In the Old Kingdom (about 2686–2181 BC) it was the site of a small trading post in Nubia that was also used for copper working. The settlement may have been established during the reign of Sneferu (4th dynasty). Nevertheless, there is evidence of still earlier, 2nd dynasty, occupation at Buhen.
An archaeological investigation in 1962 revealed what was described as an ancient copper 'factory'.
Graffiti and other inscribed items from the site show that the Egyptians stayed about 200 years, until late in the 5th dynasty, when they were probably forced out by immigration from the south.