Egyptian Intrusions

Recent archeological and historical research has shown that the traditional scholarly view that percieves the Egyptians as the absolute rulers of Nubia, during the New Kingdom, is unreliable. New studies shows that most of Nubia was indipendent of Egyptian rule. The claims made by the Eighteenth Dynasty Egyptian pharoahs about subduing "the wretched Kush"1 were probably nothing much more than pompous propaganda exagurations.

Following the Second Intermediate Period and the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt, Ahmose was able to colonize Lower Nubia . While Lower Nubia remained Egyptian territory, Upper Nubia remained largely indipendent. Egyptian records contemporary with the Eighteenth Dynasty indicate that Kerma was soveriegn.2 Archeological and historical evidence suggest that despite the border set by Thumose I at Kurgus, in 1500 BC, Kerma was not colonized. Hence, contrary to what Egyptian records insinuate, Kush was not subjigated by the armies of Thutmose.

Upper Part of a Statue of King Amenhotep II. From Wad Ban Naga, Isis Temple. Source: Wildung, Dietrich. Sudan: Ancient Kingdoms of the Nile.
Egyptian Amenhotep

The Egyptian colonial administration in Nubia was assigned to a single Viceroy. Serving under the Viceroy were two deputies, one in charge of Lower Nubia and another in charge of uncertain territories in Upper Nubia.

Historical evidence indicates that the Egyptian colonial activities in Nubia were inconsistent. A Viceroy and a affiliated deputies represented the Egyptian pharoah in Nubia and insured his supremacy by collecting tributes. Eyptian military invasions were evidently rare. In fact, Kawa is as far south as an Egyptian military occupation has ever been implimented.

Evidence indicates that conflicts between the Egyptian colonials and local Nubians were not usual. New archeological analysis on ethnicity indicates that the relationship between the Egyptians and the Nubians was more harmonious than thought before. Egyptian records, on the other hand, focus on conflicts and on presenting the Nubians as a weak and defeated enemy.

A good example of Egypt's mythical colonial propaganda comes from the Egyptian inscription of Konosso dating to the reign of Thutmosis IV:

"The Nubian descends from above Wawet; he hath planned revolt against Egypt. He gathers to himself all the barbarians and the revolters of other countries… his Majesty proceeds to overthrow the Nubian in Nubia… he found all [his] foes scattered in inaccessible valleys…"3

Recent archeological excavations have shown that the Egyptian temple complexes in Upper Nubia, once considered by scholars as solid evidence for Egyptian supremacy, were not situated within any regnizable settlements. Hence, the temples probably served as political propaganda tools; that is by encouraging the people of Nubia to embrase Egyptian culture. Could these temple projects have been part of a peaceful policy, implimented by the Egyptian pharoahs,designed to strengthen the cultural and religious ties between the people of Egypt and Nubia?

Cemetery excavations at the colonial town of Tombos show clear indications of cultural fusion. For example, cranial measurements of individuals from Tombos indicate a common situation of intermarriage.4

During the New Kingdom, other little known about polities flourished south of Kurgus.5 These polities, particularly the so-called Yam, seem to have replaced Kerma as the dominant Nubian authority in Sudan. These polities traded with Egypt in materials brought from regions farther south, such as gold, exotic materials, ebony, slaves, and ostrich feathers. The inability of the Egyptians to expand their colonial ambissions beyond Kurgus may be attributed to the presence of these Nubian polities. By the time Lower Nubia was liberate from Egypt, in the ninth century BC, Napata emerged as the center of a new powerful Kushite kingdom in Sudan.

  • 1 J. H. Breasted, ed., Ancient Records of Egypt: The Eighteenth Dynasty, (University of Chicago P, 1906) 32.
  • 2 C. Bonnet, Edifices et rites funeraires de la necropole de Kerma (Paris, 2000), in Kerma Nov. 2008.
  • 3 ARE2 826-829§§ in R. S. Bianchi, Daily Life of the Nubians (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004) 108. A text translation is found in J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Part Two, §§ 825ff.
  • 4 M. R. Buzon, "Biological and ethnic identity in new kingdom nubia : A case study from tombos," Current anthropology vol. 47, no4, (2006): 683-95.
  • 5 D. O'Connor, Ancient Nubia: Egypt's Rival in Africa (University of Pennsylvania P, 1994) 61-66.
Authored: 2004.
Edited: Jan. 2014.

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