Current Date:

Friday, 09 March 2018

Nubia before Napata (-3100 to -750) (3)

(N. M. Sherif, UNESCO) - Kerma  (—1730 to —1580): We have already noticed that the southern boundary of the Egyptian Middle K ingdom

was unquestionably fixed at Semna by Senusret III. But the important excavations carried out by the American archaeologist G . A . Reisner between 1913 and 1916 at Kerma , a short distance above
the Third Cataract and 150 miles south of Semna as the crow flies, revealed what has come to be known as the K e r m a culture. This culture has since been the subject of conflicting interpretations from scholars.
T h e ancient site of Kerma comprises two remarkable edifices locally known as the Western Dufufa and the Eastern Dufufa. T h e former is a solid mass of sun-dried brick and the latter is a funerary chapel, also in mud-brick, surrounded by a large cemetery of mound graves. Both
buildings are typical of Middle Kingdom construction. In the Western Dufufa, Reisner found fragments of broken alabaster vases with the cartouches of Pepi I and II of the sixth dynasty together with those of Amenemhet I and Senusret I. Beside the Eastern Dufufa was unearthed
an inscribed stone relating that the king's sole companion Antef had been dispatched to repair a building in Inebu, using the word Amenemhet maakheru which means the walls of Amenemhet the Justified. In a burial mound near this funerary chapel were found the lower part of a statue of
Hepzefia (prince of Asyut in Egypt, whose tomb has been found there), a statue of his wife Sennuwy and fragments of other statues of officials and kings. In the light of these discoveries, Reisner concluded52 that: (a) the walls underneath the Western Dufufa are those of an Old Kingdom trading post; (b) the Western Dufufa was, in the Middle Kingdom , the southernmost stronghold in the chain of forts built by the Egyptians, between Aswa n and Kerma , to safeguard their interests in Nubia; (c) K e r m a was the headquarters of Egyptian Governors-General, the first of whom might have been Hapidjefa; (d) the Egyptian Governors-General were buried in the cemetery near the Eastern Dufufa in an Egyptian fashion; and (e) when the Hyksos invaded Egypt the fortified outpost at Kerma was destroyed by the Nubians.
Reisner's interpretation of the archaeological evidence discovered at Kerma was first questioned by Junker. 53 T h e Western Dufufa was too small for a fort and was also dangerously isolated, being situated 400 kilometres away from the nearest Egyptian fort at Semna . Moreover, the
raw materials, such as graphite, copper oxide, hematite, mica, resin, rock crystal, carnelian, ostrich egg-shell, discovered in the various rooms indicate that the Western Dufufa was a fortified trading post rather than an
administrative centre.
As for the cemetery, Reisner's view, that it was the burial place of Egyptian Governors, was based solely on the discovery of the statues of Hapidjefa and his wife in one of the large burial mounds. Themode of burial in these large graves of K e r m a was entirely Nubian. Here mummification was not practiced and the dead m a n was buried on a bed with his wives, children and attendants in the same grave. Now , bearing in mind that these graves are Egyptian neither in their construction nor in their method of burial, and knowing that the Egyptians dreaded being buried abroad mainly because they might lose the appropriate burial rites, it becomes peculiarly difficult to believe that a person of Hapidjefa's social and political status would have been buried in a foreign land in a fashion utterly alien to Egyptian religious beliefs. Moreover, a m o n g the things found in the supposed tumulus of Hapidjefa were numerous grave-goods
unquestionably dating from the Second Intermediate Period or the Hyksos period. From this, Säve-Söderbergh and Arkell55 concluded that the statues found in this m o u n d grave had been exchanged by Egyptian traders for Nubian commodities from the local princes of Kerma during the
Second Intermediate Period.
Thus Reisner's theory concerning the Western Dufufa and the cemetery around the Eastern Dufufa has been generally rejected. Instead most scholars advocated the view that the Western Dufufa was only an Egyptian trading post, while the cemetery was the burial ground of the native princes.
Hintze, re-examining the different theories put forward regarding the Kerma problem, sees that they 'contained inner contradictions making their correctness dubious'. 56 In the first place he notes that the arguments raised by Junker, rejecting Reisner's interpretation, hold good also to refute Junker's o w n assumption that the Western Dufufa was a fortified trading post. Hintze also considers it unlikely that an Egyptian fortified trading post would have existed in this part of Nubia at this time, particularly if Kerma is taken as the political seat of K u s h (as some of Reisner's opposers hold),  which was the traditional enemy of Egypt during the Middle Kingdom . And as all the scholars whose views he has re-examined agree that the cemetery is a Nubian cemetery and that the Eastern Dufufa is a
funerary chapel attached to it, Hintze points out the improbability of the Pharaoh sending an Egyptian official to 'vile Kush ' in order to repair a chapel to a Nubian cemetery. Lastly, Hintze stresses what has already been shown by Säve-Söderbergh, namely, that the cemetery belongs to the Second Intermediate Period; that is to say, that it is later than the Western Dufufa and therefore the supposed Governors of the Western Dufufa in the Middle Kingdom could not be buried there.
All these considerations led Hintze to abandon once and for all the 'conception of an Egyptian trading post' at Kerma . T o him Kerma is simply the 'centre of a native Nubian culture and the residence of a native dynasty'. T h e Western Dufufa was the residence of the native ruler of Kush and it was destroyed by the Egyptian troops at the beginning of the
New Kingdom .
This is a simple theory which sounds nearer to the truth especially as
regards the evidence from the cemetery. T h e date of the objects found in the graves and the mode of their construction and burial rites clearly show that they were not built for the Middle Kingdom Egyptian Governors General. But substantial evidence is still needed to prove that the Western Dufufa was the residence of the native ruler of Kush . The existence of an ordinary Egyptian trading post at Karma during the Middle Kingdom
cannot be ruled out as easily as Hintze contends. T h e site dug by Reisner is the only site so far excavated in the Dongola region, and even this single site is not yet fully excavated. T h e Dongola area is rich in Karma sites, and until systematic archaeological research is carried out
there, a great deal will remain unknown regarding the Kerma culture.

