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Cultural Continuity and Change in the Wake of Ancient Nubian-Egyptian Interactions

  • Author(s): Akmenkalns, Jessika Louise Groth
  • Advisor(s): Smith, Stuart T
  • et al.
Abstract

Through the analysis of multiple lines of archaeological evidence, this dissertation examines the ways in which cultural identities are constructed, negotiated, and maintained in contexts of intercultural interaction and colonialism. Specifically, these processes are addressed within the Kerma period (ca. 2500-1500 BC) and the Egyptian New Kingdom (ca. 1500-1070 BC) in ancient Nubia. The sites that form the basis of this dissertation, Hannek and Abu Fatima, are located near the Third Cataract of the Nile River in what is now northern Sudan. Hannek, a settlement, was occupied during the later part of the Kerma period and into the New Kingdom. Abu Fatima, a cemetery, was in use throughout the entirety of the Kerma period, with evidence to date suggesting that its use was discontinued with the Egyptian conquest. Both sites were located within the hinterlands of the Kerma state. While substantial research has been, and continues to be, conducted at the large central polities of Kerma and Sai Island, far less work has been done in what would have been rural villages that were part of the Kerma domain. This dissertation thus contributes to an understanding of how the lived experiences of hinterland populations had lasting impacts on the ways that these groups conceptualized and expressed their cultural identities. In addition, this research underscores the importance of addressing such questions at the community level rather than simply at a larger regional level.

The settlement at Hannek and the cemetery at Abu Fatima were systematically excavated during the 2015 and 2016 archaeological field seasons. Excavations were concluded at Hannek in 2016, while work remains ongoing at Abu Fatima. During the course of these field projects, architectural remains, construction techniques, and burial styles were documented at each site wherever present and site plans were drawn. In addition, multiple categories of artifactual evidence were collected from both sites, including ceramics, flaked stone tools, archaeofaunal and archaeobotanical remains, radiocarbon samples, and personal accouterments such as jewelry, clothing, grave goods, and other accessory items. These assemblages were then subjected to preliminary analysis and conservation techniques at the field laboratory in Sudan, followed by further quantitative, qualitative, and archaeometric analyses at various laboratories in the United States.

A strong adherence to Kerma traditions was noted at both Hannek and Abu Fatima, from the earliest part of the Kerma period and, in Hannek’s case, through to the florescence of Egyptian colonialism in the region. Despite this overarching trend, however, the evidence indicates that these communities were consuming a small set of objects imported from Egypt. These objects became incorporated into existing Kerma-style practices within these rural villages. These findings suggest that Egyptian goods were selectively imported either because they had become culturally relevant within the Kerma social and cultural milieu over time, or because they afforded their owners with some degree of social capital by virtue of their association with foreign traditions. These results stand in contrast to the patterns previously documented at Kerma urban centers, and indeed at other hinterland sites that have been investigated to date, where the onset of Egyptian colonialism corresponds with the disappearance of Kerma material culture from the archaeological record. For this reason, it is suggested that individual Kerma communities experienced disparate effects of Nubian-Egyptian interaction throughout the Nubian Bronze Age and beyond.

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