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Kerma Culture / Kingdom of Kush ca. 2000-1480 BC

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Queen of Egypt
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 16, 2006 3:24 pm    Post subject: Kerma Culture / Kingdom of Kush ca. 2000-1480 BC Reply with quote

I found an excellent site about this time period:

It's interesting to read about the cities, palaces and tombs that they found.

The site describes a big temple in the center of the town Kerma, the "Western Deffufa" (after an old Nubian word for a mud brick structure). Do we know what god(s) they worshipped?

There are also descriptions of the tombs of the rulers. Do we know any of the names of these Kushite Kings and Queens?
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 16, 2006 3:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just found mention of two rulers:

King Awawa (ca 1850 BC)
Apparently his name was found on a broken statue. It may have been an attempt to use magic to harm this King? see this site

King Nedjeh (ca. 1650 BC)
The people from Kerma did not use writing according to one site. (really?) And the names of these rulers is only known from egyptian sources?
An egyptian soldier who stayed on after the kushites took over the egyptian forts mentions king Nedjeh.see this site

Note: I find it a bit hard to believe the Kushites had no writing system. They suppposedly communicated regularly with the Hyksos during this period. It's true that they seem to have done this in egyptian. But that still means they had to be able to read and write. (Well at least some of them)
Besides, considering the empire they were running, how would to run something like that?
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 16, 2006 3:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry for the triple post Very Happy
I should have known that looking at Aktisanes' pages was the thing to do Laughing

There are names there of 5 rulers:


Could someone check out the inscriptions? It looks to me as though these kings are taking on some egyptian style titles. It looks like a nsw bity on some of them.

There are also some inscriptions with a Horus (one with double crown) perched on a nebu sign. Is that a uniquely Nubian term?

There's also a possible mention of a kushite ruler in the inscriptions of Ahmose son of Ebana?
The third rebellion, referring to an uprising in the south, refers to an oponent named Teti-en. It seems that this could very well refer to a Kushite ruler. There are Nubian campaigns and Teti-en is mentioned in the third campaign against the South.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 17, 2006 7:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

After Nubian campaign, Ahmose-si-Ibana mentions "rebels" Aata & Tetian

"Aata came to the south" = non-Egyptian name = Nubian?

To south = where? From lower Nubia to Egyptian force Kush?

From Lower Egypt to Upper Egypt?

"The gods of Upper Egypt grasped him" suggests Aata comes from L.E.

Aata could have been a Kushite mercenary living in Middle or Lower Egypt

Tetian = Egyptian name & definately a "rebel" = "gathered malcontents to himself"

I found this information.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 17, 2006 12:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Aata is interesting. His name does sound Nubian.

Quote: "The gods of Upper Egypt grasped him" suggests Aata comes from L.E.

I don't think that "The gods of Upper Egypt grasped him" suggests that Aata came from L.E. That dooesn't make sense to me. All it seems to say is that he was defeated in Upper Egypt or by Upper Egyptian forces.

The article by Buzby looks interesting. I haven't had time to read it in its entirety, but one thing struck me as odd. The claim was that Nubia was attacked because it was a rich source of gold. Considering the strength of the kingdom of Kush at that time, it seems like an odd motive. It doesn't hurt of course that they were a country rich in gold, but it would seem to me that their seeming friendly relations with the Hyksos was a much bigger reason? The Hyksos apparently had trading relations with the Nubians.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Nubians attacked the Thebans because they thought they might divide up Upper Egypt between themselves and the Hyksos? If so, it of course backfired in a most spectacular way.
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 12, 2006 6:11 pm    Post subject: Website Reply with quote

Thanks anneke for looking at/mentioning my site, did you notice the updates?

The three kings I added to the kerma section are only supported on my website.
Traditionally (von Beckerath ea) they are put in the 11th dynasty ( with no real proof).
As their names are only found in upper nubia and only there, I took the liberty to include them as local rulers (kinglets).
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2008 5:19 am    Post subject: City of Kerma Reply with quote

Aerial view of the city of Kerma with its temple precinct

Reference: Charles Bonnet. The Nubian Pharaohs, Black Kings of the Nile, October 2006, page 16:


Human populations settled in the Kerma basin at a very early date, as witnessed by several Mesolithic and Neolithic sites. The earliest traces of a human presence in the region date back some eight hundred thousands years. From 7500 BC onward the remains become more significant: semi-buried dwellings, various objects and tools, and graves. The Neolithic phrase, from the late sixth to the fourth millennium BC, is much better known and allows us to follow the stages of the spread of agriculture and the domestication of cattle in this period. Around 3000 BC a town grew up not far from the Neolithic dwellings place.

The Nubian Town and Its Necropolis

In the past thirty years, systematic excavation of Nubian Kerma has presented a picture of a capital city in the third and second millennia BCE. The evolution of the residential area is highly complex, yet it is possible to identify social differences and a marked hierarchy. Furthermore, we might speculate about the general nature of this town, which seems to correspond above all to a protected zone reserved for an elite population. Whereas elsewhere in the kingdom we find towns that centralized agricultural products and villages that we situated alongside fields of crops, here in the capital we find spacious homes inhabited by dignitaries who monitored the trade in merchandise arriving from far-off lands, and who supervised shipments dispatched from administrative buildings.

