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Police Tactics and Combative Measures
In Ancient Egypt

by Steven J. Kaplan

While the exploits, campaigns, and military tactics of ancient Greece and Rome are widely known and studied at military academies, the military and police systems of ancient Egypt are not as well publicized. Yet, pharaonic Egypt was not only an older organized society and than Greece and Rome, but had a fairly well-organized system of police tactics and combative measures. Let us begin with a brief outline of the organization of the police system.

There is a paucity of information about the structure of any well-organized police force, but we do know from writings and carvings that there was in fact a force whose duty was to protect the citizenry and their property. Some were gatekeepers, others were guards who had similar responsibilities to today’s patrol officers. We know that there was an individual who had the role of the police chief, having the title, "Supervisor of the Hundreds". This person was more often than not a former military commander. The nationwide police force is said to have evolved from what was, in all probability, private security, whose functions were more mercenary. The police force, while primarily comprised of Egyptians, did at times in select locales include Nubians. As is the case today, we read of the "intrigue" of politics within the police organization.

An interesting note is that there were no locks in ancient Egypt. As such, there was a special cadre of guards formed to secure homes and property, particularly when homeowners had to leave their residence or business whatever reason. Another major function for police was to prevent agricultural theft, as well as guarding the tombs of the pharaohs, and borders of the land. Here we find them not only in the role of border police, but immigration inspectors, having the authority to allow or refuse entry or exit into Egypt following interrogation.

In terms of arresting techniques, there is some information we gleaned from writings and carvings, but not in abundance. Wooden shackles around the neck were commonly used restraining devices, often accompanied with arms or elbows bound in different ways. There are some reports of torture of select prisoners, and there were prisons to house them.


These prisons ranged from a small room or pit to very large warehouses. Imprisonment time was short, with swift justice one way or another the rule. The arresting techniques seem to have been a small, rather specialized portion of the overall combative measures that were taught. This too we glean from writings and carvings.

A papyrus found in an ancient Egyptian temple listed some details of the actual police techniques and combative measures used at the time. Two researchers, Patrick Macauley and Michael Papero, garnered information from many sources, and compiled Aha-Kemet, the Martial Combat of Ancient Egypt. They divided techniques into the Aha-Set, unarmed fighting forms which were an introductory training for new "recruits". This was considered of secondary importance, since weapons training was given priority. There are eight forms taught in Aha-Set, four attacking and four defending. The purpose of these techniques is not to kill but to disable. Aha-Wesir is wrestling techniques. With over 400 moves documented, mostly from the walls of tombs, we note that wrestling was a sports as well as a fighting method. Aha-Wesir, like all names of the categories of techniques used in this article, are the creations of the researchers mentioned above.

A form of suburban defense in combat, Aha-Montu was a method to push opponents away until a weapon could be secured. Techniques were in-fighting moves, and in all likelihood favored by police over military. Lastly is Aha-Re-Khet, the art of fighting with weapons. Spears, swords, chains, axes, knives, and shields are included in this category.

While details are sadly lacking as to the exact nature of all the methods categorized by the researchers, it seems that, then as now, police and military had their required and necessary training with armed and unarmed tactics and measures to fulfill their respective assignments.

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