Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Cryptic Messages

Image Source: Live Science.

Live Science reports on a crypt which has been uncovered in the Sudan, in the old Christian Kingdom of Makuria, which reached its golden age from 750 to 1150 CE. The crypt is located in what was the capital city, Old Dongola, once an important centre in medieval Nubia (see a brief history of the region here). The Live Science report is based on a research publication from 2009. The archaeologists from the University of Warsaw who excavated the crypt and environs in 2009 have a Website here; you can see their 2012 excavation of the city's royal palace, here.

From the Kingdom of Aldoia, south of the Kingdom of Makuria, north of Khartoum: "Bishop Marianos (1005-1039) and Virgin with Child, after 1005 [CE]." Image Source: Early African Christianity.

Ruins of a Coptic Christian church in Old Dongola, Sudan. Image Source: SuperStock.

Detail of the inscriptions in the crypt, west wall, with Greek and Old Nubian texts, after restoration by archaeologists. Image (2009) © Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology / W. Godlewski / University of Warsaw. Reproduced under Fair Use.

The excavated crypt contains the remains of an archbishop, and the walls are covered with religious inscriptions and protective magical spells:
A 900-year-old medieval crypt, containing seven naturally mummified bodies and walls covered with inscriptions, has been excavated in a monastery at Old Dongola, the capital of a lost medieval kingdom that flourished in the Nile Valley.

Old Dongola is located in modern-day Sudan, and 900 years ago, it was the capital of Makuria, a Christian kingdom that lived in peace with its Islamic neighbor to the north. One of the mummies in the crypt (scientists aren't certain which one) is believed to be that of Archbishop Georgios, probably the most powerful religious leader in the kingdom. His epitaph was found nearby and says that he died in A.D. 1113 at the age of 82. ...

The inscriptions on the walls of the crypt, inscribed with black ink on a thin layer of whitewash ... were written in Greek and Sahidic Coptic. They include excerpts from the gospels of Luke, John, Mark and Matthew, magical names and signs and a prayer given by the Virgin Mary, at the end of which death appears to her "in the form of a rooster." After Mary dies, according to the text, she ascends to heaven with Jesus.

The inscriptions, written by "Ioannes," who left a signature on three and possibly four of the walls, likely served as protection for the deceased against evil powers, the researchers said.

They were "intended to safeguard not only the tomb, but primarily those who were buried inside of it during the dangerous liminal period between the moment of dying and their appearance before the throne of God," write Adam Łajtar, of the University of Warsaw, and Jacques van der Vliet, of Leiden University, in the most recent [2009] edition of the journal Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean.
The crypt contained the bodies of seven older males, no younger than 40, said anthropologist Robert Mahler, a researcher with the University of Warsaw who examined the remains.

The crypt was likely sealed after the last of the burials took place. "The entrance to the chamber was closed with red bricks bonded in mud mortar," writes Włodzimierz Godlewski, the current director of the Polish Mission to Dongola ... .

The crypt was first found in 1993 by the Polish Mission to Dongola, which at the time was led by director Stefan Jakobielski. However, it wasn't excavated until 2009. During excavations, the bodies were removed and studied, the crypt walls cleaned and its inscriptions recorded and studied in greater detail. ...

At the time the crypt was created, Makuria was at its height. Its kings, ruling from Old Dongola, controlled territory throughout much of modern-day Sudan and parts of southern Egypt. ...

Makuria's ability to maintain good relations with its Islamic neighbor to the north, the Fatimid Caliphate, which controlled Egypt, was important to the kingdom's success ... . The two had an extensive trade relationship, and many people from Makuria served in the Fatimid army.
Arab historians at the time were impressed by the Christian monasteries they saw at Makuria. Though some reports of these monasteries were exaggerated, archaeologists have found some fantastic medieval churches, including recently excavated examples at Banganarti.
You can see what Old Dongola looks like today in a gallery here.

The three kingdoms of Christian Nubia (7th century - 16th century CE). Image Source: Wiki.

A map of the Eastern Hemisphere as it looked in 700 CE, including the Kingdom of Makuria in Africa (click to enlarge). Image Source: Wiki

After a period of harmony with Islamic powers, the Christian kingdoms in Nubia eventually declined. This occurred after centuries of Muslim-Christian conflict; Wiki:
The Christian faith [in the Sudan] largely disappeared following Islamic conquests (from the 7th century onwards), but only after a lengthy struggle that went on for eight centuries. In the nineteenth century the Mahdist state (1881-1898) forcibly converted most of the remaining Coptic Christians to Islam. During the 19th century, British missionaries re-introduced the Christian faith into South Sudan.
In a Millennial twist that rewrites history, medieval Christian Nubia captured the attention of Crusader Kings gamers in 2007. Crusader Kings (2004) is an interactive historical strategy game. One gamer with a background in the American military wrote a quasi-historical-literary After Action Report (here); in this fan fiction for the game, he developed the story of another Georgios - Georgios III King of Makuria - who ruled from 1030 to 1080. The gamer created an alternate history of Nubia, with themes reflecting on Millennial issues in the modern Middle East.

Image Source: Paradox Interactive.

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