Daily Life


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.

Part of a scene from a bronze bowl from el-Hobagi. Source: Wildung, Dietrich. Sudan: Ancient Kingdoms of the Nile.
Nubians Meroe

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.

Scene from the tomb of the Viceroy of Kush, Huy, at Thebes (Egypt), depicts Nubians presenting tribute to Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamon (1333-1323 B.C.).

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.

Releif of a Napatan pharaoh. Source: Wildung, Dietrich. Sudan: Ancient Kingdoms of the Nile.
Nubian head
Elements of a gold necklace from Meroe. Originally courtesy of the Oxford Excavations and the Khartoum National Museum. Source: Wildung, Dietrich. Sudan: Ancient Kingdoms of the Nile.
Nubian jewelery

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.

Releif of Napatan Queen. Source: Wildung, Dietrich. Sudan: Ancient Kingdoms of the Nile.
Nubian queen
Relief from Jebel Barka of Napatan queens.
Nubian queen

Clothing of the royal pharoahs of the Meroitic period:

Relief from a temple at Naqa depicting Meroitic pharoah.
Nubian kings

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.

part of a relief From Naqa temple showing sandals of Meroitic royality.
Nubian sandals

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.

Floral elements. Napatan period. Made of gold. From Nuri. Originally courtesy of the Harvard University-MFA Boston Expedition and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Source: Wildung, Dietrich. Sudan: Ancient Kingdoms of the Nile.
Kushite necklace
Armlet. Made of gold and fused glass. From Meroe. Currently housed in Berlin. Source: Wildung, Dietrich. Sudan: Ancient Kingdoms of the Nile.
meroitic bracelet
Napatan royalty wore sandals similar to those worn by kings and queens although they were often depicted bare foot. Meroitic royal women usually wore less jewelry than their queens, often consisting of beads and head bands.

Royal clothing of the X-Group:

Ancient Nubian drawing

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.

Farther Readings:

  • •T. Kendall, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Brockton Art Museum, Kush, Lost Kingdom of the Nile: A Loan Exhibition from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, September 1981-August 1984 (Brockton Art Museum/Fuller Memorial, 1982).
  • •R. S. Bianchi, Daily Life of the Nubians (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004).
Authored: 2004.
Edited: Dec. 2008.

The primary material of the website is authored by Ibrahim Omer © 2008.