Last updated
medjay "mḏꜣ.j"
( throw stick det. , for "foreign-peoples")
in hieroglyphs

In the New Kingdom of Egypt, the Medjay (also Medjai, Mazoi, Madjai, Mejay, Egyptian mḏꜣ.j, a nisba of mḏꜣ, [1] ) were an elite paramilitary police force, serving as desert scouts and protectors of areas of Pharaonic interest.

New Kingdom of Egypt period 1550 to 1070 BC in ancient Egypt

The New Kingdom, also referred to as the Egyptian Empire, is the period in ancient Egyptian history between the 16th century BC and the 11th century BC, covering the 18th, 19th, and 20th dynasties of Egypt. Radiocarbon dating places the exact beginning of the New Kingdom between 1570 BC and 1544 BC. The New Kingdom followed the Second Intermediate Period and was succeeded by the Third Intermediate Period. It was Egypt's most prosperous time and marked the peak of its power.


The Egyptian term mḏꜣ from which the name "Medjay" was derived originally referred to a region in northern Sudan and southern Egypt inhabited by an ancient nomadic tribe of Nubians [2] who were employed by the Egyptians as mercenaries. They formed a complex public administration very similar to a national police force. [2] Gradually, the term came to describe their force itself.

Nomad member of a community of people who live in different locations, moving from one place to another

A nomad is a member of a community of people without fixed habitation who regularly move to and from the same areas, including nomadic hunter-gatherers, pastoral nomads, and tinker or trader nomads. As of 1995, there were an estimated 30–40 million nomads in the world.

Nubians are an ethnolinguistic group of Africans indigenous to present-day Sudan and southern Egypt who originate from the early inhabitants of the central Nile valley, believed to be one of the earliest cradles of civilization. They speak Nubian languages, part of the Northern Eastern Sudanic languages.

Public administration public leadership of public affairs directly responsible for executive action

Public administration is the implementation of government policy and also an academic discipline that studies this implementation and prepares civil servants for working in the public service. As a "field of inquiry with a diverse scope" whose fundamental goal is to "advance management and policies so that government can function". Some of the various definitions which have been offered for the term are: "the management of public programs"; the "translation of politics into the reality that citizens see every day"; and "the study of government decision making, the analysis of the policies themselves, the various inputs that have produced them, and the inputs necessary to produce alternative policies."

During the Middle Kingdom of Egypt, ancient Egyptians were appreciative of their skill in combat, and therefore employed them as gauchos, infantry soldiers and explorers to spy on foreigners at the borders. [2] [3]

Middle Kingdom of Egypt period in the history of ancient Egypt between about 2000 BC and 1700 BC

The Middle Kingdom of Egypt is the period in the history of ancient Egypt following a period of political division known as the First Intermediate Period. The Middle Kingdom lasted from around 2050 BC to around 1710 BC, stretching from the reunification of Egypt under the reign of Mentuhotep II of the Eleventh Dynasty to the end of the Twelfth Dynasty. The Eleventh Dynasty ruled from Thebes and the Twelfth Dynasty ruled from el-Lisht. Some scholars also include the Thirteenth Dynasty of Egypt wholly into this period as well, in which case the Middle Kingdom would finish around 1650, while others only include it until Merneferre Ay around 1700 BC, last king of this dynasty to be attested in both Upper and Lower Egypt. During the Middle Kingdom period, Osiris became the most important deity in popular religion. The Middle Kingdom was followed by the Second Intermediate Period of Egypt, another period of division that involved foreign invasions of the country by the Hyksos of West Asia.

Gaucho residents of the South American pampas, Gran Chaco, or Patagonian grasslands

A gaucho or gaúcho is a skilled horseman, reputed to be brave and unruly. The gaucho is a national symbol in Argentina and Uruguay, but is also a strong culture in the far south region of Brazil. Gauchos became greatly admired and renowned in legends, folklore and literature and became an important part of their regional cultural tradition. Beginning late in the 19th century, after the heyday of the gauchos, they were celebrated by South American writers.

Infantry military service branch that specializes in combat by individuals on foot

Infantry is a military specialization that engages in military combat on foot, distinguished from cavalry, artillery, and tank forces. Also known as foot soldiers or infanteers, infantry traditionally relies on moving by foot between combats as well, but may also use mounts, military vehicles, or other transport. Infantry make up a large portion of all armed forces in most nations, and typically bear the largest brunt in warfare, as measured by casualties, deprivation, or physical and psychological stress.

