Uronarti was an ancient Egyptian fortress that was located on an island on the Nile River. It was located near the Second Cataract, specifically to the south of it. It stands out from the other fortresses because of its triangular-shaped geography. It is believed to be constructed during the Middle Kingdom (19th century BC) between the rulers Senusret I and Senusret III. Uronarti along with the other fortresses were established in Nubia during a time where the Egyptian influence was sought out to be expanded. And that is why Uronarti along with Buhen, Mirgissa, Shalfak, Askut, Dabenarti, Semna, and Kumma were established within signaling distance of each other.
There’s substantial lack of information of Uronarti and the fortresses. The triangular shaped fortress is situated on an island and took advantage of the narrow passage of the Nile River. Uronarti in size happens to be the second smallest fortress only being bigger than Askut. The fort had 5 meters thick and 10 meters high walls. It had a length and width of about 120 meters x 60 meters and was made of mud-brick. The fort in its time included loopholes, battlements, ramparts, buttresses, and bastions. There’s speculation in literature that Uronarti along with the other fortresses were strikingly impressive because they exceeded the requirements of the military and may have been considered a form of monumental architecture lime the Giza Pyramids. Also, near the site were located temples of Dedwen and Montu that were dedicated to them. In 1964, the Aswan Dam created Lake Nasser although the site was not submerged.
Uronarti was first excavated by British Archaeologist Noel F. Wheeler under the nominal supervision of George Andrew Reisner. The preliminary examination of the site was in May 1924. The excavations took place between November 15, 1928 – January 16, 1929 and February 5, 1930 – March 20, 1930. Reisner became one of the most prominent founding fathers of modern scientific archaeology.
In 2012, The Uronarti Regional Archaeology Project (URAP) was formed by Laurel Bestock and Christian Knoblauch to investigate an outpost of Uronarti. They focused on colonization events rather than broader colonial relations. During their time there they discovered Site FC, contemporary with the fortress itself.
Finds at Uronarti
Finds at Uronarti include: seal impressions, mud stamps, pottery, and papyrus fragments. Most fragments only include a few characters; only a handful contains few badly broken lines. There are also a series of plates, 20 to be exact, that came from investigating of hieratic facsimilies which illustrate all the important finds. The mud stamps are unusual because they depict captives. And the overwhelming lot of papyrus found has brought no usable information. The large number of sealings reflect administrative aspects connected with the other Nubian fortresses. The seals referring to the various surrounding fortresses in the Second Cataract region show the close connection between each other. Centers for local administration are also seen in the treasuries and granaries that are shown to exist in the seals as well. The administration for the entire country is represented as well as seen in the seals of the great granary of King Sesostris III. The suggested existence of a dual and shared viziership in Egypt in the Late Middle Kingdom is also seen in a seal found stating “office of the vizier of the Head-of-the South”.
The Boundary Stela of Senusret III
A duplicate of the text of the Semna stela of Senusret III was found at Uronarti by Georg Steindorff, Ludwig Borchardt and H. Shafer. The inscription shows that the Nubians attacked first and that Senusret forced them to retreat. The stela measures 1.50 meters in height and 0.80 meters in breadth and is of brown sandstone and it has some variants from the original Semna stela. The stela is one of the treasures of the National Museum of Sudan and it reads:
“Horus: Divine of Forms; the Two Ladies: Divine of Birth; the Golden Horus: He has Come into Being(?); The King of Upper and Lower Egypt: Re is Appearing of Ka’s granted life, stability and wealth like Re eternally; The Son of Re of his (own) Body: Sesostris (III), granted life, stability, and wealth like Re eternally!
(1) Stela made in year 16, third month of winter, when the fortress “Repelling the Iwentiu” was built.
(2) I have made the boundary going farther southward than my ancestors and I have exceeded
(3) that which was bequeathed to me. I am a king who speaks, (and by it) executes; what my heart plans is done by my hand;
(4) aggressive to conquer; acting resolute with success; in whose heart the world does not sleep,
(5) (but) one thinking of his clients who trust on mildness; not being mild against the enemy who attacks him; attacking
(6) when he is attacked; keeping silence if one is silent (against him); answering a word according to that what has happened in it (i.e., who gives an answer according to the nature of the question). For
(7) to desist after being attacked boldness the heart of the enemy. To be aggressive is to be brave, to retreat is timidity.
