Polish Archaeological Expedition to Banganarti and Selib
Type of site:
Fortified settlement with a church
Kingdom of Makuria
– 1st–12th/13th century
Most interesting finds:
– St Menas church with decorated stone architectural elements
– Medieval well
– Meroitic settlement
– Unique ceramic vessels used for Eucharist
History of research:
Dates of PCMA mission’s work:
Since 2008, survey conducted in 1998
Type of research:
Archaeological excavations, conservation and reconstruction work
Bogdan Żurawski, Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures, Polish Academy of Sciences
– Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures, Polish Academy of Sciences
– Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, University of Warsaw
– National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums
The project has been granted funding by The Qatar-Sudan Archaeological Project for the years 2014–2019.
The site was first recorded by Francis Llewellyn Griffith in 1910. The first archaeological prospection was conducted in 1984 by an expedition from the Royal Ontario Museum, which registered two sites: ROM 100 (Selib 1) and ROM 101 (Selib 3). The next survey took place in 1998 /1/ as part of the Southern Dongola Reach Survey, carried out by a Polish mission directed by Bogdan Żurawski. Photographic documentation and measurements were taken at Selib 1 (SDRS no. Selib 11) and Selib 3 (SDRS no. Selib 19). In 2008, the mission began salvage excavations which turned into regular archaeological work.
Additional research of the Polish Archaeological Expedition to Banganarti and Selib
Apart from conducting regular excavations, Polish Archaeological Expedition to Banganarti and Selib took part in several salvage campaigns related to the building of dams on the Nile which resulted in the flooding of vast areas of the Nile Valley. Between 2005 and 2010, salvage excavations were carried out in the 4th Cataract region as part of the Meroe Dam Archaeological Salvage Project. In 2013, during a field survey in the area of the 3rd and 5th Cataracts, defensive structures were mainly documented (fortresses Shofein and Marakul). Documenting fortresses in the area of the 3rd Cataract was continued in 2016 (Fagirinfenti and Kisenfarki), and in the following years, ethnoarchaeological research was conducted around the Jawgul village.
Description of the site and research:
Selib is a modern village on the right bank of the Nile, approximately 15 km downriver from Old Dongola, the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Makuria. Several archaeological sites from different periods have been found in the vicinity during surveys. Excavations have been conducted so far only on three of them: two medieval ones at Selib 1 /2, 4/ and 3 and a Meroitic one at Selib 2 /3, 12/. Work at the latter revealed settlement remains, including houses, workshops and a storeroom. A rich assemblage of late Kushite pottery was also collected there.
The most intensive research was conducted at the site of Selib 1 /5/, which is an unusual defensive settlement. In the central part of an extensive rectangular area surrounded by a wall stood a church. A small chapel, a well which formed part of a saqiyah (water wheel) system /9, 10, 11/, a tank and a little domestic building were discovered nearby. However, most of the enclosed space was not built-up.
The church /6, 7/, dated to the earliest period of Christianity in Nubia (second half of the 6th–beginning of the 7th century), was dedicated to St Menas, as evidenced by inscriptions /8/, e.g., the foundation inscription of king Zacharias carved into a stone column. Inside the building and in its vicinity, numerous stone architectural elements were found, including several fragments of columns with Kushite relief decoration. Their presence suggests the existence of a Meroitic-period temple near Selib 1. Outside the walls, to the east of the site, a small Christian cemetery was located.
Żurawski, B. (2016). Filling in the gaps. Excavations on the site of Selib (1st to 13th century). Sudan & Nubia, 20, 91–109.
Żurawski, B. (2016). An altar casket with a representation of St Thecla ad bestias from the vicinity of the St Menas Church in Selib (Northern Sudan). Études et Travaux, 29, 203–224.
Deptuła, A. (2015). Inscriptions from Saint Menas’ church in Selib. In Nubian Voices II (=The Journal of Juristic Papyrology, Supplement 27), Warsaw: Raphael Taubenschlag Foundation, pp. 119–135.
Hajduga, R. and Solarska, K. (2015) Excavations at Selib 2 in 2012. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 24/1, 389–396.
Żurawski, B. (2014). Meroitic to medieval occupation upriver from Dongola. Excavations at Banganarti and Selib in 2010. In D.A. Welsby and J.R. Anderson (eds), The Fourth Cataract and Beyond (=British Museum Publications on Egypt and Sudan 1). Leuven: Peeters Press, pp. 887–900.
Żurawski, B., Cedro, A., Hajduga, R., Skowrońska, E., Solarska, K., and Badowski, T. (2014). Banganarti and Selib: season 2011. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 23/1, 323–342.
Żurawski, B. (2013). The earthenware trays of lobed design and the problem of communion by intinction in the eleventh-thirteenth century Nubia. Études et Travaux, 26/2, 773–793.
Żurawski, B., Stępnik, T., Drzewiecki, M., Badowski, T., Cedro, A., Molga, K., Solarska, K., and Włodarski, T. (2013). Banganarti and Selib. Season 2010. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 22, 273–294.