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Interrelations of Kerma and Pharaonic Egypt

Interrelations of Kerma and Pharaonic Egypt


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The vacillating nature of Ancient Egypt's associations with the Kingdom of Kerma may be described as one of expansion and contraction; a virtual tug-of-war between rival cultures. Structural changes in Egypt's administration led to alternating policies with Lower Nubia, whilst the increasing complexity of Kushite culture provided a serious counterweight to Egyptian dominance. These multigenerational changes impacted the sociopolitical and economic affairs of both societies — today visible in the archaeological record. In this essay, I shall discuss the shifting borders and transformations of Kerma and Egyptian material culture in an attempt to offer some clarity and an original perspective on the complex relationship between these neighboring states.

Introduction

Traditionally, when archaeologists and ancient historians cite an episode of early global interaction, polities such as Phoenicia, Athens or Rome, which are all well fixed in the public consciousness, are commonly cited examples of competitive trade links and cultural exchange. However, to the south of Egypt lies the ancient site of Kerma, a once complex state which engaged in a series of protracted and oscillating relations with pharaonic Egypt. Located on the East bank of the Nile in the lower Dongola Reach, Kerma became the centre of the first Nubian kingdom (the Kingdom of Kerma); with cultural roots arguably extending back into the late-Sudanic Neolithic period (See Kemp 1982: 715; Edwards 2004: 2, 4, 46, 66-67; Bourriau 2000: 208; Morkot 2000: 38). By the early 2nd millennium BCE, Kerma had indeed become 'Egypt's rival' (O'Connor 1993: iii).

In this essay, I will discuss the changing relations between ancient Egypt and Kerma. Synthesizing the two principal chronologies, I have arrived at three specific periods of interaction that I wish to examine: Middle Kingdom Period/Middle Kerma from the reigns of Amenemhat I to Sobekhotep IV (c. 1990-1725 BCE); mid-to-late Classic Kerma during the Second Intermediate Period (c. 1640-1548 BCE); and New Kingdom (post-Classic) Kerma, roughly the reigns of Thutmose I through Horemheb (c. 1502-1302 BCE) (See also Edwards 2004: 80-81, 90, 94, 101-03; Shaw 2000: 480-81; Callender 2000: 172; Bard and Shubert 1999: 54-55; Van Dijk 2000: 308-09). From here, I shall endeavour to illustrate how sociocultural traditions within Kushite and Egyptian societies were influenced by political fluctuations along the Nubian frontier. It should be noted, however, that each of the aforementioned time periods are approximate and fall within broader archaeological constructs which often overlap.

Part I: Middle Kerma

Regional Crossroad

To better understand Egypt's relation with Kerma, it is essential to first know a little about the area which lies between Kush and Upper Egypt, a region that acted as a crossroad in Egyptian-Kerman interrelations. By the reign of Amenemhat I, Lower Nubia was populated by late-Early C-Group (phase Ib) settlements, found at sites such as Dakkeh, Faras and Wawat (Kemp 1983: 127; O'Connor 1993: 35; Edwards 2004: 78, 81, 94; Morkot 2000: 53). Old Kingdom epigraphic evidence, coupled with spatial analysis of cemeteries from Aniba, is indicative of the presence of early Nubian regional rulers (See O'Connor 1993: 32-36; Edwards 2004: 78-79). The exact nature of the political situation is uncertain. However, it has been proposed that these indigenous rulers were initially loyal to the kings of Egypt (See also Morkot 2000: 55; Haag 2003: xiv). For varying reasons, Egypt's relations with Lower Nubia soured and a decision was made to construct a perimeter of colonial fortresses at strategically fixed points, such as Buhen and Qubban, along the Middle Nile region of Wawat (Callender 2000: 151; cf Shaw 2000: 318; Morkot 2003: 88).

One plausible reason behind this southern expansion was to secure commercial interests, especially the gold routes from mines found at (among other places) Darahib, Qareiyat and Umm Nabardi (Lobban 2004: 101-02; Edwards 2004: 78; Garlake 2002: 54; Morkot 2000: 56; Callender 2000: 161; Hayes 1962: 40). In addition, these new settlements would function as centres of trade for both the Egyptian and Nubian populations (Ben-Tor 2007: 53; Edwards 2004: 111). Interestingly, some suggest that Kerma may have been complacent in Egypt's gradual colonization of Lower Nubia with an eye on northern trade (Morkot 2000: 57). Still, others have noted that the evolving political strength of Middle Kerma, compounded with a rising fear of instability along the frontier, forced Egypt's hand in expeditions to the region (Shillington 2005: 762; Lobban 2004: 102). Regardless, the rich gold deposits of southeastern Nubia — essential to Egypt's economic needs — brought Egyptians and Kushites into close contact (See also O'Connor 1982: 905; Callender 2000: 148).

