900-Year-Old Medieval Crypt Contains Magical Inscriptions And 7 Mummies

By Rhonda J. Miller on December 22, 2013 11:58 PM EST

A 900-year-old crypt in Sudan has seven mummies and walls covered with inscriptions. Photo credit: Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology Archives.
A 900-year-old crypt in Sudan with seven mummies and walls covered with inscriptions is 
being excavated. Photo credit: Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology Archives.

A 900-year-old medieval crypt with seven mummies and walls covered with inscriptions thought to be invoking divine protection has been excavated by a team of researchers working at the site of Old Dongola in what is modern-day Sudan, according to Archaeology Magazine.

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The crypt dates back to a period when Old Dongola was the capital of the Christian kingdom of Makuria. Researchers believe one of the seven mummies was the powerful Archbishop Georgios who died in A.D. 1113, based on an epitaph in the tomb, according to Archaeology.

"The inscriptions were intended to safeguard not only the tomb, but primarily those who were buried inside of it during the dangerous liminal period between the moment of dying and their appearance before the throne of God," said researchers Adam Lajtar, of the University of Warsaw in Poland, and Jacques van der Vliet of Leiden University in the Netherlands, according to Live Science.

Quotations from the gospels of Luke, John, Mark, and Matthew, as well as prayers to the Virgin Mary were inscribed on the walls of the crypt. The inscriptions were in black ink with a thin layer of whitewash paint, and were written in Greek and Sahidic Coptic. Researchers found a signature of "Ioannes" on the inscriptions on three, or possibly four, of the walls.

The seven bodies found in the crypt were of seven males, all at least 40 years old, according to anthropologist Robert Mahler, a researcher with the University of Warsaw who examined the remains.The crypt was probably sealed after the last burials took place, researchers believe. "The entrance to the chamber was closed with red bricks bonded in mud mortar," wrote Wlodzimierz Godlewski, the director of the Polish Mission to Dongola, according to Live ScienceThe mummies were dressed in simple, mostly linen clothing, although the fabric was not well preserved, Barbara Czaja-Szewczak, of the Wilanow Palace Museum, said. Some of the mummies wore crosses. 

The crypt was discovered in 1993 by the Polish Mission to Dongola, which at the time was led by Stefan Jakobielski. Excavaction began in 2009, and research is continuing, with records of the findings expected to be published in a future book. Makuria was at its height at the time the crypt was created, with its kings ruling a territory that is now much of modern-day Sudan and parts of southern Egypt, according to the Daily Mail. The kingdom prospered between 50 and 1150, but increasing hostility from Egypt and internal discord caused the state to collapse in the 14th Century.

Seven mummies and walls covered with inscriptions are being excavated at a site in what is now in Sudan.

Seven mummies and walls with inscriptions are being excavated at a site in Sudan.

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