During the Eighteenth Dynasty, the Medjay were referred to as an urban police with a separate hierarchy independent of other authorities. [2]

The Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt is classified as the first dynasty of the New Kingdom of Egypt, the era in which ancient Egypt achieved the peak of its power. The Eighteenth Dynasty spanned the period from 1549/1550 to 1292 BC. This dynasty is also known as the Thutmosid Dynasty for the four pharaohs named Thutmose.

The Medjay are no longer mentioned after the Twentieth Dynasty (1189–1077 BCE).

The Twentieth Dynasty of Egypt is the third and last dynasty of the Ancient Egyptian New Kingdom period, lasting from 1189 BC to 1077 BC. The 19th and 20th Dynasties furthermore together constitute an era known as the Ramesside period.

Origins and mercenary duties

Painted bull's skull from a Pan-Grave burial, dating to the Second Intermediate Period Bucranium MET DP100986.jpg
Painted bull's skull from a Pan-Grave burial, dating to the Second Intermediate Period

The first mention of the Medjay in written records dates back to the Old Kingdom, when they were listed among other Nubian peoples in the Autobiography of Weni , who was at the time a general serving under Pepi I Meryre. [4] During this time the term "Medjay" referred to people from the land of Medja, a district thought to be located just east of the Second Nile Cataract in Nubia. A decree from Pepi I's reign, which lists different officials (including an Overseer of the Medja, Irtjet and Satju), illustrates that Medja was at least to some extent subjugated by the Egyptian government. [5]

Old Kingdom of Egypt period of Ancient Egypt in the 3rd millennium BC

In ancient Egyptian history, the Old Kingdom is the period spanning c. 2686–2181 BC. It is also known as the "Age of the Pyramids" or the "Age of the Pyramid Builders", as it encompasses the reigns of the great pyramid builders of the Fourth Dynasty—King Sneferu perfected the art of pyramid-building and the pyramids of Giza were constructed under the kings Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure. Egypt attained its first sustained peak of civilization—the first of three so-called "Kingdom" periods which mark the high points of civilization in the lower Nile Valley.

Autobiography of Weni

The Autobiography of Weni is a tomb inscription from Ancient Egypt which is significant to Egyptology studies. Weni the Elder, or Uni, was a court official of the 6th dynasty of Ancient Egypt.

Pepi I Meryre Egyptian pharaoh

Pepi I Meryre was the third king of the Sixth dynasty of Egypt. His first throne name was Neferdjahor which the king later altered to Meryre meaning "beloved of Rê".

During the Middle Kingdom, the definition of "Medjay" started to refer more to a tribe than a land, (although references to Medja-land do exist). Written accounts such as the Semna Despatches detail the Medjay as nomadic desert people. As itinerant peoples, they worked in all parts of Egyptian society, as palace attendants, temple employees, merchants, and more. The Medjay worked in Egyptian fortifications in Nubia and patrolled the desert along with other Egyptian soldiers, like the Akhwty. They also were sometimes employed as soldiers (as we know from the stele of Res and Ptahwer). And during the Second Intermediate Period, they were even used during Kamose's campaign against the Hyksos [6] and became instrumental in making the Egyptian state into a military power. [7]

In the archaeological record, a culture known as the Pan-Grave Culture is generally considered by experts to represent the Medjay. [8] [9] This culture is named for its distinctive circular graves, found throughout Lower Nubia and Upper Egypt, which date to the late Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate Period (1800-1550 BCE). [8] [9] The sudden appearance of these graves in the Nile Valley suggests they represent an immigrant population, while the presence of Nerita shells in many of them suggests their occupants came from the Eastern Desert between the Nile and the Red Sea. [8] Other objects commonly found in these graves include the painted skulls of various horned animals, which are found either arranged in a circle around the burial pit or placed in separate offering pits. [8]

Police force

Funerary cone of Penre, an 18th Dynasty Chief of the Medjay Funerary Cone of the Chief of the Madjay Penre MET 30.6.136-acc.jpg
Funerary cone of Penre, an 18th Dynasty Chief of the Medjay

By the Eighteenth Dynasty during the New Kingdom, the Medjay were an elite paramilitary police force. [10] No longer did the term refer to an ethnic group, and over time the new meaning became synonymous with policing in general. As an elite force, the Medjay were often used to protect valuable areas, especially areas of pharaonic interest like capital cities, royal cemeteries, and the borders of Egypt. Though they are best known for their protection of the royal palaces and tombs in Thebes and the surrounding areas, the Medjay were used throughout Upper and Lower Egypt. Each regional unit had its own captains. [11] Chiefs of the Medjay are also known from the New Kingdom, but that title is more likely to refer to a person in charge of building and building material procurement.

