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.
|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.
|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.
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.
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.
|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.
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.
|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.’
|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]