Ancient Diet of Medieval Nubian Monks Revealed: New Study

A new study conducted on 30 skeletons of a Nubian Monastery reveals the ancient diet patterns of the medieval Nubian monastery of Sudan. According to researchers, historians knew a lot of things about the Byzantine and Egyptian societies but very little is known about the Nubian culture and its food patterns due to the lack of literary resources.  

Cemetery 2 of Ghazali (Source: Archaeometry, Credits
Robert Stark and Joanna Ciesielska)

In this study, researchers took Femur samples from 30 monks buried at the monastery of Ghazali. The Ghazali monastery was habituated from 7th century CE to 13th century CE. They have conducted nitrogen and, carbon analysis on the skeletal remains of the monks to find out the variations in diets and subsistence patterns of the Nubia. In this quest, bone collagen values were noted for thirty male skeletal remains. The main objective was to analyze the provincial dietary treatments for monks during the arrival of Christianity in Nubia.

The skeletons of these male monks were found in monastic Cemetery number 2 of Ghazali. The results showed the presence of variable animal protein in monastic diets. These results have thrown light on the variation between the expected and actual diets of the Nubian monastery. The diet pattern of the monks was not completely uniform. The results from the scientific analysis point towards the eating of products made up of the terrestrial animal. Apart from this, the possible feeding of aquatic species looks more mutable. The presence of general comparable isotopic standards among samples of the monks does not willingly point towards the involvement of social hierarchy in the diet.

Know About Nubia

Nubia is a territory sideways the Nile river. In the past, Nubia was under the rule of various great ancient civilizations. The key cultures include Kerma culture, New Kingdom of Egypt. It was the region of numerous empires. The famous one was the kingdom of Kush. Nubia was ruled by the Greeks and the Romans for almost 600 years from the Third cent. BCE to the Third cent. CE. During that era, northern Nubia was attacked and seized to Egypt as Dodekaschoinos. After the decline of in 4th century CE, Nubia was invaded by the Aksum kingdom of Ethiopia. After that incident, three Kingdoms of the Christian religion arose in the Nubia region. They were Nobatia, Makuria and Alodia. Today, the Nubia is divided amid Egypt and Sudan.

Nubian Rulers during pharaoh rule, credits: Matthias Gehricke, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The research was conducted by the Department of Anthropology, McMaster University, University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland, and Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland.

For the original research article, click on Archaeometry.

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