The Kerma kingdom flourished in the
city of Kerma— in the modern-day city of Kareema, in Sudan— starting from 2500 BC the latest. The city's population were
organized into a hierarchically organized socio-economic strata. At the top of the hierarchy were the ruler, the royal family, military leaders, and priests.
Although the site at Kerma has not been sufficiently excavated, American and European excavations, in collaboration with archeologists
from the Khartoum University, came up with valuable results. The digs revealed an elaborate cemetery, a royal
city, temples, royal palaces, and an audience hall. In a 1993-1994
campaign, Charles Bonnet uncovered the main town of Kerma with a
fortification wall of 10 meters in height and 1300 meters in length.1
Angaraib of Bovine shaped foot from Kerma. Source:
Wildung, Dietrich. Sudan Ancient Kingdoms of the Nile.
Photo: C. Bonnet. Tomb of archer, Kerma,
2200 BC. Source: Wildung, Dietrich. Sudan Ancient Kingdoms
of the Nile.
The people of Kerma people buried their dead in niche cut
pits. A tumulus or a mound superstructure of sand and gravel, sometimes
reaching 90 meters in diameter, was built over the graves of royal
persons. The size of the mound indicated the social
rank of the deceased person when alive. The larger the tumulus,
the higher in rank the owner was; and the smaller it is, the lower
A distinctive element of the Kerma culture was the unique bed burial tradition. The distinctive design and manufacture of the Kerma bed didn't change over time; it represents the traditional Sudanese bed today and is called Angaraib. The deceased was placed on top of the bed. The bed was then placed in the middle of the tomb chamber. On some cases, mummification was conducted on deceased kings and royal
persons. The body was usually laid in a contracted body position
with the head towards the east.
Flag staffs and square shaped steles were uncovered near tumuli
structures and were probably related to the building structures. Pottery
is perhaps the most common find in Kerma. Large amounts of imported
pottery from Egypt and the Near East and seashells brought from
the Red Sea indicate extensive trade activity. Weapons dating to this period were usually consisted
of bronze swords and daggers, some of which were found in children
graves. Most astonishing were the archer burials in Kerma in which
individuals were buried with bows and arrows next to their bodies.
Other goods included sandals, leather caps, ostrich feathers, and
loincloths and cotton kilts.
Large numbers of sacrificed humans and animals were found in royal
graves. In 1923 George Reisner, the first archeologist to excavate
at Kerma, uncovered a tumulus containing sacrificed human bodies.2
The scarified bodies were placed in opened roof mud brick corridors
that ran along the middle of the tumuli structures before the latter
were filled with earth. The sacrificed individuals are likely to
have been servants and/or slaves to the burials' original owners. The
Kushites believed in an afterlife, where the gods would sometimes
require the deceased to do hard labor. Thus, sacrificing servants
and slaves was considered a way for helping the deceased do this
Edited: Jan. 2009.