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Once tenuously established in Lower Nubia (c. 1864-1854 BCE), Egyptian and Nubian interrelations vacillated between belligerence and socioeconomic exchange (See also Bourriau 2000: 208; Callender 2000: 165-166, 174). For example, motifs and painting techniques employed within tombs at Qau el-Kebir, Meir, and an unused specimen from Assiut, hint at artistic influence imported from Kerma culture (Smith and Simpson 1998: 103, 116-17). Equally interesting is Kushite evidence revealing a pan-Egyptian interconnection (O'Connor 1993: 39). For instance, both Upper and Lower Egyptian pottery types are found in Middle Kerma contexts suggesting a long-distance trade network (Ben-Tor 2007: 54). This is supported by Theban papyri that document several transactions between the Egyptian forts of Lower Nubia and indigenous “southern” Kushites of Upper Nubia (Bard and Shubert 1999: 578; Callender 2000: 166). Thus, it may be posited that the Egyptians of the Middle Kingdom were pursuing a fixed trade policy with their Nubian neighbours against a background of fortresses which doubled as cultural exchange centres.

Turning to economic conditions, we can see that infrastructure expanded for the Kushites during the Middle Kingdom period, a fact attested by both the quality and quantity of their grave goods. For instance, at Kerma, affluence is marked by copious burials accompanied by adorned animals, pottery and jewelery (Darnell and Manassa 2007: 97). A rather fascinating observation may be seen in the use of bucrania to surround the deceased in a hemispherical fashion — a custom that was not inexpensive (Edwards 2004: 84, 90-92; Redford 2004: 32). However, not all interaction was trade related. For example, during the reign of Amenemhat III several Egyptian “expeditions” for resources most probably equate to military excursions (Callender 2000: 161). In response to these acts, Kerma city-defences were substantially reinforced with earthworks, such as ramparts and trenches (Kemp 1983: 163; Edwards 2004: 90; Shaw et al. 1995: 584). In summation, out of the material evidence a picture of inter-regional contact between Middle Kerma and the greater Nile Valley begins to form (Smith and Simpson 1998: 117-18).

Part II: Classic Kerma and the Second Intermediate Period

Changing Hands

Following the reign of Sobekhotep IV (c. 1725 BCE), Egyptian sociopolitical order began to fracture. The frontier forts segmented and with the establishment of the Hyksos in Lower Egypt, an ancient multipolarity between the polities of Avaris, Thebes, Wawat and Kerma developed (cf Bourriau 2000: 190; Morkot: 2005: 111-12; Edwards 2004: 95; Levy and Thompson 2010:33). As a result, Kerma began to expand north, with some data suggesting Kushite pillaging and occupation of many Middle Kingdom forts, such as those found at Semna and Kor (Redford 2004: 34; Morkot 2000: 64). At Kerma, this is evidenced by the presence of possible spoils in the form of statues, offering basins, statuettes and seal impressions inscribed with the names of late Middle Kingdom kings (Morkot: 2005: 112; Smith and Simpson 1998: 120; O'Connor 1993: 54). However, some have suggested that these goods are the result of southern trade by the royal courts themselves prior to the devolution of the Middle Kingdom (Edwards 2004: 95; Bourriau 2000: 171, 190). Additionally, Smith (2003b: 80) contends that the traditional accounts of “plundering” by Kushite soldiers are inconsistent with the material evidence. Consequently, the annexation of Wawat by Kerma may have been a much smoother process (See also Bard and Shubert 1999: 578).

For example, cemetery evidence at Mirgissa reveals limited Kerma style burials (Kemp 1982: 755). In contrast, the prodigious degree of Classic period “Egyptian burials” infers that Kerma may have allowed continuity in Egyptian administration, notwithstanding Kushite supervision (See Ben-Tor 2007: 53, 56-57). An interregional partnership seems plausible, perhaps to the degree of semi-autonomy for the former Egyptian colonial forts. At Buhen, this supposition is corroborated by epigraphic evidence which implies that the allegiance of the border forts had shifted from Egypt to Kerma during the early Second Intermediate Period (Edwards 2004: 97; Bourriau 2000: 207). Thus, while Upper Egyptian goods were imported, they were now strictly regulated by commercial policies dictated from Kerma rather than Thebes (See also Bourriau 2000: 207; Ben-Tor 2007: 54).

