Kumma (Nubia)

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Map of the fortifications of Semna and Kumma

Together with Semna, Kumma formed a fortification of ancient Egypt in Nubia and is located in what is now Sudan . Kumma was together with Semna and Semna-Süd by Sesostris III. built and served to protect the larger fortress of Semna, where the border controls between ancient Egypt and the southern areas took place. The Kumma fortress was about 365 kilometers south of Aswan and 35 kilometers southwest of the second Nile cataract on the eastern bank of the Nile . On the other side of the Nile was Semna. Both places are flooded by Lake Nubia today because of the Aswan Dam . The Temple of Khnum was saved from the flood and rebuilt in the Sudan National Museum .

Nile level measurements

Nilstand marks

In Kumma there was a temple, the Khnum , Sesostris III. and dedicated to Dedwen . On the bank of the Nile there were 16 Nilstand brands below the fortress, which marked the end of the Middle Kingdom of Amenemhet III. as well as Amenemhet IV. and Nofrusobek had it placed there. The marked heights of the Nile flood led to controversial discussions with regard to the water levels in Egyptology , since the conversion of the Nile levels for a period of 61 years of government with regard to the Nilometers in Elephantine , Karnak , Per Hapi and Memphis resulted in unrealizable water levels of well over 33  cubits from Elephantine surrender.

In this context, the difference in the Nile flood amplitudes is striking , which, according to the data in Kumma, was around 50% below the values ​​in Aswan . In practice, this meant that the minimum and maximum heights of the Nile in Kumma showed significantly lower fluctuation ranges compared to the comparative values ​​documented in ancient Egypt.

Interpretations of the reasons why only certain years were noted can only be assessed as speculation due to the lack of evidence. For example, the argument that only high Nile levels were recorded is not tenable, since it has been proven that normal Nile flood events were also recorded in other epochs. What is striking, however, is the finding with regard to the heights of the Nile, which only in this recording period were up to eight meters above the level of the 19th century and thus up to ten meters above the comparative values ​​of Ancient Egypt. The maximum values ​​of the water levels fell in the later reign of Amenemhet III.

Nile Heights

The values, which are excessive compared to the other brands, roughly correspond to the measurement ratios of Askut and Mirgissa , taking into account a slightly lower height . Exceeding 155 meters above sea level seems to have been decisive as at least one criterion for affixing the Nile flood marks, as the lowest altitude in the 40th year of the reign of Amenemhet III. with a water level of “+ 0.5 meters”. What is remarkable in this context is the lower building limit of the surrounding settlements of about 149 meters above sea level, which was observed in these regions in the Middle Kingdom, which was thus significantly several meters below the excessive measured values ​​of the Nile marks and about four to five meters above the Nile levels of other periods.

However, horizons of destruction by flooding the affected settlements could not be detected. A flooding of the settlements due to an above-average Nile flood with a height of 155 meters could be documented for the place Mirgissa at the end of the Middle Kingdom, but cannot be directly assigned to the water levels of the Nile level marks listed here. It is therefore unlikely that the information provided by the Nile brands were particularly high Nile floods, especially since in no other epoch has there been evidence of an accumulation of the extremely high water levels mentioned here - on average every 200 years.

Nile heights (measuring heights based on sea level)
No. year Nile brands Low tide Low tide of the Nile Middle flood of the Nile High tide of the Nile
1 1852 BC Chr. 157.7 meters --- --- --- ---
2 1848 BC Chr. 156.1 meters --- --- --- ---
3 1846 BC Chr. 157.3 meters --- --- --- ---
4th 1839 BC Chr. 156.7 meters --- --- --- ---
5 1831 BC Chr. 157.4 meters --- --- --- ---
6th 1830 BC Chr. 160.3 meters --- --- --- ---
7th 1829 BC Chr. 157.8 meters --- --- --- ---
8th 1823 BC Chr. 160.5 meters --- --- --- ---
9 1822 BC Chr. 158.6 meters --- --- --- ---
10 1821 BC Chr. 159.7 meters --- --- --- ---
11 1816 BC Chr. 157.3 meters --- --- --- ---
12 1813 BC Chr. 155.4 meters --- --- --- ---
13 1812 BC Chr. 156.1 meters --- --- --- ---
14th 1810 BC Chr. 157.3 meters --- --- --- ---
15th 1794 BC Chr. 157.2 meters --- --- 148.75 meters
(about 24.68 cubits )
16 1791 BC Chr. 158.3 meters --- --- 148.75 meters
(about 24.68 cubits)
- 19th century --- 139.25 meters 149.89 meters 150.88 meters
(about 28.31 cubits)
152.29 meters

Sedimentation differences

Assumptions that explain the fluctuating heights of the Nile flood due to historically changed sedimentation values ​​have been refuted by archaeological drilling. Contrary to popular belief, the flood of the Nile was not automatically associated with sedimentation of the Nile mud in valley plains . Rather, variable factors such as flow velocity, flood volume, composition of the alluvial particles of the Nile and the level of the Mediterranean Sea determine whether sedimentation takes place. In particular, the changing heights of the Mediterranean cause the so-called “ thalassostatic behavior” of the Nile.

