!!!!! Site under construction !!!!!!

This page aims to bring the Nubian monasticism closer to the community of sholars and wider audience as well.

In 2012 I’ve started a program regarding Nubian monasteries. Thanks to the hospitality of the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago and generosity of the Foundation for Polish Science and de Brzezie Lanckoronski Foundation I lead a project on publishing the Qasr el-Wizz monastery carried out by a team of European scholars. The monastery has been fully excavated by George Scanlon on behalf of the Oriental institute in 1965, yet only two preliminary reports in Journal of Egyptian Archaeology has been published. Our objective is to publish the entire material recovered at the site and made this exceptional collection available for the public.

I am also implementing the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology project at the Ghazali monastery, Northern Province, Sudan sponsored by the Qatar Sudan Archaeological Project. It is one of the best preserved and picturesque sites in Sudan. The main objective is preservation of the historic site and its various historical and cultural values for future generations. It consists of two modules: excavations and site management which in turn contains protection, conservation and presentation of the site. The latter part is being done in cooperation with a leading company in the field in site management in the Nile valley.

In March 2015 I have received a grant no. 2014/13/D/HS3/03829 from the National Science Centre, Poland to produce the monograph on Nubian monasteries and compare them with the monastic communities in other countries in the peripheries of the Byzantine world. This website was created thanks this funding:

FNP      Lanckoroński      QSAP     NCN


One of the most intriguing and most captivating archaeological sites in Sudan is surprisingly situated not at the shore of life-giving Nile. It is located in Wadi Abu Dom at a distance of about fifteen km from the river bank. When using modern technology we look down from the Earth’s orbit at this area, beige snake of the wadi basks in the sun between the volcanic rocks of this part of Bayuda. Yet when we travel there this snake glitters with the silver and golden flakes of mica. During the windy weather even the visitors seem to be touched by a golden touch of Midas. This is the place where the Makurians built a monastery of a size of St. Catherine monastery in Sinai. The place visited by all of the famous travelers of the nineteenth and early twentieth century once like Richard Lepsius, Louis Maurice Adolphe Linant de Bellefonds, John Gardner Wilkinson, Pierre Trêmaux, or Ugo Monneret de Villard.

The Ghazali monastery is a site of the utmost importance for the studies on history of Sudan especially in Makurian period but also for local economy as one of the best tourist destinations in the country. Peter Shinnie, Neville Chittick and Sayed Nigm ed Din Sherif on behalf of the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums, at that point of time working under the name of Sudan Antiquities Service, started the excavation of the site in the 1950’es. In two archaeological seasons they cleared the church, refectories and several other rooms.

The very recent excavations resulted in discovery of the second church and a complex of sanitary rooms, the latter a feature never before found in Nubia suggesting a big monastic community or a role of the monastery as a pilgrimage center. Thanks to two seasons of excavations Ghazali became source of the second largest collection of epigraphic material in Sudan. Preserved plastering in the main church was under professional restorer treatment last season thanks to cooperation with the University of Münster and generosity of prof. Angelika Lohwasser and Qatar-Sudan Archaeological Project.

In 2014 I have received a grant from the Qatar Sudan Archaeological Project which in 4 years will turn the unexcavated site into a tourist friendly monastery worth a visit and a moment of contemplation.

In 2011 NCAM expressed its interest in implementation of a project aimed at full excavation, publication of the site and its preparation for the increasing volume of the tourists visiting the site. In 2012 Polish Centre of Archaeology of the University of Warsaw and NCAM decided to carry out this project in cooperation as G.A.S.P Ghazali Archaeological site Presentation Project. The area of the project contains medieval monastery, neighboring settlement and surrounding cemeteries and iron production sites.

Nubian Kingdoms

The fourth century CE has seen the rise of three separate kingdoms in the area previously known as Meroe: Nobadia (Migi), further upriver Makuria (Dotawo), and the most southern Alodia (Alwa). All of them converted to Christianity in the sixth century CE. Then probably at the end of the seventh century Nobadia and Makuria merged together to form one state entity. The heyday of the Nubian kingdoms lasted ca. between 850 until 1050. The rise of Ayyubids and then Mamluks in Egypt changed the relations between Nubian kingdoms and world of Islam. Destructive invasions of the first at the end of the twelfth century and the latter in the thirteenth started the period of gradual decline of Makuria. The royal court moved probably to Nobadia (Gebel Adda?) and a petty kingdom was formed in the vicinity of Dongola, which then became liegemen of the Funj sultanate. The fall of Alwa could be probably attributed to the movement of the tribes from the Arab Peninsula in the thirteenth century.