Exchanging Ideas

Interestingly, we see evidence of Nubianization with Kerma pottery being introduced to the Egyptian expatriates (Morkot 2000: 64). At Askut, for example, the use of Kerma earthenware greatly increases as Egyptian ceramics decrease, suggesting an acculturation by colonial inhabitants (Edwards 2004: 97; Smith 2003a: 57, 60). Broadly, this type of exchange between Egyptians and Kushites in Lower Nubia is a departure from Middle Kingdom contexts that indicate phases Ib-IIa C-Group and Egyptian social segregation (See Edwards 2004: 94). The extent of this interaction was quite widespread however.

For example, epigraphic evidence of Kerma rulers, or heqa, reveals their affinity for Upper Egyptian headdresses; a fashion previously employed by Wawat-Egyptians (Morkot 2000: 54-55, 68). At Kerma and Sha'at, a more prolific case in point is the apparent diffusion of Egyptian mythos in the form of scarabs — sometimes inscribed, other times used as official seals, but often included in burials — which reveal the Kushite adoption of kheper, the Egyptian sacred dung beetle (Ward 1902: 4-5; Ben-Tor 2007: 61-62). For example, an amethyst scarab-pendent found at Uronarti was locally crafted (Bianchi 2004: 62). Hence, something very Egyptian in origin became very Nubian in practice.

The Touch of Egypt

As the city grew, Kerma's infrastructure further benefited from increased contact with Egypt, in turn fostering a more complex cultural centre (Smith 2003b: 82). At the Western Deffufa, we may see an indication of intercommunal acculturation. Rebuilt several times, this magnificent edifice was constructed, sharing certain similarities in base dimensions with Middle Kingdom structures such as the pyramids of the Fayum Oasis and Dahshur (See Connah 2009: 380; Morkot 2000: 66; Lobban 2004: 132; See also Robins 2008: 58; Arnold et al. 2003: 177, 185). The location of this deffufa, in relation to other religious structures and adjacent burials, has given birth to the theory that it was a religious centre (Edwards 2004: 90; Bourriau 2000: 208).

However, the discovery of Semitic copper daggers has led some to believe it functioned as a trading post, while various Second Intermediate Period mud-seals indicate governmental purposes (Harkless 2006: 85; Ben-Tor 2007: 62). To be sure, religious centres where indeed areas of commerce (e.g. Memphis, Thebes, Meroë); this fact, coupled with interpretive issues surrounding Kerma's religious system precludes one from firmly establishing its raison d'être with absolute certainty (cf Prasad 1977: 90-91; Edwards 2004: 110,164-68). Nonetheless, a colossal façade in the form of a pylon plainly betrays Western Deffufa's Egyptian influence (O'Connor 1993: 51, 57; Morkot 2003: 88). Was it crafted by Egyptian expatriates, or planned by Theban advisors? Whatever the case, the continual and active presence of Egyptians in Kerma society is unquestionable. The Interconnections of Kerma, Avaris and Thebes

Despite festering internal problems, ceramics from Lower Egypt were continually imported and utilized by Classic Kerma culture (See Bourriau 2000: 172, 190; Ben-Tor 2007: 54). Concurrently, a certain amount of social integration between Kerma and the Nile Delta polities is visible in the material culture. For example, abundant 'Xios dynastic' mud-seals found at Kerma strongly suggest certain alliances were forged through connubial contracts (See Ryholt and Jacobsen 1997: 113-115; Morkot 2000: 65). Regardless, as during the Middle Kingdom Nubian gold was of principle importance to Egyptian kings thereby necessitating good relations with the now powerful state of Kerma (Bourriau 2000: 201; Mojsov 2005: 55). Separately, Kerma heka sought normalized economic transactions with the Hyksos (See also Bourriau 2000: 186-87, 208; Silverman and Brovarski 1997: 296; Mojsov 2005: 55). Thus, a substantive trade link between Kerma and Lower Egypt developed.

For example, various Semitic bronze items and clay seals bearing the names of Hyksos kings have been found in Classic Kerma strata (Morkot 2000: 65; Kuhrt 1995: 180). Additionally, Tell el-Yahudiya ware (literally “mound of the Jews”) was prolifically used in Nubian tombs, such as those found at Buhen (Henry 2003: 37; Biers and Terry 2004: 93; Smith and Simpson 1998: 117, 120; O'Connor 1993: 138). While in Lower Egypt, elephant ivory became a coveted import from Lower Nubia (Krzyszkowska and Morkot 2000: 324). On the other hand, some have pointed to the disproportionately low number of Kerma ceramics in Lower Egypt as suggesting that trade between the two polities was administratively unregulated (Ryholt and Jacobsen 1997: 140-41). However, this is weak speculation at best.

