Observations on the Deffufas of Kerma
The word Deffufa descends from either the Nubian term for mud-brick
building, or from the Arabic word Daffa meaning "mass" or "pile".
Although the religious nature of the Deffufas can not be doubted,
their precise function has not been determined. While some regard
the buildings as temples, others see them as royal residences.
Whatever their function might have been, their architectures
are unparalleled elsewhere in the ancient world and their importance
to the people of Kerma is comparable to that of the Ziggurat to
the people of Sumer. So far three Deffufas have been discovered;
the Western Deffufa, which is the largest and the best preserved;
the Eastern; and a third little explored Deffufa.
The Western Deffufa forms an imposing sight in the vicinity of the
small Sudanese town of Kareema. Like the other Deffufas, it was built
of thick mud-brick walls to provide cooler temperature in the hot
climate. The structure is comprised of three stories and stretches over
an area of 15,070 sq feet1 and is about 18 m. tall.2
The Deffufa is farther surrounded by a boundary wall.3
Inside the Deffufa were columned chambers connected by a complex
network of passageways. The walls were lavishly decorated with faience
tiles and inlays and gold leaf. Magnificent paintings showing exotic
scenes of the wild-life from the sub-Sahara served
as visual luxury in Kerma's arid environment. A staircase seems to have lead to a shrine on the roof
of the building. Evidence of a limestone altar, built for animal sacrifice,
was also found.4 The repeated works of construction and
development efforts indicate the centrality of the monument in the
town of Kerma; most likely the town's principal temple.5
Three colossal steles were found laying in front of a large funerary
chapel (i.e. labeled K XI) in the royal cemetery of Kerma. One
of the steles measures about 4,73 meters in height. Their surfaces
had been eroded; whether the steles had inscriptions on them or
not can not be known.6 Unfortunately, inscriptions or
records from Kerma may have likely been destroyed (or erased) during
the Egyptian invasions of the New Kingdom.
2 km east of the Western Deffufa area is the Eastern Deffufa.7
This two second two-stories Deffufa,8 is relatively shorter
than the Western. It has been identified by some as a
royal funerary chapel due to the fact that it is surrounded by a cemetery of, at least, 30,000 graves.9 The sight of
the huge building surrounded by the enormous massive white-plastered
mound burials must have been marvelous.
Areas of the exterior walls of the building were inlaid in stone.10
This Deffufa contained two columned halls with paintings depicting
subjects from the wild-life with red, yellow, blue, and black colors.11
The floors were fancifully dressed with stone.12 The
paintings served as luxury in an environment as harsh as that of Kerma.