Wall paintings from Old Dongola in Top 10 archaeological discoveries of 2023

The prominent ‘Archaeology’ magazine has published its Top 10 list of the most significant discoveries of 2023. It features paintings from Old Dongola (Sudan), discovered by an expedition of the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology of the University of Warsaw headed by Prof. Artur Obłuski.

Old Dongola (Tungul) was the capital of Makuria, one of the most prominent states of medieval Africa. 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’.

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 also generated considerable interest in the scientific community. 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 (2.1mil followers on Fb, 581k on X).

Polish scholars have pioneered research on the medieval Nubian kingdoms in Sudan. The PCMA UW expedition has been working in Old Dongola since 1964. This accolade for the latest discovery at the site is all the more welcome as it is a reminder of Sudan’s rich cultural heritage at a time when the country is being torn apart by civil war.

  • The situation of many Sudanese archaeologists and colleagues of Polish archaeological expeditions who remain in Sudan is becoming more difficult by the day.

    To help them, the PCMA UW is working with the Kazimierz Michałowski Foundation, which is accepting donations to support archaeologists in areas affected by the conflict. The funds will be transferred to colleagues from the National Corporation of Antiquities and Museums (NCAM) who are best placed to distribute them among those in need.

    Should you wish to support them, here are transfer details:

  • Fundacja im. Kazimierza Michałowskiego
    ul. Prosta 69
    00-838 Warszawa

    Bank accounts:
    PLN: PL10160014620006491656451001
    EUR: PL24160014620006491656451040
    USD: PL94160014620006491656451041
    Bank: BNP Paribas Bank Polska S.A., ul. Kasprzaka 2, 01-211 Warszawa
    In the title of the transfer, please enter: Support for archaeologists in conflict zones