Nobadia is the northernmost of three kingdoms. It spread from the first to the third Nile cataract in its heyday. The dawn of Nobadia dates back to the end of the fourth century. The fall of Meroe brought to life in Lower Nubia two competing chiefdoms: Blemmyan in the Dodekaschoinos and Nobadian grouped around the Second Nile cataract. Dodekaschoinos is a name of the territory immediately south of Aswan, derived from Greek Dodekas choinos what means twelve (Roman) miles, and equals 75 modern miles. In ca. 420, Olympiodorus of Thebes, a Roman historian, visited the Blemmyes. According to his account, despite controlling the Nile valley the Blemmyan king preferred to remain in the desert. At the same time the Nobades, whose royal cemeteries have been found in Qustul and Ballana, started an expansion to the north. As a result, the Nobades subdued the Dodekaschoinos and settled relations with the Byzantine Empire, which allowed for an increase of the volume of trade and an influx of new political and religious ideas. In the middle of the fifth century Nobades controlled the whole territory between the first and second Nile cataracts. Then, they directed their military expansion to the south and in the sixth century they held sway as far upriver as the third cataract. At the beginning of the sixth century, the Nobadian elite strengthened its position within the multiethnic society, and searched for effective forms for integration of the state and its peoples, and reached for the Christian religion. The king of Nobadia converted officially in 543. The capital of Nobadia was located at Pachoras (arab. Faras).


The origins and history of Alwa the most southern of Byzantine Nubian kingdoms are very poorly known. The ethnicity of the founders of the new realm is obscure, but Alwa is considered a Nubian kingdom, as it was probably created by the Black Noba. They are mentioned in the inscription of Ezana, the king of Axum who invaded the Nile Valley in the fourth century CE. At that time they dwelled along the river Takkaze and Atbara, eastern tributaries of the Nile.

The capital city of Alwa, Soba, was excavated by Peter Shinnie and then Derek Welsby. Alwan buildings at Soba were almost completely dismantled, reportedly to build Khartoum in the 1820s. There is no other Alwan settlement ever touched by the archaeologist’s trowel and at least five huge archaeological sites await excavation along the White and Blue Niles. According to the Arab historian Ibn Selim al Aswani, who wrote in the tenth century, it had large monasteries and rich churches. Soba must have also been an important trade center, as it is confirmed by the presence of Muslim traders and archaeological finds of twelfth- and thirteenth-century: Chinese pottery and a stone mold for casting medallions bearing an Arabic inscription.

Archaeological investigations today focus on the central Nubian kingdom, Makuria.The majority of Arab historical narratives concern Muslim relations with this kingdom, yet excavations so far uncovered about 3% of its capital and no other settlement has been touched by the archaeologists. Apart from that there are partially excavated: monastery of Ghazali and two at Old Dongola, pilgrimage center at Banganarti and an enigmatic site at Hambukol. The political and social center of the kingdom was located in the area between the Third and Fourth Cataracts, a territory consisting of large Nile basins: Kerma and Letti. Dongola, the capital of the kingdom, was located in the Letti Basin, right on the spot where an extension of Wadi Howar, which connected the Nile Valley with Central and Western Africa, joins the Nile. The beginnings of state formation in Makuria go back to the fourth decade of the fourth century and are attested in inscriptions of the Axumite king Ezana. His mighty army was held off by the Red Noba just after it had crossed Bayuda. The first center of the new political organism in the Nile valley was located near the modern villages of Zuma and Tangasi, where two vast elite cemeteries are currently under excavation by the Polish archaeologist Mahmoud el-Tayeb. The individual royal mound graves reach 50 feet in height and 200 feet in diameter.


Makuria, like its northern neighbor Nobadia, converted to Christianity sometime around the middle of the sixth century. Reportedly the king was baptized by a mission sent by the emperor Justinian. Both kingdoms united at some point in the seventh century CE, beginning of the eighth at the latest. In 641 and 652 the Nubians were one of the few peoples capable of repelling the Arab invasions thanks to their archery skills. The Arab historians call them “pupil smiters” or “archers of the eyes” since they were able to shoot a man through a pupil of an eye from a long distance. Both sides signed an agreement (called the baqt) that lasted for the next five hundred years regardless of who ruled Egypt. According to the treaty, the Makurians were obliged to deliver slaves in exchange for wheat, lentils, and cloth.

The king of Makuria had absolute authority. Ibn Selim Al-Aswani, an Arab historian, stated that the king had the power to turn his subjects into slaves. Several officials are attested for the Makurian kingdom. Most of them had Greek titles, e.g., eparchos, meizoteros, architriclinus, and were probably modeled on the Byzantine court. An official that played an important role in the administration was the Eparchos of Nobadia (who was kind of a vice roy of Makuria), who wielded power over the northern part of the country. The kingdom of Makuria had a very interesting system of succession, according to which the heir was the son of the king’s sister, not the king’s own offspring. It made the king’s sister, who in Nubian textual sources holds the title Mother of the King, one of the most important and powerful persons in the realm.