A low sea level prevents sediment from being deposited due to the higher flow velocity of the Nile; in extreme cases this factor even leads to a decrease in the sediment layers. If the sea level is high, the opposite effect occurs and there are increased deposits. According to the present investigation results, the finding emerges that the Mediterranean Sea for the period from the third millennium BC. BC until the first century AD had a low height and therefore hardly any sediment deposits took place in this epoch. The result proves that the phase of intensive landfill was around 3000 BC. BC ended. The alluvial soil level of around eight meters in the region of Kumma also shows hardly any changes compared to the depth of the deposit in the Middle Kingdom.

Climatic changes

Meteorological and climatic anomalies have not been proven for the period of the Middle Kingdom. Hydrological measures that could explain such a discrepancy in the kumma values ​​cannot be clearly proven. Barbara Bell suspects that increased amounts of precipitation in the Atbara region and the Eastern Sahara were responsible for the deviating values ​​during this period.

Studies have shown, however, that such scenarios would not have had a proportional effect on Ancient Egypt, since the associated excessive tidal waves did not reach Ancient Egypt, although the information in Kumma initially suggested this development.

Topographic location

Semna and Kumma 1842–1845, view from the west

The topographical location of Kumma was mentioned as a further possible explanation . Some Egyptologists took the view that the deviating values ​​relate to the presence of a rock threshold in the Kumma region, resulting in a jam effect. In later times, this additional obstacle was reduced by erosion , which would have resulted in less backwater. On closer inspection, this assumption also proves to be untenable in connection with the "erosion effect".

George Andrew Reisner put forward the hypothesis of collapsing rock formations in the Semna and Kumma region. Archaeological campaigns confirm Reisner's theory that a rock wall actually collapsed in the cataract area between the Middle Kingdom and the New Kingdom . Similar occurrences during the construction of the Aswan Dam show changes in the flood heights with even slight deviations in the river bed. Nevertheless, Reisner's explanatory scenario is sometimes judged to be unconvincing overall.

Time of the Nile flood

On a stele that dates back to the 23rd year of the reign of Amenemhet III. dated, the highest water level is given for the 23rd Schemu IV . There is also a Nilstands stamp from Semna for the same year. If the information on the stele relates to Kumma, the Nile reached its highest level by converting the information from the ancient Egyptian calendar to Kumma at the end of October . From Kumma, the tidal wave needs about four days to reach the Nilometer in Elephantine ; from there about another nine days to the Memphis region . As a result, this means that the highest water level in Memphis would have occurred on New Year's Day 1st Achet I (mid- November ) and the lowering of the Nile flood would have started at the end of November. Such a delayed Nile flood is otherwise documented throughout ancient Egyptian history and in no other records up to the present. The context of origin and the topographical level of the stele are also unknown.

Christian Leitz names two examples of extremely delayed Nile floods due to very rare weather conditions that occurred in the 19th century. In 1851 , the Nile fell in the Memphis / Cairo region from August 25 to September 5 by almost a meter before a second tidal wave set in, reaching its maximum after about 14 days at the end of September. Four years later, during the flood of the Nile, the water level only fell by an extraordinary 150 centimeters from September 10th, before the second tidal wave followed. The maximum of the Nile flood occurred around 16 days later in mid-October compared to 1851.

Possible construction of a dam

The argument put forward several times by Jean Vercoutter , most recently in 1994, is based on the construction of a dam, which under Sesostris III. and Amenemhet III. was built on the rock threshold at Kumma and caused a damming of the Nile floods. That of Sesostris III. and Amenemhet III. The Nubia project, which aimed to improve the navigability of the Nile section above Semna, could provide a possible reason for the different data on the Nile heights. The technical possibilities to implement such a complex project were undoubtedly available.

In the reign of Amenemhet III. There is a similar project which, by regulating the water supply in the “ Moeris Lake ”, concluded with the addition of new areas for agriculture . The Nile measurements themselves, which only began with the reign of Amenemhet III, are considered to be a further indication of the construction of a dam. name those deviating values ​​of the Nile flood heights. A historical-archaeological proof is missing so far, which is why no final assessment of this assumption is possible.


  • Dows Dunham , Jozef MA Janssen (Ed.): Semna, Kumma (= Second Cataract Continuation. Vol. 1). Excavated by George Andrew Reisner. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston MA 1960.
  • Fritz Hintze, Walter F. Reineke : Rock inscriptions from the Sudanese Nubia (= publication of the Nubia expedition 1961–1963. Vol. 1). 2 volumes (texts and tables). Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 1989, ISBN 3-05-000369-3 , pp. 98-102.
  • Stephan Johannes Seidlmayer : Historical and modern Nile stands. Investigations on the level readings of the Nile from the early days to the present (= Achet - Schriften zur Ägyptologie. A, Bd. 1). Achet-Verlag, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-9803730-8-8 , pp. 73-80.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Stephan Seidlmayer: Historic and modern Nile stands. 2001, p. 76.
  2. a b Stephan Seidlmayer: Historical and modern Nile stands. 2001, p. 74.
  3. Amenemhet III's first year of reign.
  4. 40th year of the reign of Amenemhet III.
  5. 43rd year of Amenemhet III's reign.
  6. Seventh year of Amenemhet IV's reign.
  7. a b c The converted cubit value is based on the cubic measure system of the Elephantine region .
  8. ^ Third year of Nofrusobek's reign.

Coordinates: 21 ° 30 '  N , 30 ° 58'  E