From Pastoral Nomads to Police

Ethnicity and Identity of the Medjay in Ancient Egypt

by

Kate Liszka

Cotsen Postdoctoral Fellow, Princeton University

The Medjay were a people living on the fringes of Ancient Egyptian society. Originating in the northeast desert of what is now Sudan and Egypt, the Medjay gradually integrated into Ancient Egyptian society over a two thousand year period. The roles that they played in Ancient Egypt have perplexed Egyptologists and archaeologists for the last century because the sources seem to indicate that their identities were related to various types of other peoples: from pastoral nomads to policemen, either Nubians or Egyptians, sometimes foreign enemies or at other times Egyptian war heroes. Over this period of time, the Medjay changed from a desert nomadic group to become known as an elite fighting force who worked for the Pharaoh. In this talk, I will introduce you to the diverse textual, artistic, and archaeological sources that will help us identify how the Medjay evolved from an ethnic group to Egypt’s most important police force. Come join us for an exciting look these dynamic people and how they changed Egyptian history.