At first, the group just consisted of ethnic Medjay and those descended from that ancient tribal group. This changed over time as more and more Egyptians took up their occupation. Records show that various Medjay chiefs and captains had Egyptian names and were depicted as such. Why this change occurred is not known, but it is assumed that, because of the Medjay's elite status, Egyptians joined them. [11]


After the 20th Dynasty, the term Medjay is no longer found in Egyptian records. It is unknown whether the Medjay as an occupation had been abolished or the name of the force had changed. However, there is speculation that a group of people called the Meded who fought against the Kush during the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. might have been related to the Medjay. [10]

In media

In the 1932 film The Mummy , the Medjay are mentioned as Pharaoh Seti I's personal bodyguards in ancient Egypt. [12] They are also mentioned in the 1999 remake The Mummy , and the sequel The Mummy Returns (2001). [13]

In the 2017 video game Assassin's Creed Origins , the protagonist, Bayek, is considered "the last Medjay", acting as a "sheriff" throughout first century BCE Egypt. [14]

Related Research Articles

Sobek, in Greek, Suchos (Σοῦχος) and from Latin Suchus, was an ancient Egyptian deity with a complex and fluid nature. He is associated with the Nile crocodile or the West African crocodile and is represented either in its form or as a human with a crocodile head. Sobek was also associated with pharaonic power, fertility, and military prowess, but served additionally as a protective deity with apotropaic qualities, invoked particularly for protection against the dangers presented by the Nile.

History of ancient Egypt aspect of history

The history of ancient Egypt spans the period from the early prehistoric settlements of the northern Nile valley to the Roman conquest, in 30 BC. The Pharaonic Period is dated from the 32nd century BC, when Upper and Lower Egypt were unified, until the country fell under Macedonian rule, in 332 BC.

Thutmose I Egyptian pharaoh

Thutmose I was the third pharaoh of the 18th dynasty of Egypt. He received the throne after the death of the previous king, Amenhotep I. During his reign, he campaigned deep into the Levant and Nubia, pushing the borders of Egypt farther than ever before. He also built many temples in Egypt, and a tomb for himself in the Valley of the Kings; he is the first king confirmed to have done this.

Kamose king of the Theban Seventeenth Dynasty

Kamose was the last king of the Theban Seventeenth Dynasty. He was possibly the son of Seqenenre Tao and Ahhotep I and the full brother of Ahmose I, founder of the Eighteenth Dynasty. His reign fell at the very end of the Second Intermediate Period. Kamose is usually ascribed a reign of three years, although some scholars now favor giving him a longer reign of approximately five years.

The Kerma culture or Kerma kingdom was an early civilization centered in Kerma, Sudan. It flourished from around 2500 BCE to 1500 BCE in ancient Nubia, located in Upper Egypt and northern Sudan. The polity seems to have been one of a number of Nile Valley states during the Middle Kingdom of Egypt. In the Kingdom of Kerma's latest phase, lasting from about 1700–1500 BCE, it absorbed the Sudanese kingdom of Sai and became a sizable, populous empire rivaling Egypt. Around 1500 BCE, it was absorbed into the New Kingdom of Egypt, but rebellions continued for centuries. By the eleventh century BCE, the more-Egyptianized Kingdom of Kush emerged, possibly from Kerma, and regained the region's independence from Egypt.

C-Group culture archaeological culture

The C-Group culture is an archaeological culture found in Lower Nubia, which dates from ca. 2400 BCE to ca. 1550 BCE. It was named by George A. Reisner. With no central site and no written evidence about what these people called themselves, Reisner assigned the culture a letter. The C-Group arose after Reisner's A-Group and B-Group cultures, and around the time the Old Kingdom was ending in Ancient Egypt.

