Doukki Gel,
from the Egyptian conquest of Kouch by Thoutmosis 1st
to the méroïtique kingdom

Doukki Gel en 2010 © B.-N. Chagny. Mission suisse-franco-soudanaise de Kerma-Doukki Gel




The excavations started with the setting at the day with Salah el-Din Mohamed Ahmed of the vestiges of a palace meroitic in the northern part of the concession, then by the release of the levels meroitic and napatéens of two temples located at the south-east of the palace and their appendices. The continuation of the release of the sector of the temples gradually led to a series of important discoveries, then above suspicion.

The first that of a large number of talatats was employed again in the ground of the Eastern temple napatéen, but also of talatats still in place on the foundations of the close temple. This discovery made of Doukki Gel the southernmost witness of architecture amarnienne, in spite of the name “Gematon” of Kawa. Moreover, it is one of the only known temples amarniens where one has at the same time of the plan and part of the decoration, mainly composed of large scenes of royal offerings rather attested in the tombs of the high officials of Amarna that in the reconstituted elements of the walls of contemporary temples.
The release of the temples napatéens was also the occasion of second discovered. An inviolate hiding-place, located between the two temples, contained about forty fragments coming from seven superb granite monumental statues of five sovereigns: the last two kings of XXVe dynasty — Taharqa and Tanoutamon — and their successors napatéens except for Atlanersa — Senkamanisken, Anlamani and Aspelta — as well as many plaster fragments and gold sheets which recovered them.

The coincidence of the sequence of sovereigns present here as in the hiding-places of Gebel Barkal and of Dangeil now makes it possible to associate the destruction of these statues with the military countryside of year 3 of Psammétique II. These statues also contributed to reveal the name of the site: Pa-nébès, “The-jujube tree”. The setting at the day of seven fragments of a stele of the year 3d’ Aspelta, written one month and twenty days after that of Sanam, mentioning the arrival of a delegation, partially made up of the same high officials, sent to the temple of Amon of Pa-nébès by the king contributed still to clarify this key period of the history of Sudan and provided interesting information on the proto-meroitic language.

Stèle de l’an 3 d’Aspelta, Douki Gel © Mission suisse-franco-soudanaise de Kerma-Doukki Gel


The exploration of the former levels was facilitated by the state of destruction that each one of them knew successively. Indeed, for political reasons, nuns and of material shortage, the elements out of sandstone of each temple were used as career with the following, thus destroying most of the decorations, whereas the principle of the re-employment of the blocks which generally prevails in Egypt very often preserved the decorations of the previous buildings. Nevertheless the ménénou — royal foundation strengthened in annexed territory, intended to exploit the available resources of them and to promote the Egyptian monarchical ideology there — built at this place by Thoutmosis 1st following its victorious countryside was primarily built out of bricks raw.
While the excavations delivered nearly 1200 decorated blocks and fragments pertaining to all the periods, of Thoutmosides in Méroïtiques, the archaeological study of the temples, ceremonial, complex palaces of storage, workshops, etc and of defenses of the city provided major information on the Egyptian architecture of the beginning of the 18th dynasty and licence to reconstitute the revealing history of this establishment raised on the flush vestiges of an astonishing ceremonial city former to the conquest, which constitutes the fourth and undoubtedly most extraordinary of the discoveries occurred on the site of Doukki Gel.

The ménénou thoutmoside

The ménénou of Thoutmosis 1st comprised two entries strongly strengthened in north. One of it, face at the entrance of central temple, is prolonged by an astonishing hypostyle room of six lines of twenty-two columns to the entry of the central temple. Two temples surrounded by peripteral gantries were initially high in the center and the west. A third temple was then added immediately east of two first. Its sanctuary was equipped with a circular furnace bridge. The former part of this third temple is covered today by the vestiges napato-meroitic which were the object of one restoration at the request of the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museum and thus almost unknown.

