Traumatic injuries and imperialism: The effects of Egyptian colonial strategies at Tombos in upper Nubia



As circumstances of conquest change, leaders of empires must adapt their colonial strategies in order to be successful. One example of such modification in approach is the shift from Middle Kingdom to New Kingdom Egyptian colonial activities in Nubia. During the Middle Kingdom (2050–1650 BC) Egypt used aggressive military campaigns to subdue the strong Nubian polity at Kerma, resulting in the construction of fortresses and many victory stelae. In the subsequent New Kingdom period (1550–1050 BC) during which the Egyptian administration succeeded in occupying nearly all of Nubia, changes were necessary in conquest strategies. Diplomacy and cooperation may have replaced military action as mechanisms of control. This article investigates changes in imperial policy through the examination of traumatic injuries in human skeletal remains. Patterns of injuries in a sample from the site of Tombos, an Egyptian colonial cemetery in Nubia dating to the New Kingdom period, are compared with data on the patterns of injuries from Kerma, a cemetery dating to the Middle Kingdom period, published by Judd (2004). Analysis indicates a decrease in the level of traumatic injuries from Kerma to Tombos supporting the idea that through time the Egyptian administration modified their colonial strategy toward more nonviolent means. This article presents data on differences in the patterns of injury at Tombos and Kerma and explores possible explanations for this variation. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.