Project: Life in the Makurian metropolis. A bioarchaeological inquiry into Medieval Old Dongola

  • Principal Investigator: Dr. Robert J. Stark


    Project term:

    January 2023 to December 2026


    PLN 2 481 857


    National Science Centre in Poland, OPUS 23, 2022/45/B/HS3/01708

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  • Life in the Makurian metropolis: A bioarchaeological inquiry into Medieval Old Dongola, Sudan

    Keywords: Bioarchaeology; Burial Practices; Cemetery Landscape; Osteology; Isotope Analyses; Nubia; Medieval Makuria; Mobility; Diet

    Occupied between the ca. 5th and 14th c. CE, the Makurian capital of Old Dongola is the most extensively documented medieval Nubian archaeological site to date. Located on the east bank of the Nile River directly adjacent to the terminus of the Wadi Howar, a known trade and travel corridor, Old Dongola was a major entrepôt for both surrounding areas and more distant regions, forming a cosmopolitan hub at the centre of the Makurian Kingdom that served a vital socio-cultural and governmental function.

    The aim of this project is to gain a deeper understanding of what life was like for the medieval inhabitants of Old Dongola. This will entail documenting aspects of the natural landscape through Nile River and groundwater sampling along with animal and plant sampling to gain insights to expected isotopic values of the surrounding landscape and available foods. The project will focus on documenting the nature of the large medieval cemetery and associated post-excavation analyses entailing dietary reconstruction and insights to mobility determined using isotope analyses; assessment of the age and sex structure of the individuals interred in the cemetery, along with stature reconstruction and insights to experiences of pathology gained from the examination of skeletal materials. Along with excavations at Old Dongola, the results of this project will help to shed light on the human experience of living in a major medieval African capital city.

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