Egyptian Colonial Attempts

Full Egyptian hegemony was not restored until 1550 BC, under the Theban Dynasty who expelled the Hyksos from Lower Egypt, and the Kushites from Upper Egypt; that is with the help of Medjay troops from eastern Sudan.

Temple of Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhophis III in Soleb, Sudan.
Soleb Sudan

By 1550 BC, Egypt reasserted control over Lower Nubia. Although Kerma, the capital city of Kush, suffered from destruction activities perpetuated by the Egyptian raid of 1500 BC, the kingdom didn't fall. Recent research suggests that Kush was not subjugated by the armies of Thutmose I as formerly assumed by scholars.1 The struggles between the Kushites and Egypt seem to have outlasted 1500 BC.

Egyptian records written later, during the reign of Thutmose II (1492-1479 BC), report that Kushite princes, probably based at Kerma, were carrying military attacks on Egyptian fortresses.2 Archeological excavations revealed the continuation of construction activities in Kerma long after the Egyptian incursion of 1500 BC.3 Although it is clear that the Egyptian armies of Thutmose I have reached Kurgus, south of Kerma; however, they failed to subdue Kerma. There is almost no doubt that central Sudan never came under Egyptian military occupation.

Bust of King Ramses II from Sudan. Source: Wildung, Dietrich. Sudan: Ancient Kingdoms of the Nile.
Steal of Kedes shown are Nubian soldiers who served in the Egyptian military, and his mother from probably Gebelein. Source: Wildung, Dietrich. Sudan: Ancient Kingdoms of the Nile.
Nubian stela

In Sudan, the Egyptians established Soleb as the colonial administrative center.4 The Egyptian controlled area, north of Soleb, was loosely governed by the Viceroy "King's Son of Kush". Evidence suggests that the Egyptian colonial rule was loose and unstable. In fact, the Egyptians had no significant settlements in Sudan. Tombos and Kawa are the only recognizable Egyptian settlements.5

The area of Kerma, claimed by the Egyptians, was placed under the governship of a single Viceroy. The Viceroy was represented by deputies who over looked the affairs of the provinces and communicated with the Kushite royal persons.6 The main task of the Viceroy was to insure the collection of tribute; military actions were evidently rare. Archeology also indicates that the Egyptians relied heavily on temple building as a way of showcasing authority. Most of the temples, however, were not part of any significant settlements.7

The relationship between Egypt and the independent central Sudan is not well understood. However, Egyptian chronology reports on some military clashes with southern independent states. Obviously, these states remained strong enough to prevent farther southward Egyptian advancements in Sudan. Evidence indicates that the states traded extensively with Egypt in exotic products brought from the sub-Sahara,8 such as ebony and ivory.

Egyptian chronology for this period indicates that the Nubians were deeply active in Egypt's government and military affairs. Nubian recruits, largely from Upper Nubia, composed the cream of the Egyptian army.

Some Nubians also participated in the Egyptian military but as independent allies,9 particularly the Medjay. Kushite military general Dedu,10 who served under Tuthmosis III, lead the Medjay to crush a revolt in the Egyptian territory of Kadesh in Syria.11 Others like Zerah the Kushite, who served under Oskoron I, commanded the famous Egyptian campaign to Judea.12

Around 1070 BC, the Egyptian Kingdom began to wither and lost control of Kush.13 About two centuries later, around 860 BC, the Kushite kingdom began to expand as an empire.14

  • 1 See D. Valbelle, "Egyptians on the Middle Nile," Sudan Ancient Treasures: An Exhibition Of Recent Discoveries From The Sudan National Museum, ed. D. A. Welsby, and J. R. Anderson (British Museum P, 2004) 92-9.
  • 2 C. H. Roehrig, R. Dreyfus, and C. A. Keller, eds., Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh (Metropolitan Museum of Art Series), (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005) 52.
  • 3 Charles Bonnet, Edifices et rites funeraires de la necropole de Kerma (Paris, 2000).
  • 4 D. Edwards, The Nubian Past: An Archaeology of the Sudan (Routledge, 2004) 104.
  • 5 S. T. Smith, "Kerma Culture in Nubia," Nubia <http://www.anth.ucsb.edu/faculty/stsmith/research/kerma.html>.
  • 6 S. T. Smith, Wretched Kush: Ethnic Identities and Boundaries in Egypt's Nubian Empire (Routledge, 2003) 84.
  • 7 Valbelle, note 2 above.
  • 8 A. R. David, Handbook to Life in Ancient Egypt (Oxford UP, 1999).
  • 9 D. J. Brewer, and E. Teeter, Egypt and the Egyptians (Cambridge UP, 1999).
  • 10 M. Rice, Who's who in Ancient Egypt (Routledge, 1999) 43-4.
  • 11 W. M. F. Petrie, The Making of Egypt (Sheldon P, 1939), J. H. Breasted, and P. A. Piccione, Ancient Records of Egypt vol. 1: The First through the Seventeenth Dynasties, trans. J. H. Breasted, (University of Illinois P, 2001), and H. te Velde, and J. van Dijk. "Essays on Ancient Egypt in Honour of Herman Te Velde". Styx, 1997.
  • 12 S. Ya. Berzina, "Expedition of Zerah the Cushite," Arkamani Sudan Journal of Archaeology and Anthropology 1 Nov. 2008 <http://www.arkamani.org/meroiticarusa/berzina1.htm>.
  • 13 R. Morkot, The Egyptians: An Introduction (Routledge, 2005) 131-3.
  • 14 G. Berkley, Moses in the Hieroglyphs (Trafford Publishing, 2006) 261-4.
Authored: 2004.
Edited: Dec. 2012.

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