Les trois temples © B.-N. Chagny. Mission suisse-franco-soudanaise de Kerma-Doukki Gel

A high ceremonial palace in the North-East, comprising a room equipped with a semicircular throne preceded by a table by offering surmounted by a platform, device directly inspired of the “African” monuments of the site, into force shows the co-education of the architectural models on the site and the recognition of the local rites which the presence of temples and circular palaces in the vicinity immediate confirms this northern palace. A second ceremonial palace was set up in the south of the three temples.
Undoubtedly as of the end of the reign of Thoutmosis 1st, the city was taken again and shaven by united forces, as brings it back the stele of year 1 of Thoutmosis II engraved on a rock of the road leading of Aswan to Philae. The king immediately sent an army to take again High Nubie and to rebuild the ménénou of his father, destroyed by the rebels. Several texts however let suppose that other military forwardings were necessary under the reign of Hatchepsout so that Egypt is again main old country of Kouch. They is thus overall reigns of Thoutmosis II and Hatchepsout which can be dated the reconstruction from the temples — by several fragments of the decoration of the Western temple, sealed by a posterior vault — and north-eastern ceremonial palace. The will to remake about with identical constructions of Thoutmosis 1st is obvious. Nevertheless, like elsewhere in the valley of the Nile, the preoccupation with a going beyond results in the introduction of the stone into the door frames, the gantries peripteral and the pillars of the hypostyle rooms of the three temples, while columns of the hypostyle room which joins together one of the strengthened doors of the ménénou at the entrance of central temple are rebuilt out of believed bricks, but smaller and more: ten lines of thirty.

Entrée fortifiée, hypostyle menant au temple central ; à l’est, palais africain antérieur à la conquête de Thoutmosis Ier © B.-N. Chagny. Mission suisse-franco-soudanaise de Kerma-Doukki Gel

The Western temple, dedicated to Amon de Pnoubs, comprises a particular pertaining to worship device in relation to water. A staircase leads hypostyle room to the lower part of a well located immediately at the south of the building. Moreover, a room on the ground bleached with lime contained many pertaining to worship testimonies: protomé of ram, crowned stick of Amon and steles of individuals.
As of the accession of Thoutmosis III with the power however, the central temple of its predecessors is destroyed and widened, making disappear definitively the major part of the Western temple, except for the two septentrional spans, which are undoubtedly saved by respect towards Thoutmosis I, and which seem at the origin of the later creation of a transverse vault on this site. Again, only the doors and the pillars of the hypostyle room of the central temple are out of stone. One of the bases preserved watch which the pillars were a little broader than the precedents. Among the fragments of decoration collected, an incomplete cartouche carved on a stile ensures the date of the building.
Reign of Amenhotep II, only a fragmentary lintel of door was found employed again in the threshold of a door napatéenne. It is thus difficult to determine the share which it could take with the construction of the temples but, like elsewhere in Egypt and Nubie he does not seem to have modified the architecture of the buildings considerably. However of many sealings in the name of this sovereign, collected in a dump, ensure the existence of economic activities under its reign.

Bloc du fond du sanctuaire de Thoutmosis IV © Mission Suisse-franco-soudanaise de Kerma-Doukki Gel

It is under the reign of Thoutmosis IV that a tripartite a stone pronaos and sanctuary come to replace the posterior part out of brick from the central temple of Thoutmosis III. Three of the deposits of foundation in the name of the king were discovered with the angles of this construction. Nevertheless the back wall of the hypostyle room, which forms the frontage of the pronaos remains out of believed brick, as show it its foundations. The discovery of a block belonging obviously to the bottom of the sanctuary designates Amon de Karnak and Nubian Amon as Masters of the central temple.

Doukki Gel at the times amarnienne and ramesside

Curiously, only one block ascribable to the reign of Amenhotep III was found. It is the time amarnienne which marked the site deeply, in two times: the representations and the name of Amon initially were systematically hammered on all the monuments still upright; then those were used as career for the size of talatats which were found in great number. Some of those which belonged to the low parts of the new central temple are still places from there on the blocks of foundation of the sanctuary of Thoutmosis IV and the former parts of the temple going back to Thoutmosis III.

Few vestiges decoration temples at the time ramesside are preserved to us. But the buildings continue to be occupied and transformed until XXVe dynasty, in particular under the reign of Chabaka, for the period napatéenne, like under the empire meroitic.
As of the foundation of the ménénou, a religious district with the architectural characteristics — circular buildings with buttresses rounded and corridors of entry — different not only from the Egyptian models, but also from the monuments present in the city close to Kerma, was put at the day in the vicinity immediate of the north-eastern ceremonial palace. It shows integration with the ménénou of place of pilot African worships of a still unknown culture. These monuments will be rebuilt until the time napatéenne.