Badarian culture culture in Upper Egypt during the Predynastic Era

The Badarian culture provides the earliest direct evidence of agriculture in Upper Egypt during the Predynastic Era. It flourished between 4400 and 4000 BCE, and might have already emerged by 5000 BCE. It was first identified in El-Badari, Asyut Governorate.

El Lahun Village in Faiyum, Egypt

El Lahun is a village in Faiyum, Egypt. El Lahun is associated with the Pyramid of Senusret II, which is located near the modern town, and is often called the Pyramid of Lahun. The ancient name of the site was rꜣ-ḥn.t, literally, "Mouth of the Canal").

Autobiography of Harkhuf ancient Egyptian explorer

One of the (two) most important, and the most famous, autobiographical inscriptions of the Old Kingdom officials, is the Autobiography of Harkhuf. This private tomb inscription from Ancient Egypt is significant to Egyptology studies.

The A-Group culture was an ancient civilization that flourished between the First and Second Cataracts of the Nile in Nubia. It lasted from c. 3800 BC to c. 3100 BC.

Nubia is the term commonly used by scholars to refer to the land located south of Ancient Egypt, from the city of Elephantine down to modern-day Khartoum. Nubia has been one of the earliest humanly inhabited lands in the world. Its history is tied to that of Egypt, from which it became independent in the 10th century BC. The rich gold deposits in Nubia made the latter the target of Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and later Arabs. Research on Nubia has allowed scholars to find several of its references.

Wadi Hammamat Dry river bed in Egypt

Wadi Hammamat is a dry river bed in Egypt's Eastern Desert, about halfway between Al-Qusayr and Qena. It was a major mining region and trade route east from the Nile Valley in ancient times, and three thousand years of rock carvings and graffiti make it a major scientific and tourist site today.

Nubian architecture

Nubian architecture is diverse and ancient. Permanent villages have been found in Nubia which date from 6000 BC. These villages were roughly contemporary with the walled town of Jericho in Palestine.

Kingdom of Kush ancient African kingdom

The Kingdom of Kush or Kush was an ancient kingdom in Nubia, located at the Sudanese and southern Egyptian Nile Valley.

Egypt has a long and involved demographic history. This is partly due to the territory's geographical location at the crossroads of several major cultural areas: North Africa, the Middle East, the Mediterranean and Sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, Egypt has experienced several invasions during its long history, including by the Canaanites, the Ancient Libyans, the Assyrians, the Kushites, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, and the Arabs.

Outline of ancient Egypt Overview of and topical guide to ancient Egypt

The following outline is provided as an overview of a topical guide to ancient Egypt:

Betty Winkelman, better known by the pen name Lauren Haney, is an American mystery novelist.


  1. Erman, Adolf; Grapow, Hermann (1926–1961). Wörterbuch der ägyptischen Sprache . 2. p. 186.CS1 maint: Date format (link)
  2. 1 2 3 4 Drake 2011, p. 342.
  3. Kemp, Barry (2007). Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilisation. Routledge. p. 448. ISBN   1-134-56388-4.
  4. Breasted (1906) , §§ 317, 324
  5. Gardiner (1947) , p. 74
  6. Shaw (2000) , p. 201
  7. Steindorff & Seele (1957) , p. 28
  8. 1 2 3 4 Näser, Claudia (2012). "Nomads at the Nile: Towards an Archaeology of Interaction". In Barnard, Hans; Duistermaat, Kim (eds.). The History of the Peoples of the Eastern Desert. UCLA Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press. pp. 81–89. ISBN   978-1-931745-96-3.
  9. 1 2 "Pan-Grave Culture: The Medjay". University of Chicago Oriental Institute . Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  10. 1 2 Wilkinson (2005) , p. 147
  11. 1 2 Gardiner (1947) , pp. 82–85
  12. Fritze, Ronald H. (25 November 2016). Egyptomania: A History of Fascination, Obsession and Fantasy. Reaktion Books. p. 363. ISBN   9781780236858.
  13. Kirby, Alan (May 1, 2009). Digimodernism: How New Technologies Dismantle the Postmodern and Reconfigure Our Culture. A&C Black. p. 134. ISBN   9781441175281.
  14. Cacho, Gieson (24 June 2017). "How Ubisoft fixed combat in 'Assassin's Creed Origins'". The Mercury News . Retrieved 6 August 2017. Players take on the role of Bayek, a Medjay, which is essentially the sheriff of the day.