The last blog entry brought our blog “narrative” back to Leicester. When we were there a month ago, among the sites that we came across and photographed was an archaeological dig, whose importance we did not know at the moment that we made the shot.
Already while in Leicester our dear friend and colleague, Artur Obluski (known from other entries to our readers), suggested that we should find a very special locality in the town of Leicester, namely the newly-discovered grave of probably king Richard III himself!! We did not have time to crosscheck the news with our itineraries in town, but when we found time to check more closely what had been written on the discovery in the media, we realized that the archaeological dig we photographed was precisely the one that had brought to light this important for the English national identity grave!
In the meantime, Marissa, in Medieval Musings, one of our favorite blogs, made an interesting comment about the discovery, listing “a very select club of mediaeval individuals whose bodies have been positively identified” (see HERE).
More recently, Italian archaeologists believe they have come close to identifying the remains of the “real Mona Liza“!
Of course the most renown of such cases is the hunt for the grave of Alexander the Great whose identification carries extreme significance both for the discoverer but also for the national identity of the Greeks. Interestingly, it is a Greek from Norway, namely Konstantinos Chilidis who defended publicly on the 26th of September his doctoral dissertation at the University of Oslo with the title: The construction of knowledge in archaeology – the case of ”Philip’s tomb” at Vergina in northern Greece. Συγχαρητήρια Κωνσταντίνε!
The role of grave monuments in the formation of the ethnic identity is also an important, although under-studied subject in the archaeology of Sudan. From the tumuli and stelae in the Bronze Age to the pyramids of the Napatan and Meroitic periods and until the qubbas of the Islamic era the examples are far too many to enumerate. However, the historical period of Medieval or Christian Nubia has not been dramatized in the collective memory of either the Sudanese or the international community in a manner that would make the discovery of a single figure stand out as particularly significant. It is characteristic that in all discussions of the new input that the Christian cultures brought to Nubia the disappearance of the royal grave – such a prominent feature of all ancient history in the Middle Nile Valley – occupies a primal position. And not without good reason: no single grave of a royalty ruling over the Middle Nile Valley has been identified, although a couple of stelae mentioning kings have been found ex situ. See the Fasti prepared by Ochala and Ruffini in their wiki page: http://www.medievalnubia.info/dev/index.php/Kings
Although Sai has not been known as a royal residence there are two occasions where names of kings are recorded:
- The first is a set of graffiti on the rock cliffs overlooking the river at the site of the fortress and which have been interpreted as commemorations of exceptionally (?) high water levels – in these cases we have both the Greek and the Old Nubian term for a king, Basileus and Ourou respectively.
- The second is a small fragment of a marble stela where the abbreviation of the accusative of the Greek term basileus <=B(asi)L(e)A> for king has been read.
The links of Sai Island with the royal headquarters at Old Dongola are still under investigation and to our understanding they are very much linked with a re-apprehension of the more general problem of identifying regional administrative divisions, both secular and religious.