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Semna (Nubia)

Located in the present day Republic of Sudan, ancient Nubia is a region along the Nile River between Aswan in the north and Khartoum in the south where Nubian languages were spoken.This region is marked by six cataracts, or rocky outcroppings, which produce shallow rapids in the Nile (Bard, 2008, p. 53). Analogous to its northern Egyptian neighbor, ancient Nubia was divided into Upper and Lower Nubia; Lower Nubia was between the first and second cataracts and Upper Nubia was between the second and sixth cataracts (Bard, 2008, p. 47). The region of Semna is 15 miles south of Wadi Halfa and is situated where rocks cross the Nile narrowing its flow—the Semna Cataract (Arriaza, Merbs, & Rothschild, 1993; Vercoutter, 1966).

Semna was a fortified area established in the reign of Senusret I (1965-1920 BC) on the west bank of the Nile at the southern end of a series of Middle Kingdom fortresses founded during the 12th Dynasty (1985-1795 BC) in the Second-Cataract area of Lower Nubia. There are three forts at Semna: Semna West (Semna Gharb), Semna East (Semna Sherq, also called Kummeh or Kumma), and Semna South (Semna Gubli) (Reisner, 1929). The forts to the east and west of the Semna Cataract are Semna East and West, respectively; Semna South is approximately one kilometer south of Semna West on the west bank of the Nile (Reisner, 1929; Vercoutter, 1966, p. 125).

The Semna gorge, at the southern edge of ancient Egypt, was the narrowest part of the Nile valley. It was here, at this strategic location, that the 12th Dynasty pharaohs built a cluster of four mud-brick fortresses: Semna, Kumma, Semna South and Uronarti — all covered by the waters of Lake Nasser since the completion of the Aswan High Dam in 1971.