Burials in Egyptian Controlled Areas

In 1550 BC, the Egyptian pharaohs were able to impliment loose control over indefinite northern territories in Sudan along the third cataract area.1 Burial traditions through the territories show both Egyptian and Kushite traditions; nonetheless, it is often too hard to distinguish between the two. Location and time period, being associated with the type and duration of Egyptian presence, was a major factor in determining the kinds and styles of burials.

Tombos is the only recognizable Egyptian colonial site in Sudan beside Kawa. Archeological excavations there were highly valuable for shedding light on the nature and degree of interaction between the Egyptians and the local Kushites. However, since Kushite and Egyptian cultures have always been closely intertwined, it is often difficult, and sometimes impossible, to distinguish between Egyptian and Kushite burials. For example, although in most Kushite burials the bodies were laid in contracted positions on their right sides with the heads facing north, examples of extended Kushite burials were also found, especially in Lower Nubia. Since the Egyptians favored the same extended body position, some archeologists believe that such burials traditions were the result of cultural influences from Egypt during the New Kingdom. Contrary to this belief, extended burials have been found in Sudan dating to as far back in time as the prehistoric period.2

Mirror from tomb at Semna. Middle to New Kingdom. Source: Wildung, Dietrich. Sudan: Ancient Kingdoms of the Nile.
Nubian mirror

However, burials excavations at Tombos were still valuable for widening our scope on the Kush-Egypt relations. Evidence from the site seems to indicate that the Egyptians were well assimilated into their surrounding Kushite culture. Intermarriage between the Egyptian administrators and locals was not uncommon by all means. Evidently, the Egyptian colonial policy in Tombos was not as tight as it was in the C-Group area of Lower Nubia centuries before.

Some graves discovered elsewhere in Sudan for the period, indicate a peaceful relationship with Egypt. Such discoveries point to the complex relationship that existed between Kush and Egypt, of which we unfortunately know very little about.

In the Winters of 2000 and 2002, the University of California, Santa Barbra (UCSB), carried an expedition led by Dr. Stuart T. Smith in the town of Tombos (in Sudan). The expedition uncovered a pyramid, which belonged to an Egyptian colonial governor named Siamun, which also means "Son of Amon".3 The pyramid was built in accordance to the local Kushite burial architecture. Other mummies of Egyptian personnel have also been uncovered in the site. Findings in some of the Egyptian burials included personal adornments like Kohl tubes, ebony fragments, shawabiti of Egyptian figures, and pottery with some Mycenaean Jars included.

  • 1. See: I. Omer, History-Egyptian Conquest.
  • 2. R. Gerharz, Jebel Moya (Meroitica 14) Berlin, Akademie-Verlag, 1994, and F. Addison, "Second Thoughts on Jebel Moya", Kush 4 (1956): 4-18.
  • 3.   S. T. Smith, Wretched Kush: Ethnic Identities and Boundaries in Egypt's Nubian Empire (Routledge, 2003) 141.
Authored: 2004.
Edited: Dec. 2010.

The primary material of the website is authored by Ibrahim Omer © 2008.