Uronarti is an Egyptian fortress on an island in the Second Cataract area. It was built in the heyday of the Middle Kingdom, under Senusret III (c. 1870–1850 BC). It is one of a chain of 17 fortresses which the pharaohs of the 12th dynasty established to secure Egypt's southern frontier against the (perceived) threat from the Kingdom of Kerma.

The fortress occupies a roughly triangular area of c. 4700 square metres. Its mudbrick enclosure wall is about 8 metres thick and still stands up to 8 metres high. Two spur walls complete the fortification system. The northern one guards the rocky ridge running in this direction and was originally 250 metres long. A second one, on the eastern side of the fortress, protects the stairway leading down to the river.

The interior of the fortress can be accessed through two gates in the north and in the south. The internal structures are very well preserved. They comprise a com­mand building, barracks, workshops, storerooms, a granary and a treasury.  

A small chapel, satisfying the religious needs of the fortress' occupants, is situated just outside the north gate, nestled amid the buttresses of the northern spur wall. A first mudbrick version had apparently been built as early as the Middle Kingdom. It was expanded in the early New Kingdom, upon the resettlement of the fortress, and finally replaced by a sandstone version during the reigns of Thutmose III (c. 1480–1425 BC) or Amenhotep II (c. 1425–1400 BC). The relief decoration of the latter structure indicates that the chapel was dedicated to the deified Senusret III, while the gods Montu and Dedwen were also worshipped.

Several other features outside the fortress, including a small Middle Kingdom habitation area in the southern part of the island, are currently being investigated by an American-Austrian mission.

Uronarti is one of only two fortresses which have survived above the waters of Lake Nasser/ Nubia – the other one being Shalfak, about five kilometres downstream. Their isolated position, as well as the prevailing hyper-arid conditions have contributed to the excellent preservation not only of their architectural substance but also of organic building materials such as wood and reed. 

It has been argued that the Middle Kingdom fortresses in Lower Nubia by far exceeded any military requirements and that they should be perceived as an ideological statement – destined to impress and to propagate Egypt's grandeur. Exploring these monuments and understanding this message 4000 years after their construction is a unique experience indeed.



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Egypt in Nubia

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