12 December 2023

Prestigious journal Archaeology has published a top 10 list of the most significant discoveries of 2023. One of the discoveries is unique paintings from Old Dongola, present-day Sudan, which were discovered by an expedition of the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology of the University of Warsaw, led by Prof. Artur Obłuski. 


Sudan Dongola. ph: Pier Luigi Bertola via Wikimedia Commons

Old Dongola (Tungul) was the capital of Makuria, one of the most prominent states of medieval Africa. Polish archaeologists have been researching the medieval Nubian kingdoms in Sudan for many years. Since 1964, scholars from the Centre for Mediterranean Archaeology at the University of Warsaw have been working in Old Dongola. Sudan remains a source of surprises, even after almost 60 years.

This spring, media in Poland and abroad covered the discovery of magnificently preserved, unique paintings (read the story: link). The finding was made during research conducted under the European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant: ‘UMMA – Urban Metamorphosis of the community of a Medieval African capital city’.

According to Archaeology, the paintings, which depict “the Virgin Mary, the Eternal God, the Archangel Michael, Christ, and the Makurite King David kissing the hand of Christ,” have generated considerable interest in the scientific community. The magazine says: “One of the reasons was the unique iconography featuring representations hitherto unknown in Christian art, such as the depiction of Mary, or of the direct contact between a mortal and a supernatural being.”

It is precisely such discoveries – scientifically significant and at the same time appealing to a wide audience – that are selected by the editors of ‘Archaeology’ for their ‘Top 10’ list published each year in the December issue. The ‘Archaeology’ magazine is the leading popular science periodical in its field. It has been published by the Archaeological Institute of America for over 70 years. Currently appearing on paper and online, it reaches a worldwide audience interested in archaeology and cultural heritage.