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Free Egyptology Talk: The Role of The Medjay in Pharaonic Egypt

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Our current understanding of the ancient Nubian people called the Medjay has been informed by textual and artistic representations created by the ancient Egyptians. By studying these sources, Egyptologists have argued that the Medjay were an ethnic group living in the Eastern Desert near the Second Cataract. Egyptologist Dr. Kate Liszka of Princeton University explains that these studies exhibit an Egyptocentric bias, in which the Egyptian sources have been interpreted literally.


The Egyptians perceived the people of the Eastern Desert near Lower Nubia as one unified ethnic group. Yet these people were not politically unified and did not identify themselves as Medjay until the middle of the Twelfth Dynasty. Increased interaction between the Egyptians and the people of the Eastern Desert caused certain pastoral nomads to adopt the term "Medjay." Whatever role ethnicity may have played in their society previously, ethnogenesis of a “Medjay” ethnic group began towards the middle of the Twelfth Dynasty.

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