Magical Medieval Crypt Holds 7 Male Mummies: Page 2

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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 W?odzimierz Godlewski, the current director of the Polish Mission to Dongola, in an article in the same journal.

While the mummies' clothing is very poorly preserved, textile specialist Barbara Czaja-Szewczak, with the Wilanów Palace Museum, determined the men were dressed very simply, mainly in linen garments. The garments "consisted of robes characterized by a fairly simple design. Linen predominated," she wrote in an article in the same journal. At least some of the individuals wore crosses somewhere on their body.

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. Research efforts are ongoing and a complete record of the texts is expected to be detailed in a book in the future.

Lost Egyptian Pyramids Found?

A lost kingdom

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. [See Photos of Sudan's Beautiful Pyramids]

"The period between the late eighth and 12th centuries is claimed to have been the golden age of Makuria," said Artur Obluski, a research associate with the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute and the University of Warsaw's Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, at a recent lecture at Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum.

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, said Obluski. 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.

Makuria's end came when the Ayyubid dynasty took control of Egypt in A.D. 1171. They launched an invasion of northern Makuria, bringing about a period of decline and eventually the loss of the kingdom's independence.

Original article on LiveScience.

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