Amanitore smiting her enemies. Image Credit: WikiCommons.

By Holly Marsden

Meroe was the final kingdom of Kush. It was located in Nubia, in the Middle Nile valley in present-day Sudan, existing between 300 BCE – 300 CE. For a few periods in Kush’s history, women acted as ruling queen. Images of royal women exist in funerary chapels in Meroe cemeteries.

Amanitore was a Meroe queen, or kandake, who lived in the first century BCE. Like other Kushite rulers, it was believed she was a child of the primary god of the realm, Amun. She wore clothing indigenous to the area, such as a dress with the wings and feathers of a falcon.

She reigned as co-regent with her husband Natakamani in mid-first century BCE. Differently to Egyptian traditions, Kushite queens emphasized their sacred female sexuality. The role of the kandake was vital to obtaining balance in all things, or Maat. She is buried in her own temple.

In existing art from the Meroitic period, Amanitore is depicted with long fingernails, possibly as an indicator of social status, wearing headdresses and crowns influenced by Egyptian traditions. Her visibility in representations demonstrate her power and prominance as a ruler.

Amanitore is demonstrated to act no differently to a king, performing actions that conveyed absolute power such as smiting the enemy. This is mentioned in many texts from the era. During the period in which she ruled, the Meoitic hieroglyphic and cursive scripts were developed.

This formulated a native language which opposed previously used Egyptian hieroglyphics. Thus, scholars have named the period the Merotitic Golden Age, which also saw the creation of a new iconographic system for funerary chapels and many royal building programmes.

The lasting legacy of Amanitore and other kandakes reverberates in modern day Sudan. The symbol of the Kushite queen has been used in political movements that fight for a return to African traditions and is a powerful symbol of representation for African women in the diaspora.

Recommended Reading

Angelika Lohwasser, “Queenship in Kush: Status, Role, and Ideology of Royal Women,” JARCE 38 (2001): 61–76

Angelika Lohwasser, “The Role and Status of Royal Women in Kush,” in The Routledge Companion to Women and Monarchy in the Ancient Mediterranean World, eds. Elizabeth D. Carney and Sabine Müller, 61-72 (London: Routledge, 2020)

Joyce Haynes and Mimi Santini-Ritt, “Women in Ancient Nubia,” in Ancient Nubia: African Kingdoms of the Nile, eds. Marjorie M. Fisher, Peter Lacovara, Salima Ikram, and Sue D’Auria, 170-185 (Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 2012)

Solange Ashby, “Dancing for Hathor. Nubian Women in Egyptian Cultic Life,” Dotawo 5 (2018): 63–90

Solange Ashby, “Priestess, queen, goddess: The divine feminine in the kingdom of Kush,” in The Routledge Companion to Black Women’s Cultural Histories, ed. Janell Hobson, 23-34 (London: Routledge, 2021)

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