For example, the high quantity of Egyptian goods in Classic Kerma contexts might just as easily be explained as a result of better logistical capabilities on the part of the Semitic rulers of Lower Egypt. In addition, texts attributed to Kamose (1555-1548 BCE) strongly infer that an economic alliance between the Kushites and Hyksos had been forged to “squeeze out” the Theban kings (See Kuhrt 1995: 180). And there is evidence that this scheme became quite successful too. An example may be the rather meagre design of royal burials in Second Intermediate Thebes — a stark contrast to the affluence displayed in the élite burials of Classic Kerma (See Bryan 2000: 221-23; O'Connor 1993: 54-55). The late Classic K-III tumulus may be a case in point. A variety of 'posh' artifacts and the sheer architectural scope of the tomb itself leave no doubt as to the owner's wealth (O'Connor 1993: 54-57). Moreover, the utilization of a winged sun-disk as funerary décor in its burial chamber reinforces a notion of Egyptian influence (Bard and Shubert 1999: 271; Smith and Simpson 1998: 119). Regardless, as the Second Intermediate Period came to a close, trade between Kerma and Thebes began to thrive (Bourriau 2000: 209).

Part III: New Kingdom Kerma

Reconquest

As we near the end of the reign of Kamose, Lower Egyptian administration was slowly being brought once again under Theban domination. In the reign of Thutmose I (1502-1492 BCE), the fortresses of Wawat had been occupied by a reunited Egypt as the southern frontier was extended further south, beyond the Third Cataract. Under Thutmose II (1492-1479 BCE), Kerma itself was seized and brought under the Upper Egyptian Viceroy of Kush's domain (Bryan 2000: 232, 235; Grimal 1994: 212; Morkot 2000: 70; Edwards 2004: 106). It should be noted here of the role Kushite warriors played in the latter Second Intermediate Theban army and its reconquest of Wawat (Bourriau 2000: 209). Conceivably, Kushites entering into late Second Intermediate Theban rank-and-file could have been an early indication of a breakdown in Kerma administrative capabilities. Whatever the reasons, Kerma was pushed out of Wawat. For example, Theban records describe the brutal defeat of Kerma heka in lurid detail (Bryan 2000: 234). While at Aniba, early New Kingdom epigraphic evidence describes Kushite tributary gifts being given to the new Egyptian pharaohs as they came to be known (Bryan 2000: 224; Atiya and El-Shahawy 2005: 21).

Further Expansion

At this point, so-called “Egyptianization” or perhaps more precisely colonization became more aggressive than in earlier periods (Redford 2004: 38-39). For example, new forts were constructed at Sha'at and as far south as Tumbos in the northern Dongola Reach (Grimal 1994: 212; Redford 2004: 171). At Soleb, a fortified colony was established which ultimately supplanted Kerma as Egypt's capital in Upper Nubia. While another fortress was built at the far-away Fourth Cataract (Bryan 2000: 268; O'Connor 2001: 158; O'Connor 1993: 60; Morkot 2000: 74).

Accompanying the 18th Dynasty forts, new Egyptian temples were constructed throughout the former Kingdom of Kerma, the furthermost along the Fourth Cataract near the frontier bastion of Napata (See also Redford 2004: 49; Edwards 2004: 103, 106; Morkot 2000: 137). Other unique examples can be seen within the heartland of Kush. For example, at Soleb, a grand temple to Amun-Ra was constructed by Amenhotep III (1389-1349 BCE) (O'Connor 2001: 150). Additionally, at Sesibi and Kawa, two temples dedicated to Aten were constructed by Akhenaten (1349-1332 BCE) (Bates 1909: 73; Breasted 1909: 80-82; Janssen 1956: 1345). Moreover, Akhenaton's architectural ventures in Kerma are hinted at from the numerous talatat found at Dokki Gel (Darnell and Manassa 2007: 111). Unique for their use in the rapid building of Akhetaten, these talatat may suggest that a temple to Aten was located at Kerma (Allen 2000: 197). In contrast, radio carbon dating suggests that the indigenous religious structures were abandoned by the Amarna Period suggesting that the socio-religious status of Kerma had declined (Edwards 2004: 102, 110; AEN 2010: 94). It is intriguing to see that the religious reforms of the Akhenaton extended far to the south, proving that Kerma was culturally important even to Egypt's “heretic king”.

Epilogue

I have attempted throughout this essay to highlight aspects of Kerma's alternating relations with Egypt, focusing on areas of contact between Egyptians and Kushites up to the period of Akhenaton. However, one should not assume that the crushing of the Kingdom of Kerma extended to a political domination of Nubia. Some evidence points to perennial Kushite insurgencies, perhaps instigated by Kerma (See Morkot 2000:73, 75, 89; O'Connor 1993: 65-66). Perhaps a more relaxed policy from Egypt invited these uprisings. For example, the sheer size of the cemeteries north of New Kingdom Wawat reflects a clear, if not vast, Egyptian presence (Edwards 2004: 106; Lobban 2004: 372). While in contrast, there are no Egyptian cemeteries south of the Third Cataract (Smith 2003b: 54; cf Edwards 2004: 103).

