When vineyards bloomed in Sudan...
|Stone capital of column at Hag Magid [Credit: Dobiesława Bagińska]|
In autumn 2015, scientists carried out extensive reconnaissance in the Letti Basin, in the area of approx. 150 km2 - this area was previously very poorly surveyed by archaeologists. Several sites in the area were reported by Krzysztof Grzymski of the Royal Ontario Museum.
Now archaeologists confirmed the presence of previously known sites, but also discovered a number of previously unknown relics of settlements and cemeteries, mainly from the period of the kingdom of Makuria. These findings confirm the reports of the Arab travellers - more than 1,000 years ago, the Kingdom of Makuria was a rich country, its power could compete with the Arab invaders, attacking from Egypt. The Letti Basin was an economic and cultural base for the capital of Makuria - Dongola.
"Hag Magid is especially promising for us - it is a huge elevation with an area of over a hectare, on the surface of which we found medieval columns, details of architecture and thousands of fragments of pottery" - said Dr. Bagińska.
|View of the Hag Magid site [Credit: Dobiesława Bagińska]|
"Structures hiding beneath the sand are from the same period and belong to the same cultural circle as the basilica discovered decades ago by Prof. Kazimierz Michałowski in Faras on - paintings found then went to Khartoum and Warsaw, where they are on display in museums" - said Dr. Bagińska.
The researcher is cautious in her estimates whether the importance of discoveries at Hag Magid will match those in Faras, but preliminary survey is promising - she believes that it is possible to make spectacular discoveries in the form of interior decorated with paintings, stone architectural details and decorative floors.
"Importantly, in contrast to Egypt and other countries in the Middle East, where it is not possible to acquire even part of the monuments from excavations, the Sudanese authorities are open to this type of solution. This means that tangible results of excavations will not only increase enhance knowledge, but also museum collections. Even the monuments found on the surface of our site of interest have a large exhibition value" - noted Dr Bagińska. Currently, the researcher is looking for funds to finance the fieldwork and geophysical surveys in this year's archaeological season, which is planned for autumn.
|Dr. Dobiesława Bagińska checks GPS coordinates of the Hag Magid site |
[Credit: Dr. Krzysztof Grzymski]
Scientists know that more than 1,000 years ago the Letti Basin looked very different than today - now sandy desert dominates. "During the heyday of the kingdom of Makuria, a canal ran near Hag Magid and watered the whole area. It is worth noting that vines were cultivated here on a large scale, and wine was produced, as we read in the reports of Arab travellers who ventured into this Christian kingdom" - said Dr. Bagińska.
Therefore, the goal of scientists will also be to study the historic climate and crops - until now archaeologists working in Sudan did not research this topic.
"We are also concerned that Hag Magid could be buried by shifting sand dunes - thus we would lose the opportunity of studying it for the next few decades" - concluded Dr. Bagińska.
Author: Szymon Zdziebłowski | Source: PAP - Science and Scholarship in Poland [March 26, 2016]