The Kingdom of Kush

As the geographical name Kush is connected with K e r m a 5 8 and as the tumuli at Kerma clearly show that they were the burials of strong native rulers who had commercial and diplomatic relations with the Hyksos kings in Egypt, it seems more likely that Kerma was the capital of the kingdom of Ku h . This kingdom flourished during what is known in Egyptian history as the Second Intermediate Period ( — 1730 to —1580).
The existence of this kingdom, whose ruler was called the Prince of Kush , is now known from a variety of documentary evidence. The first stele of Kamose , " the last king of the Egyptian seventeenth dynasty and probably the first king who raised the banner of organized struggle against the Hyksos, depicts the political situation in the Nile valley at that time. This stele shows the existence of an independent kingdom in Kush , with its northern frontier fixed at Elephantine, an Egyptian state in Upper Egypt, situated between Elephantine in the south and Cusae in the north and finally the Hyksos kingdom in Lower Egypt. Another stele60 tells us that Kamse captured on the oasis route a message sent by Apophis, the Hyksos king, to the ruler of Kush seeking his aid against the Egyptian king. Moreover, two stelae discovered at Buhen show that two officials by
the names of Sepedher and Ka served under the ruler of Kush . T h e kingdom of K u s h , which controlled the whole of Nubia south of Elephantine after the collapse of the Middle Kingdo m in Egypt following the Hyksos invasion, came to an end w h e n Tuthmose I conquered Nubia
beyond the Fourth Cataract.
Kerma culture

Typical sites of the Kerma culture have been discovered in Nubia only as far north as Mirgissa, indicating that the Second Cataract was the boundary between the Kerma and C - G roup cultures. T h e characteristic features of the K e r m a culture were a thin highly polished black-topped red ware that was m adeon a potter's wheel; animal-shaped vessels and others decorated with animal motifs; special copper daggers, woodwork decorated with patterns of inlaid ivory figures and mica figures and ornaments sewn
on leather caps. Although m a n y of the wares discovered at K e r m a undoubtedly manifest a native cultural tradition, the influence of Egyptian techniques of craftsmanship and design cannot be overlooked.64 It has been suggested that a great deal of the material in question was actually
manufactured by Egyptian craftsmen,65 but it could equally be said that it was produced to meet local taste by native craftsmen w h o had acquired Egyptian techniques.
Regarding the religious aspect, the characteristic feature of the K e r m a culture is the burial rites. A K e r m a grave is marked by a dome-shaped tumulus of earth outlined by a ring of black stones sprinkled over with white pebbles. O n e of the big tumuli at K e r m a Cemetery (K III) consisted
of circular brick walls, 90 metres in diameter. T w o parallel walls running across the middle of the mound from east to west formed a central corridor which divided the mound into two sections. Other parallel walls ran out at right angles from the two sides of this corridor to the circumference of the circle to the north and south. In the middle of the southern wall of the corridor a doorway opened into a vestibule leading to the main burial chamber to the east side of it. At Kerma the main burial lay
on a bed on the right side. On this bed were put a wooden headrest, an ostrich-feather fan, and a pair of sandals. A large number of pottery vessels were placed beside the bed and round the walls of the chamber.
The most striking burial custom at Kerma was the use of human sacrifices. The owner of the grave was accompanied by 200 to 300 persons, the majority being women and children. They were buried alive in the central corridor.