The Monuments of the Kingdom of Kerma and Dokki Geil

Date of Submission: 01/02/2022
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Sudanese National Commission for Education, Science and Culture
State, Province or Region:
Northern Sudan
Coordinates: 36Q 228295.61512409 2169368.3557013 N19 36 2.89 E30 24 35.03
Ref.: 6594

The Tentative Lists of States Parties are published by the World Heritage Centre at its website and/or in working documents in order to ensure transparency, access to information and to facilitate harmonization of Tentative Lists at regional and thematic levels.

The sole responsibility for the content of each Tentative List lies with the State Party concerned. The publication of the Tentative Lists does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the World Heritage Committee or of the World Heritage Centre or of the Secretariat of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries.

Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


Kerma was the capital of the first Kingdom of Kush and its culture, holds spiritual, national and political significance that continues to resonate with the present generation of Sudanese. Around 2500BC, one of the earliest urban centres in sub-Saharan Africa developed there and it was capital of a kingdom referred to in Egyptian hieroglyphic texts as the Kingdom of Kush. The kingdom flourished between 2500 and 1500 BC and encompassed the area from the 1st to the 5th cataracts at its height. Kerma is located 45km north of the modern city of Dongola, the capital of the Northern State near the 3rd cataract. The town of Kerma is characterized by well-developed architecture which included elaborate defenses, an important religious quarter located at its heart, and countless domestic buildings, storage magazines, administrative and industrial complexes. The remains of the capital city surround the Western Deffufa. It is a large mudbrick temple, currently standing 18m high, which surrounded by the religious quarter dominates the site. It was continuously transformed over time. (Deffufa is a Nubian word meaning, a large mudbrick, man-made structure). The settlement also contains a royal audience hall, palace and was partly fortified. The audience hall was a large round mud structure, which had been rebuilt several times in the same location and likely had a conical roof supported by three or four rows of wooden columns. Kerma had a rich material culture typified by extremely fine handmade pottery; a thin-walled red-polished ware with a black-topped rim as well as bronzes, ivories and faience. Products were traded from Egypt, Central Africa and shores of the Red Sea and seals and seal impressions testify these exchanges.

An extensive cemetery lies to the east of the town and contains royal burial tumuli, funerary chapels and temples, notably that of the Eastern Deffufa. The monuments of the Eastern and the Western Deffufas represent unique and outstanding examples of massive mudbrick buildings, which reflect the traditional architecture and technology at a significant stage in the history of Sudan in antiquity. Wealth and power were displayed in the royal tombs of the Kerma kings and in those of the nobility as may be demonstrated by the large number of associated cattle sacrifices. One tomb, perhaps of a king of the Middle Kerma period (2050–1750BC) consisted of a grave 11.7m in diameter and 2m deep, covered by a mound that reached 25m across. More than 4,000 cattle bucrania were arranged in a crescent shape on the south side of the mound. The tombs of the later Kerma kings were even more impressive. From 1700BC, the Kingdom of Kush was the most powerful state in the Nile Valley. Buried under mounds up to 90m in diameter, these rulers were accompanied to their deaths by as many as 400 sacrificed humans, amongst whom may have been members of the king’s family, retainers and prisoners of war, though their identities remain uncertain.

One kilometre north of the Nubian capital are preserved the remains of an extraordinary ceremonial city of Dokki Geil, which was founded by Egyptian pharaohs of Dynasty 18 after the destruction of Kerma. It’s foundations pertaining to the Kerma Classique period (1750-1500 BC) display architecture not yet seen anywhere else, especially oval or circular temples and palaces of surprising size. Palace A, for instance, measures 55 by 49 m, and its central aisle leads to passages reaching two thrones. The inner space is also occupied by a “forest” of 1400 columns supporting a huge roofing made of beams and palm fibres. Two precincts of imposing dimensions give the ceremonial building the look of a fortress, all the more since its entrance consists in two towers placed close to each other. The on going researches suggest the hypothesis of a city where kings or war chieftains would join forces against the Egyptian armies. As indicated by Egyptian sources of these periods, their troops were often facing coalitions headed by several leaders. One can imagine that soldiers from Darfur or from the land of Punt on the Red Sea would join forces with the Kerma kings, and that their leaders became united by ceremonies held in the palaces of Dukki Gel.