As in the Middle Kingdom, this may underscore the specific goal behind southern expansion: that being Nubia's rich gold deposits and not a blatant colonization for the purposes of imperialism (Redford 2004: 52-53; O'Connor 1993: 62). If true, Upper Nubian Kushite rulers may have exhibited some autonomy over their respective territories. From here, it could be argued that a subsequent lack of the presence of Egyptian colonial settlements in the south may have exacerbated problems with Kushite rebels - a stark contrast to the effectiveness of the Egyptian administration in Lower Nubia. Regardless, the inconsistent nature of Egypt's long and often tempestuous relationship with Nubia reflects the varying socioeconomic and political problems of different periods. An irony of which may be found in the fact that Kushite culture continued to thrive long after Kerma ceased, culminating in ancient Egypt's 25th Dynasty when a Nubian pharaoh sat on the throne.

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What Kerma implies for the remains of Sai

In order to attempt a reconstruction of the site at Sai, it is important to contextualize the city. During the middle bronze age, Kerma was considered the capital city of the Kerman culture, which occupied the region which is now Sudan. Sai, meanwhile, is a settlement from the same time period separated from Kerma by approximately 200 km (Thorne 2019). Using the transportation of the day, they were separated by approximately 7-10 days. This relatively far distance implies that Sai was a separate and significant component of the settlements occupied by the Kerman culture.

Map displaying position of Kerma and Sai. The separation between the cities is less than 200km (Thorne 2019).

Architectural remains at the sites of Kerma provide insight into their societal hierarchy. For example, rulers were often buried with difficult to create possessions in addition to people which may have served under them — possessions for the afterlife. The tombs at Kerma and palatial multi-story architecture imply a high use of labor (Maillot 2015, 82). This complexity in the architectural remains of the classical palaces and audience hut at Kerma imply that the monarchs of the Kerman culture had harnessed labor to a degree where ornate construction was possible. The infrastructure of this labor is unclear, however, it is clear that its completion was incentivized. This provides a feel for the amount of complexity that construction in the Sai region may have had.

The burial practices of ancient Kerma are somewhat reminiscent of the practices of Egypt. The belief in afterlife caused people to carefully see to their material needs during this afterlife. This similarity in culture is interesting, though perhaps not surprising as the Kerma Culture and Egypt were strongly interacting during this time. In fact, Kerma nearly conquered Egypt. This type of militarization could have implications for the architecture of Sai. Animosity between Egypt and the Kerman culture may be signaled through additional fortification of palatial structures and entire settlements. Fortification which would make a palatial structure defensible could be incorporated into a reconstruction of Sai.

Example of burial site found at Kerma. Material culture indicates similarity between Kerma Culture and Egyptian burial practices (Alamy).

The Kerman culture also placed a strong emphasis on agriculture. This appears to have been a major component of the economy. The possession of livestock and grain may have transcended a practical practice and become a status symbol. For example, the grain silos and livestock pens of the Kerman classical palace (Walsh 2019, 1-4). The Kerman audience hut, in fact, demonstrates strong evidence of being a space which housed agricultural transactions (Fagen 2016, 317-318). It is possible then, that the settlement at Sai also had such a public trading space.

One interesting and prevalent component of the Kerman remains is that of faience. This blue stone was used for decoration through inlays, small objects building components. It is therefore quite likely that any palatial construction at Sai also made use of the stone. Interestingly, the inlays below appear to have already been engraved. This may indicate some sort of recycling, implying that the remanent below was made from material that was precious enough to reuse. Here, the material has clearly been hand cut and placed into its inlay indicating a high labor process.

Close up of faience inlay. There appears to be some engraving on the petals, but it is inconsistent (Walsh 2019, 31).

Sai seems like it could be like a mini-Kerma (making the assumption that this capital city would be the largest) complete with hierarchical housing and centralized spaces. Ritual burials likely similar to Kerma. There is likely a high emphasis on agriculture and no written language.

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“England, London, British Museum, Reconstruction of a Kerma Culture Burial from Nubia Dated 2050-1750 BC.” Alamy. Accessed April 6, 2019.


