Christian Life in Medieval Nubia at el-Kurru, Sudan


The Nubian site of el-Kurru (modern Sudan) lies along the Nile River about 140 km upstream of Old Dongola, the capital of the Medieval Christian kingdom of Makuria. In 2015-2016, a cemetery adjacent to the settlement was excavated, containing 26 skeletons. Here, I will present current bioarchaeological work on these individuals. Biological profiles were developed, including sex and age ranges, health markers evaluated, and indicators of pathology and trauma identified. Those interred span all ages, from infants to older adults, with an equal distribution of sexes. No indications of interpersonal violence are present. Age-related pathologies (ie. osteoarthritis, advanced dental wear) are evident in a quarter of the sample population, while signs of probable disease (ie. periostitis, cribra orbitalia) are present in another quarter. Archaeological evaluation of the burials, directional organization, and scarce grave goods indicates these individuals were Christians. Further analyses include extraction and sequencing of ancient DNA, stable isotope analysis, AMS Radiocarbon dating, and additional development of biological profiles to include stature and ancestry markers. Compared to a wealth of physical anthropological work on Medieval Lower Nubia, this sample population provides a means to understand life in the relatively less-studied kingdom of Makuria using archaeological and bioarchaeological data.

Cite this Record

Christian Life in Medieval Nubia at el-Kurru, Sudan. Abagail Breidenstein, Geoff Emberling, Abigail Bouwman, Frank Ruehli, Abigail Bigham. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429358)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16745