But this approach ignores the emergence further south on the Nile of the kingdom known to the Egyptians as Kush, in the region called Nubia - the area now covered by southern Egypt and Northern Sudan.
The relationship between Egypt and Kush was a complex one, which changed depending on the political and economic climate of the time.
Kerma and Napata
Kerma was an advanced society and archaeological evidence shows that ceramics were being produced by 8,000 BC - earlier than in Egypt. By about 1700 BC, the town had grown into a town of 10,000 people with a complex hierarchical society.
Egypt could not ignore its southern neighbour although its interest was predominantly economic. Nubia was rich with minerals such as stones needed for the building of temples and tombs, and gold, needed for jewellery. Indeed Kush was one of the major gold producers of the ancient world.
At one stage Nubia, was occupied by Egypt for about 500 years and then the tables turned. From around 850 BC, the Egyptian state fell into such decline that what became known as the 25th dynasty rose in Nubia, with authority over all of Egypt.
This dynasty based at Napata was known as the 'Ethiopian' dynasty. Although it was heavily influenced by Egyptian culture and religion, it was in many ways the first great African power.
In 713 BC King Shabaka came to power in Kush and brought the Nile Valley as far as the Delta under his control. The name of one of his successors, King Taharqa, is found on inscriptions throughout the Valley.
Moving to Meroe
This, symbolically, was a move closer to black Africa, and the kingdom that grew up around Meroe was one that very much reflected African influences. The Meroites have been given much less historical attention than the Egyptians but in many ways it was a kingdom that rivalled Egypt in material wealth and distinctive cultural development.
Meroe was a complex, advanced and politically stable society. It relied on elected kingship with elaborate coronation ceremonies in which the Queen mother played an important role. Excavations of the large ancient city have revealed palaces, royal baths and temples.
The kingdom also had the resources needed for the smelting of iron: ore, water from the Nile and wood from acacia trees to make charcoal. Iron gave the Meroites spears, arrows axes and hoes, allowing them to develop a mixed farming economy to exploit to the full the tropical summer rainfall.
Although influenced by the Egyptian state gods, such as Amun, Meroe developed its own forms of religious worship. The most important regional deity was the Lion God, Apedemek - often portrayed with a lion's head on a human body.
As Meroe became more distanced from Egypt, so too was the Egyptian language replaced as the spoken language of the court. Instead a Meroitic alphabet and script were introduced, which to this day researchers have been unable to decipher.
The Kingdom of Meroe began to fade as a power by the first or second century AD, sapped by war with Roman Egypt and the decline of its traditional industries. The iron industry had used up huge quantities of charcoal leading to deforestation and the land began to lose its fertility.
In around 350 AD, an army led by Ezana, King of the growing kingdom of Axum in what is now Ethiopia, invaded Meroe - but by then Meroites had already dispersed, replaced by a people described by the Axumites as Noba.
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