Modern performative religious space and the Kerma Culture

Religious spaces are, inherently, a manifestation of performative spaces. Many religions function hierarchically, for instance Christianity typically observes a power structure ranging from the Pope to the clergy to the congregation. This authoritative distribution has a pyramidal structure, in that there are fewer people at the top and more in the lower positions. This type of structure lends itself, quite naturally, to the use of performative space. In this type of power structure, it becomes necessary to interface with large groups of people within the lower ranks of the organization. A chapel is an excellent example of such a space, as the front is almost like a stage with a set. I did not make it to the excursion, however, this type of structure is abundant within the Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul.

Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Providence. Note the large audience space and performance space (Unknown, 2014).

In middle bronze age Sudan, this type of space may have been a part of a palatial structure. Though the classical palace found at Kerma appears to have been primarily a functional residence, the audience hut has significant potential to having been a place for performance. This space has the elements required for use by large groups of people for celebrations, religious gatherings and other performative activities (including commerce) (Walsh 2019, All).

Also critical to performative space is the location within the city itself. The audience hut may have been centrally located building within the remains of Kerma. For my reconstruction, I believe that it is reasonable to assume that Sai also had such a space. Furthermore, it may even have been tied to a more traditional type of palace. These types of gathering spaces appear to serve a critical function of governance: that of creating a culture of cohesion within the community.

Plan of the Kerma ruins. Highlighted is the audience hut, located roughly in the center of the settlement (Kerma 2019, edited).

The large mudbrick remains of temples in the Kerma culture and the necropolis have the elements of performative religious space. These large religious constructions serve to impose and give the impression of religious authority while serving the practical function of providing the space for gathering. The necropolis and indeed todays burial cemeteries function as performative spaces, and occasionally performative religious space. Aside from the religiosity that ritual surrounding death typically has, the necropolis and modern burials incorporate static religious elements. In Kerma, this can be seen through the use burial of material goods along with the body. In Christian burials, we may see visible religious elements in the construction. These necropoli naturally serve as spaces for tradition surrounding death. Modern funerals and the rituals surrounding death in the Kerma Empire require and may have required the gathering of family, friends and others to fulfill the requirements of death. This type of mingling and socializing is an element of a performative space (Walsh 2019, 11).

Burial site from the necropolis at Kerma. Material culture indicative of religious/ ritual or traditional practice (Kerma 2019).

Example of religious performative aspects of modern burials (Storyblocks).

In my reconstruction at Sai, I would like to incorporate these elements into the overarching architecture of the palace.

Walsh, Carl. “Celebrate!” ARCH0760: Palaces, 2019.

Walsh, Carl. “Palaces of the Gods” ARCH0760: Palaces, 2019.

Walsh, Carl. “Out of Africa.” ARCH0760: Palaces, 2019.

Walsh, Carl. “Comparing Palaces.” ARCH0760: Palaces, 2019.

O’Connor, D. (1989) ‘City and Palace in New Kingdom Egypt.’ Cahiers de Recherches de l’Institut de Papyrologie et Egyptologie de l’Université de Lille 11. 73–87.

Paul Joseph De Mola. “Interrelations of Kerma and Pharaonic Egypt.” Ancient History Encyclopedia, March 14, 2013, All. Accessed April 13, 2019.

Unknown. “Cathedral of SS Peter & Paul, Providence 2014.” October 20, 2014. Accessed April 13, 2019.


Interrelations of Kerma and Pharaonic Egypt - History

Thousands of years ago, seasonal lakes and savanna made central Sudan a rich environment supporting a large population ranging across what is now barren desert, like the Wadi el-Qa'ab. By the middle of the 5th millennium BC, Nubia's Neolithic peoples were full participants in the "agricultural revolution," living a settled lifestyle with domesticated plants and animals. Rock art of cattle and herdsmen found during our expedition suggests the presence of a cattle cult like those found in the Sudan and other parts of Africa today.

The Kerma culture evolved out of the Neolithic around 2400 BC. The Kushite rulers of Kerma profited from the trading such luxury goods as gold, ivory, ebony, incense, and even live animals to the Egyptian Pharaohs. By 1650 BC, Kerma had become a densely occupied urban center overseeing a centralized state stretching from at least the 1st Cataract to the 4th, rivaling ancient Egypt.

New Kingdom Egyptian Colony

In 1500 BC, Egypt conquered all of Nubia, forging a great empire that stretched all the way from the Euphrates in Syria to the 5th Cataract of the Nile. For over 500 years, Egypt's wealth made the Pharaohs of the New Kingdom, like Tutankhamun, the most powerful rulers on the face of the earth. They built huge monuments throughout Egypt and Nubia, such as the famous temple of Abu Simbel.

