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10-10-2017

NEWSLETTER 2006

Late Roman, Byzantine and Medieval

The Early Makuria Project (MtoM) (Sudan)

The Early Makuria research project, referred to by the acronym MtoM, focuses on the beginnings of the Kingdom Makuria in the region between the Third and Fourth Nile Cataracts. The program has set its scopes on identifying the nature of social changes occurring in the area in the 4th and 5th centuries. A core issue under study is the manner and circumstances of the transformation of Meroitic into Makurian society. It is believed that the social, political and religious changes taking place in the Nile Valley in the 4th and 5th century should be analyzed and interpreted based on regional evidence limited to the territory occupied in the 6th century by the three separate kingdoms of Nobadia, Makuria and Alodia. The project is co-directed by Prof. Dr. Włodzimierz Godlewski and Dr. Mahmoud El-Tayeb and is implemented as part of the program of the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology of Warsaw University.

Map with the localization of the sites of Zuma, Tanqasi and Merowe El Sharig
Merowe el Sharig

The site was surveyed in 2005 and excavated in the following season. It consists of a fortified stronghold (MSh.1) and walled settlement (MSh.2), provisionally dated to the 5th and 6th centuries, and a Christian cemetery from the 8th-9th century (MSh.4). The citadel and settlement functioned until late in the existence of the Kingdom of Makuria and the citadel even longer. The fortifications were built of broken stone at the bottom and mud brick above. They were 4.50m wide and were evidently raised in a hurry. Blocks from a Kushite temple were reused profusely in the construction of the western towers and southern gate; observed elements included plain and decorated blocks with relief carving, as well as painted pillar elements. The citadel was in all likelihood one of the most important centers of Early Makuria, the beginnings of which should be linked with the Napatan region. At the close of the 5th century, the center of authority was moved to the Citadel in Dongola.

Plan of the site of Merowe El Sharig
Merowe El Sharig. The fortifications viewed from the east
Tanqasi

Initially surveyed in 1953 by Peter Shinnie, this extensive necropolis was fully documented in the 2006 season.

Plan of the site of Tanqasi

One of the tumuli, Tnq.87, was excavated. It belongs to a group of 25 tombs with the tumulus at the base exceeding an area of 1000m2. The largest in this group reached 4100m2 in area, the heights ranging from 0.20m to 6.15m. Tnq.87 had a U-shaped shaft, 4m deep, giving access to the burial chamber (S) and three offering chambers (W.1-2 and N). All the entrances were carefully blocked with mud-brick walls. The burial chamber had been plundered in part, but it still contained the skeleton of a woman. Tomb equipment consisted of wheel-made vessels, mainly cups and bowls, and plain bottles, as well as small and very large hand-made cooking pots. Surviving ornaments included beads of various shape and size, made of stone, glass, faience, ivory and ostrich eggshells. Meat offerings consisted of a cut of beef and a piece of goat.

Tanqasi. Burial shaft of Tumulus T.087
Tangasi. Burial chamber W.2 of Tumulus T.087 with the grave goods in place

A provisional dating of the tumulus places it in the mid 5th century. The type of the tomb closely parallels later examples from Zuma and Hammur.

Contact
W. Godlewski: w.godlewski@zigzag.pl
M. El-Tayeb: mahmudeltayeb@hotmail.com