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Four cemeteries unearthed at Medieval Monastery in Sudan

They may have lived peaceful lives, but it appears that monks living in Sudan 1,000 years ago did not have such a dignified ending.

Four cemeteries unearthed at Medieval Monastery in Sudan
The skeletons found in "cemetery two" at al-Ghazali in Sudan were all males, suggesting monks who lived
 in the nearby Christian monastery were buried there [Credit: Robert Stark]
Researchers have excavated four ancient cemeteries in Sudan and revealed that many of the skeletons had signs of 'defleshing'.

Marks on the skeletons' bones suggest that their flesh was removed shortly after death – although the reason for this remains a mystery.

Four cemeteries unearthed at Medieval Monastery in Sudan
Aerial view of cemetery two, which is located beside the Christian monastery, at al-Ghazali in Sudan 
[Credit: Robert Stark]
Researchers from McMaster University in Hamilton have excavated 123 individuals from four cemeteries near the remains of a medieval Christian monastery in Sudan, near the River Nile.

The people buried in the cemeteries lived around 1,000 years ago, during a time when Christian kingdoms flourished in the area.

Four cemeteries unearthed at Medieval Monastery in Sudan
Over the last two years, the remains of at least 123 individuals have been uncovered at a series 
of four cemeteries near a medieval Christian monastery at al-Ghazali in Sudan. Some of these
 individuals were found with burial shrouds. The shroud of this person still covers their skull 
[Credit: Robert Stark]
One of the cemeteries was found to consist solely of adult males, and was probably used by the monks from the monastery.

Two cemeteries contained a wider mix of individuals, while the fourth contained only 15 burials – many with unusual features.

Four cemeteries unearthed at Medieval Monastery in Sudan
Burial is from "cemetery four," which was discovered recently and contains 15 burials. 
This cemetery has some unusual burials. The person seen here was buried with 
their legs at a 45-degree angle and the right arm positioned over their face 
[Credit: Robert Stark]
One burial contained a mix of bones with cut marks from two individuals, made shortly after their death.

'All the indicators [are] that this happened when the bones were still quite fresh,' said Robert Stark who led the study, during a presentation of his findings.

Four cemeteries unearthed at Medieval Monastery in Sudan
In one burial in cemetery four, the remains of two individuals were found with their bones
 mixed together. Both individuals had cut marks on their bones, which indicate
that they may have been defleshed shortly after death 
[Credit: Robert Stark]
Mr Stark added that it was possible that the cut marks were made during a form of defleshing ceremony.

Various other people buried in the cemetery were found in strange positions, such as one person whose legs were at a 45-degree angle, with their arms across his or her head.

Four cemeteries unearthed at Medieval Monastery in Sudan
In another burial from cemetery four, archaeologists found a person with their legs twisted at 
an unusual angle. While cemeteries 1-3 were discovered by archaeologists in the 1950s, 
cemetery 4 was discovered more recently. Why people in this cemetery were
 buried in such unusual ways is unknown [Credit: Robert Stark]
Other noteable findings were stone structures that were found in all four cemeteries, engraved with Greek writings.

Artur Obluski, director of the excavations at al-Ghazali, told Live Science: 'The writing on tombstones can be divided into two parts.

Four cemeteries unearthed at Medieval Monastery in Sudan
The medieval Christian monastery was in use between roughly A.D. 670 to A.D. 1270, at a time
when a series of Christian kingdoms flourished in Sudan [Credit: Artur Obluski]
The first part consisted of prayers, which included 'a prayer for the soul of the deceased, a prayer to the Providence of God, the God himself often described as merciful.'

These prayers ask 'that the soul will be taken care of and can rest on the bosom of Abraham, Isaac and Jacobor in the world of the Living.'

Four cemeteries unearthed at Medieval Monastery in Sudan
One of the stone structures with a tombstone located above the surface of a burial. The tombstones are written in either 
Greek or Coptic (an Egyptian language which uses the Greek alphabet) [Credit: Artur Obluski]
The second part of the tombstone engravings 'contains some individual information of the deceased: his name, age at the time of death, sometimes titles he bore during his life time - so-called cursus honorum - and professions he performed,' he added.

Author: Shivali Best | Source: Daily Mail [January 24, 2017]

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