With the assistance of the Mamluk rulers of Egypt, the Kingdom of Makuria fell to the Juhayna Arabs through a combination of conquest and intermarriage in the mid 14th century. Nubia quickly adopted the Arabic language and the religion of Islam. The Dongola Reach soon came under the sway of the far-flung Funj kingdom, or al-Saltana al-Zarqa (the Black Sultanate). The "Forty Days' Road" described by Herodotus was known in this time as the "Darb al-Arba'in", and was a major trade route between Nubia and Egypt.


This article discusses two of Africa’s great civilisations which developed in the Nile Valley on the southern margins of the Sahara. The first with its capital at Kerma was the earliest urban civilisation in sub-Saharan Africa and rose to rival in power Pharaonic Egypt. The second, the Kingdom of Kush, lasted for over 1,000 years and for a time controlled a vast swathe of territory from Central Sudan to the borders of the Mediterranean.

Derek Welsby, Assistant Keeper, Department of Egypt and The Sudan, The British Museum, London, UK

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Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of Egyptian archaeology is the existence of a very large corpus of ancient written material, which allows the surviving material culture of the Pharaonic period (c. 3100–332 BC) to be considered within a rich and diverse cognitive context that is not available for most other regions of Africa until comparatively recent times. This article considers issues of contemporary concern in the archaeology of Pharaonic Egypt: chronology, state formation, regime change, and race and ethnicity. Over the last forty years, since the full-scale resumption of Egyptian field archaeology, scientific methods of survey and analysis have been applied to archaeological projects in the Nile Valley, resulting in a wave of fresh insights into such things as Egyptian economics, ethnicity, politics, and processes of social and technological change.

Ian Shaw, Senior Lecturer in Egyptian Archaeology, University of Liverpool, UK

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Nubian Pharaohs and Meroitic Kings : The Kingdom of Kush

Necia Desiree Harkless has completed her odyssey of 24 years initiated by a poem that emerged in the odd moments of early morning and her studies as a Donovan Scholar at the University of Kentucky with Dr. William Y. Adams, the leading Nubiologist of the world. The awesome result is her attempt to map the cultural, social, political history of Nubia as a single people as actors on the world stage as they act out their destinies in the cradle of civilization.

The underlying purpose of her book is to reconstruct the collective efforts of the past and present Nubian campaigns and their collaborative scholarship so that the African American as well as all Americans can begin to understand the contributions of the civilization of Africa and Asia as a continuous historical entity.

The history of the Kingdom of Kush begins with its earliest kingdom of Kerma in 2500 BC. It continues with the conquest of Egypt by the Nubian Pharaohs in 750 BC, reluctantly recognized as the Twenty-fifth Dynasty of Egyptian Pharaohs. They ruled as black pharaohs from their Kingdom at Napatan until they were forced one hundred years later to retreat to Napata by the Assyrians who assumed control of the Egyptians. It was at Meroe, the last empire of the Kush, that forty generations of Meroitic kings and queens continued the Kingdom of Kush reaching monumental and dynastic heights.

Their symbiotic relationship with Egypt was over, allowing them to develop their own indigenous culture with a language and script of their own. Their architecture, arts , politics , material and spiritual culture in the minds of many scholars surpassed that of Egypt. Over two hundred pyramids have been investigated. It is an epic that will be long remembered. The dawn of Christianity in the Kingdom of Kush has been found in the treasure cove of the Frescoes of Faras.


Independence and rule of Egypt

Egyptian power declined around 3,000 years ago with its central government falling apart. A number of factors, including attacks by a group that archaeologists sometimes call the “Sea People,” played a role in this decline and government fragmentation.

As Egypt’s power waned, the Nubians began to re-assert their independence. A kingdom based at a city called Napata, located near the fourth cataract of the Nile River, grew increasingly powerful. Napata’s territory expanded, and during the reign of King Piye (reign ca 743–712 B.C.), it expanded north of the first cataract, conquering Egypt itself.

The Nubian kings ruled Egypt as pharaohs, establishing what is sometimes called the 󈬉th dynasty” of Egypt. The Nubian kings not only adopted Egyptian titles but also Egyptian writing and Egyptian pyramids. The Nubian pharaohs commissioned lengthy inscriptions that recorded their titles and deeds, and pyramid building took off in Nubia in a big way. Archaeologists have found fields of pyramids. In one recently uncovered cemetery, located at a site now called “Sedeinga,” they found no less than 35 pyramids.

The kings of Nubia battled the ancient Assyrians. A passage in the Hebrew Bible indicates that one important battle was fought during the reign of Taharqa (reign ca. 690–664 B.C.) and took place not far from Jerusalem.

The Assyrians proved to be a stubborn foe, eventually driving Taharqa from the Egyptian capital of Memphis. The Nubians lost the last of their Egyptian territories during the reign of Tanutamani (reign ca. 664–653 B.C.).


