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Excavations at Kerma

G.A.Reisner excavated various tumuli containing graves with hundreds of skeletons and a great variety of objects. Today, Kerma is not regarded as a mere Egyptian trading post dating back to about 2000 BC, but as the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Kush.

The body of objects yielded by the excavations at Kerma forms an archaeological group which is definitely connected on the one side with the group of the Egyptian Middle Kingdom, and on the other more loosely with the Nubian group of the same period. But in itself, the group from Kerma is unique. The peculiar character of the products of the arts and crafts found in the graves is to be explained naturally and simply by the character and geographical situation of the community. It was an armed administrative and trading colony established by the king of Egypt to secure the use of the southern roads, and consisted originally of the personal and official household of the first viceroy, probably Prince Hebzefa of Assiut. This household was a complete, self-contained body of officials, workers, and craftsmen, sufficient for all the ordinary needs of such a community, just as were the households of the great nomarchs in Egypt. The Egyptian craftsmen, brought as trained and finished workman into this isolated place and removed from the usual raw materials of their craft, sought out eagerly the sources of supply available in the province and examined with great curiosity the materials, methods, and products of the local craftsmen The local crafts were, of course, much more primitive than those of Egypt, but the black-topped, red-polished pottery, which constituted the dominating feature of the Nubian archaeological group, must have appealed to the Egyptian taste and appears to have influenced the work of the Egyptians more perhaps than any other one element in the local environment. They took up this local craft and applying to it the use of the wheel and Egyptian skill, created a body of pottery unequalled in antiquity previous to the use of fine paste in Greek pottery. One or two other crafts, leather-working and the cutting of mica insects, were adopted, but except for the application of Egyptian forms to the mica decorations, these appear to have been little improved. The Egyptian crafts, clinging stubbornly to Egyptian traditions, were affected by the new materials offered and by the new demands made on them. The new demands were occasioned: (a) by the introduction of new funeral customs (beds, etc.); (b) by new conditions of climate (water-containers, drinkin vessels, sandals, etc.); (c) by the requirements of the southern trade (glazed beads etc.). Over and above these material effects of the environment of the colony, traces may be noted of the utilization of animal and other forms suggested to the Egyptian craftsmen by the new world in which they were set.
The archaeological group of Kerma is a new and most striking illustration of the powers of the Egyptian - his stubborn adherence to tradition, his response to the stimulus of new conditions, his ready use of new materials, and his ability to apply an unequalled technical skill to the creation of new forms. The curious collection of objects, neither Egyptian nor Nubian, used by the Egyptian colony at Inebuw-Amenemhat, amplifies and completes our insight into the genius of the race which created the great monuments of Memphis and Thebes.

Reisner, George A.
Excavations at Kerma
Vol II, Cambridge, Mass. 1924

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