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Middle Kingdom Gold Mining in Nubia
Unformatted Document Text:  The remains of ancient Egyptian material culture emphasize the ritual and economic significance of gold ore. Associated with the physical aspects of the gods, the ritual significance of gold also appears in many aspects of Egyptian socio-political life. While extant material culture demonstrates a New Kingdom fluorescence in its use, recent field surveys have revealed evidence for Egyptian gold mining as early as the Predynastic Period. Given the energy expended to guarantee a continuous supply, we know comparatively little about the mechanics of the gold mining industry. Variable preservation restricts current knowledge to time periods and geographic areas yielding plentiful remains, hence our poor understanding of Middle Kingdom Nubian gold mining. Traditionally, material from the Wadi Hammamat and New Kingdom Nubia has aided in the formation of hypotheses on the industry, despite these data sources being temporally and geographically divorced from Middle Kingdom Nubia. However, other sources of information may allow one to achieve a more cohesive understanding of Middle Kingdom gold mining in a specifically Nubian context. The amethyst-mining site of Wadi el-Hudi enhances our understanding of the Middle Kingdom mining workforce, the management of this workforce, and changes in these aspects of the mining expedition from the 11 th to 12 th dynasties. A reinterpretation of the Wadi el-Hudi inscriptions, highlighting the presence of the title imy-ra iaAw, supports the hypothesis of a Nubian workforce. During both the 11 th and 12 th dynasties the labourers appears to have been managed by an imy-ra iaAw, “Overseer of Egyptianized Nubians”, and are variously described as Nubian warriors in the 11 th dynasty, and Nubian servants in the 12 th dynasty. Bell has shown that the term iaAw could refer either to fully Egyptianized Nubians or to those routinely employed in Egyptian service, and from the 6 th dynasty the imy-ra iaAw could be responsible for contingents of all manner of nHsy- Nubians. Wadi Allaqi inscriptions and Middle Kingdom texts support this interpretation of the mining workforce for the gold mining industry. The12th dynasty shift in Egyptian attitudes, evident in terminology and in the composition of the Egyptian expeditionary force, reflect a change in policy regarding Egyptian control of mining regions. The 12 th dynasty building program substantiates this shift with the construction of a specialized infrastructure to monitor traffic to and from the Nubian Eastern Desert mining regions. Of the five Nile fortresses built in Nubia by Senwosret I - Buhen, Aniba, Quban, Ikkur, and Kor - three were situated at the Nile termini of routes leading to the mining regions of the Wadi Allaqi and Toshka. Given their proximity to the substantial fortifications at Buhen, the relative locations of Quban and Ikkur within the fortress system suggest that they functioned mainly as customs posts and supply depots for mining expeditions. Together with the simultaneous building of the Wadi el-Hudi fort in a similar architectural style, the change in Second Cataract fortress architecture indicates a more rigid Egyptian policy in Nubia as the pharaonic state attempted to regain hegemony over Eastern desert mining resources.

Authors: Brown, Marina.
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The remains of ancient Egyptian material culture emphasize the ritual and 
economic significance of gold ore. Associated with the physical aspects of the gods, the 
ritual significance of gold also appears in many aspects of Egyptian socio-political life.  
While extant material culture demonstrates a New Kingdom fluorescence in its use, 
recent field surveys have revealed evidence for Egyptian gold mining as early as the 
Predynastic Period. Given the energy expended to guarantee a continuous supply, we 
know comparatively little about the mechanics of the gold mining industry.  Variable 
preservation restricts current knowledge to time periods and geographic areas yielding 
plentiful remains, hence our poor understanding of Middle Kingdom Nubian gold 
mining.  Traditionally, material from the Wadi Hammamat and New Kingdom Nubia has 
aided in the formation of hypotheses on the industry, despite these data sources being 
temporally and geographically divorced from Middle Kingdom Nubia.  
However, other sources of information may allow one to achieve a more cohesive 
understanding of Middle Kingdom gold mining in a specifically Nubian context. The 
amethyst-mining site of Wadi el-Hudi enhances our understanding of the Middle 
Kingdom mining workforce, the management of this workforce, and changes in these 
aspects of the mining expedition from the 11
th
 to 12
th
 dynasties.  A reinterpretation of the 
Wadi el-Hudi inscriptions, highlighting the presence of the title 
imy-ra iaAw, supports the 
hypothesis of a Nubian workforce.  During both the 11
th
 and 12
th
 dynasties the labourers 
appears to have been managed by an 
imy-ra iaAw, “Overseer of Egyptianized Nubians”, 
and are variously described as Nubian warriors in the 11
th
 dynasty, and Nubian servants 
in the 12
th
 dynasty.   Bell has shown that the term 
iaAw could refer either to fully 
Egyptianized Nubians or to those routinely employed in Egyptian service, and from the 
6
th
 dynasty the 
imy-ra iaAw could be responsible for contingents of all manner of nHsy-
Nubians.  Wadi Allaqi inscriptions and Middle Kingdom texts support this interpretation 
of the mining workforce for the gold mining industry.  
The12th dynasty shift in Egyptian attitudes, evident in terminology and in the 
composition of the Egyptian expeditionary force, reflect a change in policy regarding 
Egyptian control of mining regions. The 12
th
 dynasty building program substantiates this 
shift with the construction of a specialized infrastructure to monitor traffic to and from 
the Nubian Eastern Desert mining regions.  Of the five Nile fortresses built in Nubia by 
Senwosret I - Buhen, Aniba, Quban, Ikkur, and Kor - three were situated at the Nile 
termini of routes leading to the mining regions of the Wadi Allaqi and Toshka.  Given 
their proximity to the substantial fortifications at Buhen, the relative locations of Quban 
and Ikkur within the fortress system suggest that they functioned mainly as customs posts 
and supply depots for mining expeditions. Together with the simultaneous building of the 
Wadi el-Hudi fort in a similar architectural style, the change in Second Cataract fortress 
architecture indicates a more rigid Egyptian policy in Nubia as the pharaonic state 
attempted to regain hegemony over Eastern desert mining resources.   
 


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