A team of archaeologists has discovered a huge ancient gold processing centre and a graveyard along the River Nile in northern Sudan.
The Kush kingdom was conquered by the Egyptians
They were part of the 4,000-year-old Kush, or Nubian, kingdom.
The scholars say the finds show the empire was much bigger than previously thought and rivalled ancient Egypt.
The archaeologists are racing to dig up the Hosh el-Geruf area, some 225 miles from the capital, Khartoum, before the Merowe dam floods the area next year.
The dam is due to create a lake 100 miles long and two miles wide, forcing some 50,000 people from their homes.
"Nubia was renowned for its gold deposits," said Geoff Emberling, from the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute, according to National Geographic News.
"Even today, panning for gold is a traditional activity in the area," said his colleague, Bruce Williams.
Ancient Egypt conquered Kush some 3,000 years ago and took "hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds of gold each year" in tribute, Mr Emberling said.
The new discoveries show that ancient Kush extended for up to 750 miles along the River Nile.
Near the gold processing centre, the archaeologists found some 90 graves.
"We found one laughably tiny gold bead in the burials, but that was the only gold we found," Mr Emberling said.
"It seems certain that the gold was not used locally. Very likely the gold was for the benefit of the ruler and his circle in Kerma," 225 miles upstream from Hosh el-Geruf.