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The Nubian fortresses

The Middle Kingdom fortresses near the Second Cataract were built at Buhen, Kor, Dorginarti, Mirgissa, Dabenarti, Askut, Shelfak, Uronarti, Semna, Semna South and Kumma. They were mainly sited on the West Bank of the Nile or on islands by the cataracts. This suggests that the main overland threat was from the east. Some fortresses were founded by Senusret I and Senusret II, but the majority were built by Senusret III. Papyrus dispatches of the time report the slightest movements within the area, and one lists 13 fortresses between Elephantine (Aswan) and Semna. Seven of these were located along the Second Cataract in strategic positions, and all were built with thick mud-brick walls

 The Nubian fortress of Buhen located 250 km south of Aswan in Lower-Egypt. The remain of this fortress were discovered in 1819 but the most important excavations date from this century. Just like lots of other Egyptian fortresses, the Buhen fortress lies now under the water of the new Nasser lake which was artificially created with the Aswan Dam.
The eight or more second cataract fortresses extend for some 60km along the River Nile from Buhen in the north to Semna in the south, each fortress being in visual contact with its neighbours. They were built during the 12th Dynasty, reaching their final form during the reign of Senusret III (Trigger 1976, 68). The enclosure wall of each fort was massive, constructed of mud brick and strengthened with timbers both along its length and through it. The fortresses vary in size and shape depending on their location, some having in addition a broad outer ditch protected by loopholed ramparts, and an external glacis. They could be easily defended by a small number of soldiers and were effectively impregnable.
The largest forts could have accommodated only some 300 soldiers and their families, which is fewer than would be needed to fully defend the walls.
Professor Bryan Emery and his team worked for several years at Buhen for the Egyptian Exploration Society. They found that there was a double line of defence; soldiers manning the outer defences were protected by a mud brick breastwork with towers at intervals. There were two rows of loopholes along these defences so that each archer had a choice of 6 slits, giving good all round protection against any enemy crossing the steeply walled ditch. In the unlikely event that this outer wall was overrun, the higher bastioned wall towered above them, and soldiers could rain all manner of objects down upon them. There were only two entrances to the fortress: an easily defended water-gate on the quayside and a narrow gate flanked by towers on the western side. Even this gate was approached by a drawbridge over the moat, which could be drawn back on rollers into the gateway when danger was imminent .The fortress at Buhen seems to have existed in year 5 of Senusret I, and Aniba (stage II) and Kubban (stage II) have similar architectural features. Stage I of Aniba, Kubban and Ikkur predate Senusretís fortress at Buhen

 
 

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