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Who Wants to Live Forever? The Practice of Mass Human Sacrifice During Early State Formation in the Nubian Classic Kerma Period

Author(s): Elizabeth Minor

Year: 2015

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As the ancient Nubian Classic Kerma kings undertook military campaigns into Egyptian territory (1700-1550 BCE), their mortuary practices grew to include mass inhumation of their subjects within their burial tumuli. The tumulus of the second Classic Kerma king (KX) contains over 300 human sacrifices and is the largest group found at the site. The sacrificed Kermans were arranged in the tumulus corridor alongside Egyptian statues taken as spoils of war, emphasizing the king’s control of internal and foreign social capital. Sacrifices range in personal adornment from simple circlets to beaded tunics, skirts and appliquéd hats. Placement of sacrifices varies from being arranged singly to clusters of potential family groups. Rather than a selection of servants or a ‘harem’, the diversity of social groups within the Kerman community are represented among the sacrifices. The Kermans were involved in the preparation of their singular mass burial event, both as subjects coerced into death by the king and as members negotiating relationships within the community. The violent act of sacrifice provided a cultural arena for Kermans to construct their identities during a period of rapid social stratification, and presents an important comparative case for the practice of human sacrifice during early state formation.

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Who Wants to Live Forever? The Practice of Mass Human Sacrifice During Early State Formation in the Nubian Classic Kerma Period. Elizabeth Minor. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395711)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America