Mesolithic Era

The Mesolithic era cultures in upper Egypt and upper Nubia grew and fell independently within no more than 4,000 years between 22,500 and 9,000 years ago. The Halfan culture is one that originates in Faiyum Oasis. From the Coptic and ancient Egyptian mr-wr meaning great sea, referring to the ancient Lake Moeris in Lower and Upper Egypt. Migrants from Faiyum joined others in the Arabian peninsula and invented nomadic pastoralism It is believed this first group may have spread the proto-Semitic language to Mesopotamia


Interrelations of Kerma and Pharaonic Egypt - History

For 50 years, we have acquired a single knowledge of the urban topography of two metropolises located at the southernmost borders of Egypt. On the one hand Kerma, the Nubian capital of the kingdom of Kouch, made it possible to understand the organization of a city whose certain institutions follow the Pharaonic models. The network of circulation, large monuments and the habitat give the impression of a very organized center where quadrangular buildings are protected by round enclosures influenced by the regional tradition. In addition, Doukki Gel, the first results of our work make it possible to discover an unknown architecture which privileges oval constructions or circular whose plans are undoubtedly attached to central Africa. One could thus restore an urban area where were to meet the persons in charge of the military coalitions which, with the king of Kerma, sought to block the projection of the Egyptian troops which wanted to control the exchanges with the South.

After being intervened in the Nubian capital, we considered it important to recognize the vestiges belonging to the Egyptian occupation which intervenes under the reign of Thoutmosis 1st (around 1480 before J. – C.). It becomes possible to follow the integration of the Egyptians vis-a-vis the local populations, to note the effects of colonization and to study Pharaonic architecture with nearly 1000 km of Thèbes, its capital. The excavation of the former levels revealed the remains of monuments except standards which did not have anything comparable with the nilotic cultures. This architecture presented complex characters making the proof that a long tradition had made it possible to work out defense systems or to build large buildings according to still ignored principles of construction of the specialists in the discipline. The methods of archaeology having evolved, there appeared essential to make progress our ideas relating to a territory remained terra incognita.

For 8 years, our objectives have turned to the origins of a African architecture remained in the lapse of memory. The releases provided an extraordinary documentation which relates to the strange choices of populations of which we are unaware of almost completely the development with the third and second millenia before J. – C. All is new and our interrogations multiply because it is difficult to define the birth of the complex States of the black continent. The research tasks for these periods are non-existent. It is true that our experiment of the Egyptian archeology and Nubian is determining to be able to build a new history of Africa. To be able to have the vestiges of these three currents of influence on the same site is obviously a unique opportunity that it is necessary to seize while being conscious of the chronological questions. Whereas Egypt has textual and archaeological data exceptional making it possible to reconstitute its history, Kerma and its allies of central Sudan are located on the other side of the ancient world. One knows well the military program established by the Egyptians on the second cataract as of the Ancient Empire and it is particularly interesting to find in Doukki Gel the defense systems set up by the Nubian and African people. The fortifications are singular, quite different from the known models. One notes the presence of many circular towers and bastions joined, forming faces which had to appear effective, if one believes the high number of the defensive lines of it. Ground and raw brick constructions, armies of pieces of wood, are unceasingly modified, and the effort of the indigenous builders is considerable. We try to understand the techniques used by analyzing the foundation units. The large buildings from 50 to 70 m length, with their hundreds of columns, show astonishing characteristics. Thus the palaces, the halls of entry as the temples are designed with a great rigour.

The objectives of the Mission are thus multiple because they stick to a heritage complicated to emphasize. Raw brick masonries support the reconstructions and the often modified levels present successive plans, always renewed. One thus observes several superimposed states of a city of which plans adapting to several forms of town planning. While seeking to save documentation, it is important to understand the urban development. It appears useful to put at the disposal of a public widened the impressive examples of the achievements implemented in an old city of 3000 or 4000 years. By taking care to preserve the ancient structures, it is also essential to make them readable. Our objectives are obligatorily of a scientific nature, but the safeguard of the vestiges and the presentation of the site to the visitors remain concerns which are justified for a population in search of its identity. The recent discoveries that the formation of the States in Africa illustrates met a lively interest and should make it possible to continue an investigation which explains the relations between two worlds. The research of the identity of the authors of this architecture so different from that which one observes in the city close to Kerma is also a priority concern. The answers depend however on the possible setting at the day of archaeological indices in Doukki Gel and potential architectural comparisons in regions currently not very accessible to a scientific research, like Kordofan or the Darfur, or which remain to be located precisely, like the country of Pount.


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