubia and had close ties to Ancient Egypt.
Where was the Kingdom of Kush located?
The Kingdom of Kush was located in Northeast Africa just south of Ancient Egypt. The main cities of Kush were situated along the Nile River, the White Nile River, and the Blue Nile River. Today, the land of Kush is the country of Sudan.
How long did the Kingdom of Kush rule?
The Kingdom of Kush lasted for over 1400 years. It was first established around 1070 BCE when it gained its independence from Egypt. It quickly became a major power in Northeast Africa. In 727 BCE, Kush took control of Egypt and ruled until the Assyrians arrived. The empire began to weaken after Rome conquered Egypt and eventually collapsed sometime in the 300s CE.
The Kingdom of Kush had two different capital cities. The first capital was Napata. Napata was located along the Nile River in Northern Kush. Napata served as the capital during the height of Kush’s power. Sometime around 590 BCE, the capital moved to the city of Meroe. Meroe was further south providing a better buffer from the fighting with Egypt. It also was a center for ironworking, an important resource for the kingdom.
Similar to Ancient Egypt
The Kingdom of Kush was very similar to Ancient Egypt in many aspects including government, culture, and religion. Like the Egyptians, the Kushites built pyramids at burial sites, worshiped Egyptian gods, and mummified the dead. The ruling class of Kush likely considered themselves Egyptian in many ways.
Iron and Gold
Two of the most important resources of Ancient Kush were gold and iron. Gold helped Kush to become wealthy as it could be traded to the Egyptians and other nearby nations. Iron was the most important metal of the age. It was used to make the strongest tools and weapons.
Culture of Kush
Outside of the Pharaoh and the ruling class, the priests were the most important social class in Kush. They made the laws and communicated with the gods. Just below the priests were the artisans and scribes. Artisans worked the iron and gold that was such an important part of the Kushite economy. Farmers were also respected as they provided the food for the country. At the bottom were servants, laborers, and slaves.
Like the Egyptians, religion played an important role in the lives of the Kushites. They believed strongly in the afterlife. Women played an important role and could be leaders in Kush. Many of the Kushite leaders were queens.
Interesting Facts about the Kingdom of Kush
- In battle, Kush was famous for its archers and the bow and arrow were often depicted in the art of Ancient Kush. Sometimes the region was called the “Land of the Bow” because of its famous archers.
- One of the most famous leaders of Kush was Piye who conquered Egypt and became pharaoh of Egypt.
- Most of the people of Kush were farmers. Their primary crops were wheat and barley. They also grew cotton to make clothing.
- The pyramids of Kush tended to be smaller than the pyramids of Egypt. The burial chambers were located below the pyramids. Many of these pyramids were built near the city of Meroe and can still be seen today.
- The priests were so powerful they could decide when it was time for the king to die.
- People didn’t live very long in Kush. The average person was expected to live only 20 to 25 years.
- Besides gold and iron, other important trade items included ivory, slaves, incense, feathers, and wild animal hides.
- Take a ten question quiz about this page.
- Listen to a recorded reading of this page:
Your browser does not support the audio element.
To learn more about Ancient Africa:
Kids learn about the history of the Kingdom of Kush (also called Nubia) including their culture and architecture. This ancient civilization just south of Egypt became powerful through trade in iron and gold.