Visiting the ancient Kerma and Tombos

The city of Kerma extends south of the third cataract of the Nile on the east bank of the river and is the largest city between Dongola and Abri. During the Bronze Age period (3000 BC), several ancient Sudanese cultures co-existed, and one of them was the Kerma culture in Upper Nubia. Centred around the third cataract, the Kingdom of Kerma can be considered the first Kushite Kingdom (Kush is the term with which the Egyptians identified this region).

Kerma, the western Defuffa
Kerma, the western Defuffa

Unfortunately, there is no local written record of Kerma’s history; therefore, all the knowledge about it derived from archaeological finds found in this area. The most important structure of the archaeological site is the so-called western Defuffa (2 km away there’s another Defuffa, the eastern). It is a massive building made of adobe, measuring around 50 metres by 20 metres and standing out over 18 metres. The word Defuffa means in Nubian dialect a construction in mud and raw bricks. 

Kerma, the remains of the ancient city
Kerma, the remains of the ancient city

Dating from the earliest Kushite period, over 3500 years old, the Defuffa once stood at the centre of the city of Kerma. The structure was probably a building destined for administration and worship and was once surrounded by shops, public buildings and houses, in a mixed Nubian and Egyptian style. Next to the site, there’s the fascinating Kerma Museum that features seven monumental granite statues in perfect conservation. These statues represent the last two rulers of the XXV° Egyptian Dynasty, Taharqa and Tanwetamani, and three of the first king of Napata Dynasty, Senkamanisken, Anlamani and Aspelta.

Kerma, the statues in the museum
Kerma, the statues in the Kerma museum

Tombos archaeological site

Only 15 kilometres away from Kerma is Tombos, a small village close to the third cataract of the Nile. The site was an important granite quarry used by the Egyptians for the construction of statues and monuments. Here, at the edge of the small village, it is possible to see a granite statue of the Pharaoh Taharqa, abandoned here more than 2700 years ago. Not far from the statue, near the Nile river, there are large boulders where some rock carvings and a stele of Thutmose I which defined the southern borders of his reign are visible.

Tombos, the statue of King Taharqa
Tombos, the statue of King Taharqa
Tombos, the stele of Thutmose I
Tombos, the stele of Thutmose I

Need to Know about Kerma

Entrance fee: the entrance fee may vary, and we haggle with the ticket seller paying in the end 10 USD (Tombos is included in the ticket). The Museum is 10 SDG. Kerma is one of the three archaeological sites that have to be paid in US dollars ( with Meroe and Jebel Barkal). Click here for more information about Kerma archaeological sites.

Where to sleep: the best option where to sleep is Dongola, only 60 km away from Kerma. We slept at Tarhaqa Tourist Resort (70 USD the double room ). 

Where to eat: in Dongola, you’ll find some restaurants and stands in the town centre, whereas in Kerma you can stop at the local market to drink a coffee, taste the delicious local pastries and also have your lunch.

Kerma, the western Defuffa
Kerma, the western Defuffa

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