During the conquest of the territory by Thutmose I, a menenu is then established on the spot of the razed city of Dukki Gel. An overwhelming gate and its precinct protect three temples, two palaces, silos and cattle herds. Strange as it may seem, a small indigenous religious area is preserved in the new architectural organization. The works are considerable on the spot of the Egyptian institution, and the grip of the northern neighbours remains firm during three or four centuries. But then, the Nubian kings manage to conquer Egypt, thus becoming the pharaohs of the 25th dynasty, after which the African kingdoms of Napata and Meroë develop. The monuments are subject to on going conservation and restoration by highlighting the local and the Egyptian architectures and the visitors can understand the deep changes that took place between 1750 BC and 300 AD.

Moreover, more information can be obtained from the site museum built near the ancient city of Kerma. At the heart of the museum are displayed the seven restored monumental statues discovered in the cachette of Dukki Gel in 2003. These sculptures of Nubian kings, like Taharqo or Tanutamani, are of great beauty. They are accompanied by other objects discovered during the excavations, notably the magnificent ceramic ware of the Kerma cultures, inscribed blocks of the Egyptian pharaohs of the New Kingdom, or daily life artefacts.

The monuments of the Kingdom of Kerma area protected under the Antiquities Ordinance of 1999 and permeant protection by Antiquities Police and local Guards. The monuments are annually conserved with the fund allocated from the Swiss Mission and the National Cooperation for Antiquities and museums.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The Monuments of the Kingdom of Kerma have historical significance for the Sudanese community being as the first Kingdom of Kush and the first Independent Kingdom of the Sudan. Its significance transcends the national boundaries being as big urban centre in the Sub-Saharan Africa for a millennium. It is of great importance for the present and future Nubian generations as well as of all the humanity, as it represents the symbol of unity and coexistence of the different cultural groups. It is the result of the interaction of intercultural values and traditions of the Nubians, the Sub-Saharan Africa and the Mediterranean world. These attributes qualify Kerma to be unique and of Outstanding Universal Value.

Criterion (i): The monuments of the Kingdom of Kerma represent a masterpiece of creative genus Nubian population in the Middle Nile Valley. This genus innovation is represented by the two monumental Deffufas and the unique pottery production in the Nile valley.

Criterion (ii): The monuments of the Kingdom of Kerma represent an important interchange of human values, over a period of two millennia in the Northern Sudan with its developed architectures qualified it to be as the first urban centre in Sudan and the sub-Saharan Africa.

Criterion (iii): The Monuments of Kerma represent a unique testimony of a first Nubian civilization, which had been disappeared since 1500 BC.

Criterion (iv): The Deffufas represent an outstanding example of massive mud brick buildings which reflect traditional architecture and technology in a significant stage of the ancient Sudanese history (2500-1500 BC). Moreover, the site of Dukki Geil also displays a unique architecture not seen elsewhere in the world and the Sudan.

Criterion (v): Kerma have a cultural, spiritual, national and political significance for the present and future Sudanese generations, as it was the first independent kingdom of the ancient Sudan. On the other hand, the foundation remains of circular temples and palaces of an extraordinary ceremonial city pertaining to the Kerma Classique period (1750-1500 BC) displays an architecture not yet seen anywhere else. The monuments enable the illustration of the significance of the Nubian architecture, the meeting point between the African word and Pharaonic Egypt i.e it is a better definition of local traditions as well as external contributions of the Egyptians and the others.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The monuments of the Kingdom of Kerma preserve their integral monumental structures in the natural environment (Nile and desert) without any significant changes and destruction since its foundation in 2500 BC. The monuments of the Kingdom of the Kerma are in a good state of conservation. However, the monuments may be endangered by the rise of humidity resulted from the rise of water table in the last previous years due to heavy water pumping from the Nile to the near by agricultural fields. The monuments of the Kingdom of Kerma notably the Deffufas are authentic monuments built by traditional methods which used for the first time in the Nile valley the mud and burned bricks in the construction.

Comparison with other similar properties

he kingdom of Kerma differs from the other Nile Valley cultures by its elaborate funerary and architectural traditions. It can be compared with the town of Silk in Iran, Mali in West Africa, Thebes and Tel el-Amarna in Egypt (WH. Ref:87).