(8) Really unvirille is he who is debarred from his frontier, since the Nubian hears
(9) to fall at a word (i.e., the Nubian hardly hears or he falls at the [first] word.); the answering of him causes him to retire. If one is aggressive against him, he turns his back; if one retreats, he falls
(10) into aggression. They are not people one must fear; they are wretches, broken of heart. My Majesty has seen them,
(11) there is no untruth. (For) I have captured their wives, and I have brought back their inhabitants, ascended to their wells
(12) and slain their bulls. I have pulled up their barley and set the flame in it. As my father lives for me;
(13)I speak in truth, without a word of boasting therein issuing from my mouth. Now as for every son of mine
(14) who shall strengthen this boundary which My Majesty (life, prosperity and health); has made, he is my son, [and he is born to]
(15) My Majesty (life, prosperity and health); good is a son, the helper of his father, and who strengthens [the boundary of]
(16) him that begot him. Now as for him who shall lose it and shall not fight [on behalf of it],
(17) he is not my son and he is not born to me. Now [My Majesty (life, prosperity and health) has caused]
(18) the erection of a statue of My Majesty (life, prosperity and health) on this frontier [which My Majesty (life, prosperity and health) made]
(19) in order that you may persevere on it and in order that [you might fight on behalf of it].”
There is a significant lack of information on the Uronarti fortresses. Some scholars believe that trade diminished between the Egyptians and Nubians after the Old Kingdom. And during the First Intermediate Period there was no central government in Egypt. And when Egypt was reunited, Senusret I began to exploit Lower Nubia for its resources. Exploitation continued with his successors and when Senusret III came along he took control of Lower Nubia all the way down to the Second Cataract; the southern-most front being at Semna. The First Boundary Semna Stela of Senusret III says, “Southern boundary made in the eight year (of the reign of Senusret III) to prevent any Nubian from passing it downstream, either overland or by boat, or any herds of the Nubians, apart from those Nubians who come to trade with Iken or on any good business which may be transacted with them." The construction of the fortresses were started under Senusret I, but most of them completed during Senusret III. They were all big enough to suffice the necessary housing of personnel.
Military sigificance of the fortress
Given the size of Uronarti and also the other fortresses they would have been easy to defend. The fortresses were clearly too large and strong for any attack from around the area and it is also seen as being very difficult to survive in the area keeping into consideration that there was not that many resources for the amount of personnel that each fortress could house. This suggests that the fortresses must have had another purpose. Many believe that they were built to contain the threat of rising powers in Lower Nubia and to serve as monument of the power of the Egyptians. Reisner himself even thinks that the palace on the island of Uronarti was possibly used by the Viceroy of Kush in the 18th Dynasty or even by a king from the Middle Kingdom (most likely Sesostris III).
Site FC, an extra-mural site just outside the walls of Uronarti is different from the Egyptian fortress itself. The difference noted from Uronarti was in the techniques of the construction that seem to originate from different architectural tradition and the organization of the entirety of the space in Site FC. During a survey of the Eastern side of Uronarti is when Site FC was discovered. It is about 250 meters away from the fortress. Piles of tumbled stones were recorded to be found in the initial survey of this area. The 25 stones range from 2.5 meters to 4 meters in diameter. Some of the piles of stone were found together in clusters and others were completely isolated by themselves, all together extending over an area of 2000 meters^2. Stone found locally was used in the construction of dwellings in the site. Aerial photographs taken in the 1950’s suggest that the original site may have extended along the eastern shore of the island in its entirety. The site lacks a wall. This indicates that Site FC was a settlement on its own. The inhabitants probably lived an entire different lifestyle from those living in the mud-brick walls of the fortress. Site FC brings more questions than answers but what makes this area important is that it demonstrates the complexity of the colonial Egyptians and the local landscape at Uronarti.
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