Talatat : partie inférieure du disque solaire et ses rayons © Mission suisse-franco-soudanaise de Kerma-Doukki Gel

Doukki Gel before the Egyptian conquest

The release of the ménénou of Thoutmosis 1st revealed the existence of an immediately former level, flush at the time of the Egyptian foundation. It is the discovery of several vast circular or ovoid ceremonial palaces, equipped with framed doors of round towers, with the roofs supported by several hundreds of free columns leaving alleys which led to thrones preceded by tables of offering surmounted by platform. Relative stratigraphy and the ceramics shards indicate that these buildings are contemporary end of Classical Kerma and whole beginning of the New Empire.

The coexistence of several of these original buildings, laid out on the circumference of an interior enclosure which seems to have delimited the crowned part of the urban area, with less than one kilometer of the town of Kerma, suggests that they are a ceremonial city “African” created in relation to the coalitions between the country Kouch and other southernmost kingdoms against the attacks repeated Egypt.

The fortifications of the ceremonial city of Classical Kerma

One of the originalities of the site at the Kerma period resides in its defensive system made up of two successive strengthened enclosures.
The first fortification is a raw brick wall of 5.50 m to 6.00 m thickness reinforced on these two facings by a series of semicircular buttresses coupled. This masonry protects the urban core where were primarily put at the day of constructions at religious vocation and the two principal wells which will be used during all the occupation of the site, until the meroitic time.
The enclosure has several doors of which the structures at that time appear characteristic of architecture of use in the ceremonial city. Each door, of an average width of 0.75 m to 2 m, is marked by a ground threshold and is flanked of two circular towers whose diameters vary from 5 m with 14 Mr. These towers control can have different morphologies: on the one hand a solid brickwork made up with brick lines laid out in concentric circles and consolidated in periphery by pieces of wood inserted in the mass, on the one hand a hollow structure characterized by a peripheral wall delimiting a central space in which were installed very particular supports. Made raw ground masses round and indurated, they present negative establishment of a vertical beam out of wooden. Such devices were used to also maintain a platform raised, accessible by a staircase out of wooden.

Tour de l’une des portes de l’enceinte intérieure © Mission suisse-franco-soudanaise de Kerma-Doukki Gel

The influence of the external enclosure only was partially put in obviousness because the vestiges were obliterated by contemporary defensive constructions of the Egyptian occupation. Nevertheless, a East-West directed wall was released in northern limit of the concession. It is flanked semicircular bastions joined and, in spite of its bad condition of safeguarding, it is possible to evaluate the thickness of the defensive whole with approximately 5 Mr. the remains of a parallel system of which only one of the doors was observed, supplement this device which delimited the space located outside the core and which was occupied by several vast buildings interpreters like ceremonial buildings.

Ceremonial palaces

Le palais A © B.-N. Chagny. Mission suisse-franco-soudanaise de Kerma-Doukki Gel

Most constructions put at the day in this intermediate zone are interpreted like ceremonial palaces. The relative chronology of the vestiges until now released made it possible to recognize several phases of successive construction and occupation. The palaces A and G among most imposing and are best preserved. Of oval plan, sometimes irregular, these buildings offer impressive dimensions since they measure 55 m respectively and 60 m length for a width of 46 m and 30 Mr. Their architecture original are marked by a thick peripheral raw brick wall reinforced by semicircular buttresses leaned with the internal and external facings. Vegetable fibre and wood the roof, built, was supported by very many columns, also out of believed bricks, whose only the bases of a diameter which can are preserved more vary from 0.80 m to 1.20 m; more than 300 columns were thus released for palace A but their full number can be estimated at 1400 if one considers the general organization of the building and the density of the vestiges observed.
Not very important spacing between the columns of these palaces did not allow an easy circulation and the routes inside the buildings were done by paved brick alleys which connected the main doors and served spaces reserved for the ceremonies and the deposits of offerings. The doors are completely comparable with those which one observes in the interior enclosure. They are always flanked towers full and massive, of an average diameter of 5 m to 6 m, outside reinforced by semicircular buttresses. Ground thresholds and bearings also indicate the site of the casements out of wooden.
Certain buildings built in the intermediate zone belong to a phase of older construction. Although their plan is comparable, they dissociate posterior buildings by columns at the broader bases and it should not be excluded that some of them had a different function which it still remains to define with precision.
The architecture implemented on this site, with its so specific characteristics ‒ dimensions, number and density of columns ‒ confers on the ceremonial palaces a monumental and imposing aspect noncomparable with that of the buildings with religious vocation put at the intramural day.

