Egyptian colonial attempts

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

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

By 1550 BC, Egypt reasserted control over Lower Nubia. Although Kerma suffered from the destruction of invading Egyptain armies in 1500 BC, the kingdom didn't fall. The struggles between the Kushites and Egypt seem to have lasted.

Egyptian records written later, during the reign of Thutmose II, indicates that Kushite princes, probably based at Kerma, were carrying militarry attacks on Egyptian fortresses.1 In fact, recent research suggests that Kerma was not subjigated by the armies of Thutmose I as assumed by scholars.2 Archeological excavations reveal the continuation of construction activities in Kerma long after the Egyptian incrusion of 1500 BC.3 It is therefore clear that the Egyptian armies of Thutmose I, reached Kurgus, however, without subduing Kerma. There is almost no doubt that central Sudan never came under Egyptian military occupation.

In northern Sudan, the Egyptians established Soleb as the colonial administrative center.4 The Egyptian controled 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 Kushite princes.6 The main task of the Viceroy was to insure the collection of tribute; military actions were evidently rare.

Archeology also indicates that Egyptians relied more heavily on temple building as way of showcasing authority. Most of the temples, however, were not part of any sigificant settlements.7 Military actions were evidently rare. However, even the temple construction activities were often unsuccessful.

The relationship between Egypt and the independent central Sudan is not well understood. However, Egyptian chronology records occasional military clashes with southern independent states. Obviously, these states remained strong enough to prevent farther 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.

Bust of King Ramses II from Sudan. Source: Wildung, Dietrich. Sudan: Ancient Kingdoms of the Nile.

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

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

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 rose again.14

  • 1 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.
  • 2 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.
  • 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.