Kerma Culture in Nubia

The Kerma culture evolved out of the Neolithic around 2400 BC. The Kerman Rulers of Kush profited from the trade in luxury goods to Egyptian Pharaohs, including gold, ivory, ebony, incense, and even live animals like the giraffe shown here. By 1650 BC, the ancient site of Kerma had become a densely occupied urban center overseeing an centralized state stretching from at least the 1st to 4th Cataracts, rivaling ancient Egypt. Kerma was sacked in c. 1500 BC, when the entire region was incorporated into the Egyptian New Kingdom empire.

The New Kingdom Egyptians established colonial settlements only at Tombos and the temple town of Kawa. Some sites in our survey area had Egyptian pottery mixed with the Nubian, as you see here. The lack of fully Egyptian sites suggests that local elites were allowed a degree of cultural and political autonomy so long as precious luxury goods flowed back to Pharaoh's treasury.

These struggles are reflected in the survey area by several substantial Qasr (fortresses) and Diffi (fortified mansions). Qasr Khandaq was the oldest, going back to Christian times. Qasr Wad Nemeri was the largest, accompanied by over forty Qubbas, domed funerary monuments to important individuals and holy men or sheikhs. The fortress at el-Kab was perhaps connected to the famous Darb al-Arba'in (Forty Days Road), a key route funneling camels, slaves, and valuable trade goods into Egypt.


Egyptian wheel made pottery is crude and utilitarian in comparison with the great effort that went into producing Kerma fine wares.

Small dishes and jars may reflect Egyptian style food offerings for the benefit of the deceased, perhaps a sign Kerma cultural identity was shifting under Egyptian influence.

Pottery from the Kerma period includes delicate polished black topped red ware beakers for drinking and jars for storage. Early examples show fine lined decoration. Large storage jars were heavier, often with stamped decoration around the rim.

Stone tools were still used as a cheap substitute for copper and bronze.