Places of worship

The places of worship the first religious buildings dated from the end of Classical Kerma were observed in the north-eastern angle of the space delimited by the interior enclosure.

Les temples de l’angle nord-est de la ville cérémonielle © Mission suisse-franco-soudanaise de Kerma-Doukki Gel

This district presents two buildings of oval worship of plan shouldered by powerful buttresses probably being used for contrebuter a vault. They are accompanied by a circular palace by 5.50 m diameter except work. Its wall is reinforced by external buttresses and its entry is located at the south. Interior installations (tables of offering, seats, columns supporting a platform) testify to its ritual function. This small building will be increased thereafter, giving way to a palace 15 m in diameter characterized by a crown of columns raised in the building. Two doors opened in the direction of the oval buildings southernmost. Religious space circumscribed in south-west by a wall with buttress, bastions and towers, and served in north and the North-East by two doors arranged in the angle of the enclosure.
This religious unit is remarkable by the continuity of its occupation. Indeed, it will be integrated in the Egyptian religious complex and its pertaining to worship function in link with the local rites will continue until the time napatéenne.
Another building interprets as a temple was also put at the day in the south of the northern entry of the enclosure, during the cleaning of the spaces located between masonries of the Egyptian central temple. With oval plan, by 8.75 m broad, its peripheral wall 16 m length is equipped with buttresses, as well on its interior facing as external. If the internal fitting of the building remains inaccessible because of in situ conservation of later constructions, the releases led to the west indicate that the building underwent several phases of repair of its external reinforcements.

Extension of the concession towards north, future prospect…

Since 2016, the occasion was given to the mission of extending its work north of the concession, in a sector occupied by agricultural lands still not explored. The results of the prospections geophysics and the first interventions of surface considerably renewed our knowledge of the site for the contemporary periods of the end of Kerma, Egyptian colonization and the later occupations, in particular napatéenne.

L’extension nord de la concession de fouille © B.-N. Chagny. Mission suisse-franco-soudanaise de Kerma-Doukki Gel

An impressive system of fortification seems, as of Classical Kerma, to come to supplement the defensive organization already observed in the concession. Alignments of tower-bastions coupled are built according to a North-South axis in the sector which will see, under Thoutmosis 1st, the construction of an immense outer door several times refitted and increased under the reigns of Thoutmosis II and Hatchepsout.
These monumental installations mark undoubtedly one of the principal accesses to the ceremonial city. If most of the vestiges of the Kerma period still remain to be discovered and with better understanding, there is not any doubt that the objective of the Egyptian conquerors, by building such outer doors crushing Kerma constructions, were to show their power and to sit their power vis-a-vis the Nubian and African enemies.
The recent discovery of two large circular buildings east of this septentrional entry will have to still bring a new lighting on the space organization of the city. These powerful constructions 13 m and 22 m in diameter, for the time being, are interpreted like pertaining to worship buildings in comparison with the temples known intramurally.

Le temple oriental de l’extension nord © B.-N. Chagny. Mission suisse-franco-soudanaise de Kerma-Doukki Gel

Probably built during the period Kerma, the excavation of the building built more in the east made it possible to put at the day a state the napato-meroitic period which attests the long life of use of these constructions. A third similar building was also recognized by a geomagnetic prospection north of the door.
The situation of these buildings outside the enclosures indicates that the site extended largely towards north and is, and asks the question of the function and the statute of these sectors external to the city for the various periods of occupation of the site.
Work to come will without any doubt make it possible to clarify these questions and to provide more information about the influence of the kingdom of Kerma and its links with its powerful African neighbors.

Dominique Valbelle and Séverine Marchi