In the Old Kerma (2450-2050 BCE), religious buildings and special workshops for preparing offerings were built using trunks of acacia trees, and roofed with palm fibers. These plant-based materials, once encased in hardened clay, could be painted in lively colors. The round huts were usually made of wood and clay. This method of construction, inspired by traditions dating back to prehistory, is still being used today.

Around 2200-2000 BCE, the builders began using unfired mud-bricks. Later, the use of fired bricks constituted a significant change, because such material remained almost unknown elsewhere along the Nile Valley until the Late Period.

Since 1977, Charles Bonnet has been the director of the Kerma site.

Chronology of Kerma by Charles Bonnet, page 210


Paleolithic (1,000,000-9000 BCE): Kabrinarti lower paleolithic

Mesolithic (9000-6000 BCE): al-Barga mesolithic

Neolithic (6000-3500 BCE): al-Barga Mesolithic/Eastern necropolis neolithic

Predynastic (3500-2950 BCE): Old and middle pre-Kerma

Thinite Period (2950-2780 BCE): Recent pre-Kerma

Old Kingdom (2635-2140 BCE): Old Kerma (2450-2050 BCE), 2400 BCE founding of Nubian town of Kerma with religious precinct

First Intermediate Period (2140-2020 BCE): Old Kerma

Middle Kingdom (2022-1750 BCE): Middle Kerma (2050-1750 BCE), Royal palaces; audience chamber; founding of a second city; Large princely tumuli

Second Intermediate Period (1750-1550 BCE): Classic Kerma (1750-1450 BCE), Construction of Deffufa; Great royal tumuli and funerary temples; Kerma monarchs occupy forts on second cataract

New Kingdom (1550-1080 BCE): 1500 BCE: end of Kerma kingdom and foundation of Egyptian city of Pnubs on site of Doukki Gel, 1 km north of Nubian town (Thutmosid, Amarnian, and Ramessid temples

Third Intermediate Period (1080-715 BCE): Several independent but Egyptianize Kushite kingdoms; scant Egyptian documentation; contacts maintained between Egypt and Nubia

Late Period (715-330 BCE): Shabaqo's temple; Taharqa's stature; Tanutamun's statues; Statues of Senkamanisken, Analmani, Aspela; 593 BCE: Psamtik II's campaign in Egypt; Destruction of statues at Kerma and Gebel Barkal; Napatan temples at Doukki Gel; town extends toward river

Greek Period (330-30 BCE): Kerma scant information

Roman Period (30 BCE onward): Meroitic temples at Doukki Gel

Forward from book: Charles Bonnet and Dominique Valbelle. The Nubian Pharaohs, Black Kings of the Nile, October 2006

It was on January 11, 2003, that Charles Bonnet began to excavate a round, three-meter pit in Kerma, now called Doukki Gel, for the Egyptian town of Pnubs (city of the jujube tree), and a successor to the ancient capital of Kush. In that pit were seven statues--deliberately but carefully broken into more than fifty pieces--along with remnants of the gold leaf that had originally adorned them. Once reassembled, these statues constituted a magnificent gallery of kings, including Taharqa and Tanutamun, the last two pharaohs, now generally referred to as "Kushite".

Around 656 BCE, the 'Black Pharaohs' were forced to abandon the lower Nile and withdraw to the south, thereafter reigning in Nubia as the Napatan Dynasty. Although the cache of statues found by Bonnet's team in Kerma, like a similar one found in Gebel Barkal, lacks a visual record of the first Napatan monarch Atlanersa, it contains sculpted portraits of his successors Senkamanisken (two statues), Anlamani (with an impressive ram's-horn crown), and Aspelta. Indeed, these tough conquerors from the south, with their strong features and powerful bodies, combined Egyptian royal insignia with more specifically African attributes, notably invoking their ram-god, Amun, who became a dynastic god of the Egyptians.

Authors Charles Bonnet and Dominique Valbelle have placed this recent, major archaeological find it is historical context by recounting in simple fashion the main phases of the kingdom of Kush (much better today thanks to the work of the Swiss team at Kerma), which came to rival the great ancient civilizations. It began as a special culture that emerged in the late third millennium BCE, typical of the sub-Saharan environment in which it developed. In the middle of the second millennium, around 1560, there followed some five hundred years of Egyptian domination, thus explaining the presence of traces of Akhenaten's Amarna culture in those distant lands. Finally, a Nubian resurgence in the eight century BCE enabled kings from the area called Napata (downstream of the fourth cataract) to invade Egypt. Led by the conqueror Piankhy, Nubian power in Egypt was consolidated by the first Kushite pharaoh, Shabaqo, followed by Taharqa, thereby raising fascinating issues of acculturation.

Given the royal statues found in the cache, this book stresses the Kushite and Napatan aspects of Egypt and Sudan, respectively; it lavish illustrations will allow readers to appreciate the talents of both Egyptian and Nubian sculptors. The individual features and characteristics of monarchs, who have now taken their place in history, emerge in an expressive art that combines the rigor of revived classicism with fascinatingly "primal" aesthetic. We are thus a long way from the purely theoretical speculation that once animated fascinating conversations about Kushite civilization that I used to have with President Leopold Senghor of Senegal, back when excavations in Sudan were just getting underway.

