As the two titans of tyranny squabble over the right to hard power over the general population in Sudan, the work of science and archaeology continues to maintain cultural expression. Discovering and preserving rare finds from times gone by is one of our noblest causes as the artefacts enrich our story and bring new characters and chapters to the book of human civilisation. Sudan is a melting pot of human culture, with people living in this area since before written history. The world religions have made their mark, too, and in this way have sculpted the ethos and social structure of the populous over time.
Since the 1960s, a team of Polish archaeologists have been painstakingly uncovering the lost buildings of Old Dongola. This once forgotten destination was home to Sudanese people during a medieval period when the land was known as Makuria. A trade city, Old Dongola was a meeting place for Christians and Muslims. The two cultures that flourished on either side of one another would mingle and trade goods and knowledge in this central and welcoming part of the world.
The team of archaeologists had begun to work on later buildings that could be dated back to the 16th to 19th centuries when they discovered an ornate wall painting. Within a small hidden room they discovered the likeness of a Nubian ruler, thought to be King David, being protected by Archangel Gabriel. The mother of Christ is also shown with her child. What is considered unique is that the pictures are thought to be asking for protection over the city during a time of unrest. The hidden network of painted rooms depicts religious symbolism in what could be a gesture of hope and faith. Were people hiding in there for their religion or their nationality?
King David of Nubia was the ruler during the 13th Century. His rule saw the beginning of the downfall of the nation of Makuria with his actions leading to the ransacking of the city by the Mamluk Sultanate. It is now believed that these hidden chambers were originally produced during this time and that they had been built over by the later constructions. Art produced in a desperate way in a hope that God will protect the people is an unusual use of religious art in Christian society. It’s easy to imagine how frightened these people must have been. The largest religion in the area at the time was the Church Of Jesus and it is now accepted that this art can be attributed to this sect.
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