The first centralised African states formed in Egypt's Nile River valley around 3000 BC. The only route from Egypt to Sub-Saharan Africa was through a region known as Nubia -- prompting the rise of civilisation along the trade route there. Indeed, by 2500 BC, several small kingdoms had appeared in the Nubian region. By 1700, these kingdoms had been aggregated into one large state with a capital at Kerma, named 'Kush' by the Egyptians to the North. Due to its strategic location and its large share of natural resources, Kush was often prey to Egyptian looting raids. This led to Kush becoming a province of imperialistic New Kingdom Egypt by the year 1500 BC.

By 1070, New Kingdom power had declined and Kush regained its independence. And, by 770, Kush had turned the tables and conquered southern Egypt! However, this was not the end of Nubian expansion. Under Shabaka (712-698), all of Egypt was brought into the Empire of Kush. Then, just as suddenly, the Kushites had lost Egypt by 657 to Assyrian raids from the north. In 657, the Egyptians revolted and drove the Assyrians from Egypt, and in another startling change of fortunes, invaded Kush again, prompting the Nubians to move their capital south to Meroe. This is why Kush, from this time on, is known as the Kingdom of Meroe.

Meroe was quite powerful, and as many different groups who took control of Egypt (including the Romans after 525 BC) considered the Nubians to be a serious threat. However, the demise of Meroe was not due to these conquerors, but due to desert nomads who toppled the Meroite govermnent in 350. The city of Meroe was taken by Axum, and three kingoms, Nobatia, Makkura and Alwa arose until the 8th century when Nobatia was conquered by Makkura. With the collapse of Kush and the subjugation of the ancient Egyptian civilisation by other states came the end of the Early African Period and the beginning of the Classical Age.