What is the true significance of the carefully broken statues in the Kerma cache? How do they relate to the ones found at Gebel Barkal in the Napata region in the early twentieth century, whose importance and uniqueness was overlooked? Their fate obviously has something to do with the Egyptian expedition led by Psamtik II in 591 BCE, deep into the heart of Nubia when Aspelta was reigning there. The hypotheses concerning the breaking of these statues, followed by the total conservation of all their fragments, still leave many questions unanswered. Scholarly interpretation can nevertheless progress through the examination, and re-examination, of other favissae, or ritual caches, such as the one uncovered at Karnack in 1905 (when George Legrain found thousands of statues and ritual objects by "fishing" for them down to the level of the water table) and, more recently, in the temple at Luxor (whose splendid finds are now on display in a new wing of the Luxor Museum of Ancient Egyptian Art).

Egyptology is thus constantly enriched with new evidence, documentation, and food for thought. Yet even as art history is being enriched with new masterpieces, and the treasures found in Kerma cache certainly merit that label, we are simultaneously forced to face questions that were previously overlooked. But that is how scholarship, true scholarship, proceeds.

The publishers therefore deserve congratulations for publishing a text that explores a new geographic realm and deals in scholarly fashion with issues that are far from resolved. I wish readers a bon voyage, for they are about to embark upon a trip to harsh climes, treacherous cataracts, and difficult roads, in order to discover the grandiose beauty of a sacred mountain call Gebel Barkal and the fascinating culture behind these newly unearthed treasures, which are soon to be exhibited in the new museum in Kerma. -- Prof. Jean Leclant, College of France

A Royal Statue

Statue of Senkamanisken

The statue was carved from a kind of gray granite somewhat paler than the others; a pink vein runs all the way across the head. It is now composed of five connected fragments: head, chest, pelvis with most of the legs, right forearm, and base. Part of the right hand was broken prior to the destruction of the statue, as shown by traces of gypsum that indicate an ancient attempt at repair.

As in the other statues, the king is depicted in a striding position, the left foot forward, arms falling down his sides. In each hand he holds a mekes scepter. Unlike the other statues, however, he is dressed in a sem priest's garb, composed of a panther skin draped over the left shoulder with the panther head falling over the front part of the kilt, one paw on the left hip and two other behind, straddling the back pillar. He is wearing the Kushite skullcap decorated with the double uraeus still complete, wearing both the red crown and the white crown, all stippled to receive gilding. The horizontal band holding the double uraeus is distinguished from the cap by a slight ridge at the top. The modeling of the face is subtle and the almond-shaped eyes are well defined, even the tear ducts are visible. The corneas are entirely stippled. The mouth and nose are particularly fine. The head was separated from the body at the level of the neck ornament and a fragment of the neck, on the right, was lost during demolition. The central and right-hand pendants of the neck ornament seem to have been chiseled off, unless they were stippled in slight intaglio in order to receive applique features. Other jewelry is indicated by stippled bands for armbands, bracelets, and anklets. The kilt is handled in a schematic, completely stippled manner that makes an effective contrast with the black-painted skin even without the gold leaf that must have adorned it.

The legs were broken above the ankles. The feet are shod with stippled sandals and stand on a rectangular base that bears the following inscription: "King of Upper and Lower Egypt, lord of the Two Lands, [Senkamani]sken beloved of Amun of Pnubs, endowed with life, like Re, eternally." The upper part of the cartouche was crushed in the pit by the bust of one of the statues of Tanutamun. It was therefore not deliberately obliterated. The back pillar is obelisk-shaped, like the other statue of Senkamanisken, but the pyramidion ends at the nape of the neck. It is inscribed as follows: "Horus Sehertowy, he of the Two Ladies Khahermaat, Golden Horus Userpehty, king of Upper and Lower Egypt Sekheperenre, son of Re Senkamanisken, beloved of Amun of Pnubs, endowed with life eternally."

Of the seven monumental standing statues of kings found in the cache at Doukki Gel, three belonged to the late Twenty-fifth Dynasty. Already profoundly influenced by their country's long incorporation and cultural assimilation into the Egyptian empire during the latter half of the second millennium BCE, the Kushite kings adopted the artistic criteria of the land they conquered in the eighth century BCE. In Egypt, the main canons of royal statuary had been laid down during the Fourth Dynasty, and they would, remain almost unchanged up the Roman era, even if sculptors managed to display great inventiveness throughout the country's long history.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2008 11:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for posting those pictures, and for the quotes from Leclant Smile

The find of the broken statues is very interesting. The idea that Psamtek II had them broken down and buried is interesting. Makes me wonder if they were adorned with gold or other valuables that may have been taken by the Egyptians. There doesn't seem to be real damage to the eyes nose and ears as one would expect in the case of damnatio memorae.

Then again, maybe breaking someone off at the ankles wouls have been considered to have done great damage to the king in the afterlife?
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