We had the pleasure of attending Professor Charles Bonnet’s lecture titled “Kerma: Sudan’s Oldest Kingdom?” at the National Museum on February 8th. The room was at full capacity and the audience was mixed; families, professors, expats and youth. Prof. Bonnet was amused by the turn out, noting that after 50 years of hard work, the essence of his work is finally coming to fruition; “we work with the dead, but we have to be with the living”. And the living were there, silently enthralled throughout the beautiful selection of photos and interesting anecdotes Prof. Bonnet shared within the hour.
Here are the 7 cool facts about the Kingdom of Kerma:
1- The Kingdom of Kerma (also known as Dukki Gel) is thought to be 1500 km along the Nile valley. Village communities prospered on agriculture, pastoralism and gold processing.
Distant explorations as far as Abu Hamed have been made; where archeologists unraveled buildings and artifacts that resembled the main site of the Kerma Kingdom.
2- American archeologist George A. Reisner worked in Egypt and Sudan between 1907 and 1932, on a joint appointment by Harvard University and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. He established that Kerma sites in Sudan were merely satellite sites for the ancient Egyptians. Years later, after diligent work and patience, Prof. Bonnet refuted Reisner’s research, proving that Kerma was an independent, enormous, far reaching, urban center and burial grounds for the Kings of Kush.
3- The Kerma site and museum had more than 25,000 visitors since it opened in 2008.
The museum is near the famous Western Defuffa (Temple designed in the typical Nubian architecture and built from mud brick). The site is attracting a wide range of people, curious to see the meticulously unearthed structures that stood the test of time and inform of a past, lost but not forgotten.
4- It is thought that the kings of Kerma were incredibly powerful, and held strong coalitions with the kings of Kurdufan (South), Darfur (West), Kasala and Punt (East) to protect against Egyptian invasion.
Nonetheless, cemeteries and artifacts on both Nubian and Egyptian sides suggest that there were times of peace when people moved, lived and traded freely.
5- When Kings passed away, food, jewelry, pottery, furniture as well as humans were sacrificed with them to the afterlife.
The deceased were laid atop a distinct traditional Kerma bed that resembles today’s Angaraib, then placed inside a burial chamber.
6- Kerma artifacts can be found as far as the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Musée du Louvre in Paris, among others.
7- A man from the audience asked an important question; “why do civilizations perish?”
Prof. Bonnet’s answer reflected his background as someone who spent a significant part of his life studying different aspects of ancient history, while living through different global crisis. He noted; “man can be megalomaniac when he is powerful, so he kills and plunders. But it is our role as archeologists to uncover the secrets of the past and relay them to the living to learn from our predecessors and not repeat their mistakes and meet their peril”.
Have you been to the lecture series in Khartoum or to the site or museum? Tell us what you think.