Transportation across the Nile was only possible through the areas between
the six cataracts. The flow of the river in cataract zones is interrupted by rocky heights. Rock drawings at Sabu (Sudan)
depict groups of rowing boats being steered with, as many as 22
oars.1 These drawing have been dated to, approximately,
the 3rd-2nd millennia BC period.
Also, in Kerma, are several wall paintings of boats associated
with fishing activities.2 One of these paintings depicts
twelve men aboard a boat. One of the men holds a net waiting for
a catch. Below the boat are twelve fishes and two crocodiles.
These drawings and paintings make it certain that the inhabitants
regularly used boats for fishing and, obviously, transportation.
Rock art from Sabo showing a boat.
Donkeys are the oldest means of transportation known in Sudan.
The use of donkeys continued in Sudan even after the
domestication of horses. They were used for short distant travel, such as for pulling coffins. A relief from the temple
of Amon at Sanam, depicts donkeys, or perhaps mules, pulling three
to six wheel vehicles.3
An Egyptian wall painting from the tomb of Tutankhamun at Thebes
depicts a Kushite princess and her servants facing Tutankhamun and
aboard an oxen-chariot. On the coffin of Sebni, an Egyptian administrator
who lived during the reign of Egypt’s Sixth Dynasty, is an inscription about a Kuhsite "caravan."4 Thus,
both oxen and donkey-caravans were used for long-distance
transportation since the very early days of the Kushite civilization.
Relief of Egyptians presenting horses as tribute to Piankhy
from the Amon Temple, Jebel Barkal.
Relief of a donkey Caravan from the temple of Amon at Sanam
dating to the Meroitic period.
Historians commonly agree that horses were introduced
to Kush sometime during the Hyksos rule of Egypt (1720-1550 BC).5
However, an inscription from the Egyptian temple of Hatchepsut at Dier
El Bahr, dating to the fifteenth century BC, mentions something
about a horse that had been brought to Egypt from the land of the
Punt,6 i.e. the region encompassing Eastern Sudan and Eriteria. This inscription has undermined what historicans previously thought; the presence of horses in Africa may predate the Hyksos' invasion of Egypt:
"These, as they wend their way towards the ships,
are accompanied by natives of Punt, some carrying large logs of
ebony, others leading apes, and one a giraffe. In one place where
there is a great gap in the wall, the remains of the inscription
show that an elephant and a horse were among the animals embarked
from Punt for the gratification of Hatasu."7
Starting from the sixth century, Kushite pharaohs started to extensively
domesticate horses. Horses may have been considered sacred since
the Kushite pharaohs of the Napatan period were often found buried together with their horses.
However, unlike the Egyptians, the Kushites preferred to ride directly
on top of horses rather than to use chariots or oxen.
Figural lamb of camel. Meroitic. Source: Wildung, Dietrich. Sudan:
Ancient Kingdoms of the Nile.
The Kushite pharaoh Piankhy was noted for his love of horses.8
On his stele at Jebel Barkal, it is written that after he has conquered
the city of Hermopolis, he headed to the royal stables to check
the condition of horses.9 Piankhy was
enraged when he saw the terrible situation under which the Egyptians have kept
In the fifth century BC, the Persians brought the camel to Sudan.
Unlike horses, camels are noted for their ability to endure the harsh
desert environments and they are also capable of carrying heavy
imports for long distance travels. However, the Kushites did not
tame the camels as much as the Nobatians, i.e. the desert
Nomads who occupied North Sudan starting from around the third century CE.10 At their
royal graves, the Nobatians extensively slaughtered and buried camels
along with their owners.11
Edited: Jan. 2009.