Project Leader

Artur Obłuski

web sites:

Since 2015 Director of the Research Centre in Cairo
Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, University of Warsaw, Poland/Egypt
Since 2012 Head of Qasr el-Wizz project – publication of the Oriental Institute excavations at Qasr el Wizz monastery, Research Associate
Oriental Institute, University of Chicago, USA
Since 2012 Director of the excavation and site presentation project of the monastery at al-Ghazali, Northern Province, Sudan
Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, University of Warsaw

2012 – 2013 Kolumb Scholarship of the Foundation for Polish Science: Oriental Institute, University of Chicago, USA (18 months)
2012 de Brzezie Lanckoronski Foundation: Egypt Exploration Society, Griffith Institute, Oxford, UK (1 month)
2005 – 2006 Ministry of Higher Education, Poland, Fellowship at the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology in Egypt (12 months)

•Archaeology of religion in Africa: Christian monasticism on the fringes of the medieval world,
Oriental Institute, University of Chicago, 3 August 2016
•The economy of monasticism in the peripheries of Christian world. A view from medieval Nubia,Monasticism and Economy. Rediscovering approach to work and poverty, Pontifical Universityof Sant’Anselmo, Monastic Institute, Rome, 7-10 June 2016
•The Lost Treasures of Medieval Nubia: Recent Archaeological Discoveries in the Sudan, RoyalOntario Museum Toronto, Canada, 26 November 2013
•Christianity in Late Antique & Medieval Nubia: New Archaeological Perspectives, Freedman LectureSeries, University of Michigan, 24 November 2013
•An Islamic Frontier? Nubian-Egyptian Relations in the Middle Ages, American Society for OrientalResearch Annual Meeting 2013, 18-20 November 2013

•Kazimierz Michałowski Memorial Lecture Series, Research Centre in Cairo, Polish Centreof Mediterranean Archaeology, University of Warsaw, Egypt in cooperation with the Ministryof Antiquities, Egypt.
These lectures commemorate the life of the founder of Polish archaeological research in NorthAfrica and the Middle East. Eminent scholars deliver lectures related to Kazimierz Michałowski’srich legacy.
•PolAr. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean Lecture Series, Research Centre in Cairo, PolishCentre of Mediterranean Archaeology, University of Warsaw, Egypt.
Lectures are given by Polish and foreign scholars associated with the Research Centre. Theypresent new results of recently concluded field seasons or in-depth analyses of archaeologicalmaterial recovered by Polish expeditions.
•Undergraduate and graduate students seminars
The Research Centre in Cairo offers between 15 and 20 scholarships each year for youngresearchers building their scholarly career. The seminars help them achieve their goalsby discussing their topic of interest, research and career advisory
2012 International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East (ICAANE) Organisational Board Member, Kazimierz Michałowski Foundation and University of Warsaw
11th International Conference for Nubian Studies
Organizer, International Society for Nubian Studies, University of Warsaw

2016 – Reviewer, Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, University of Warsaw, Poland
2016 – Reviewer, British Archaeological Reports
2007 – 2016 President, Kazimierz Michałowski Foundation

2016 – International Society for Coptic Studies
2013 – Sudan Archaeological Research Society
2013 – American Schools of Oriental Research
2006 – International Society for Nubian Studies

Angelika Lohwasser, The Wadi Abu Dom Itinerary Project, Institut für Ägyptologie und Koptologie, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Germany
Cooperation in implementation of survey and archaeological projects and research, supervision of students

2010 PhD The kingdom of Nobadia. Social and political changes in Lower Nubia between the 4th and 7th cent. CE Institute of Archaeology, Faculty of History, University of Warsaw, Poland
Włodzimierz Godlewski
1999 Master Architectural sculpture from the church of Archangel Gabriel in Deir el-Naqlun Monastery, Fayoum, Egypt
Institute of Archaeology, Faculty of History, University of Warsaw, Poland
2011 Author of the project and member of Monitoring Committee, “Academy of Museum Management” Project, Ministry of Culture and National Heritage
2002 – 2011 Archaeologist, Polish Expedition to Old Dongola, Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, University of Warsaw, Poland/Sudan
2008 Head of the project “Support to the development of the national corporation for antiquities and museums and local community of el-Ghaddar” which included study and preparation of the concept of conservation and revitalization of the oldest mosque in Sudan (Dongola), Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, University of Warsaw, Poland/Sudan
2004 – 2007 Archaeologist, Merowe Dam Archaeological Salvage Project, Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, University of Warsaw, Poland/Sudan
2006 Archaeologist, Marina Archaeological Site Presentation Project, American Research Centre in Egypt
1996 – 2001 Archaeologist various archaeological mission of Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology in Egypt
2012 – 2015 Counsellor to the Prime Minister
Policy Programming and Regulatory Impact Analysis Department, Chancellery of the Prime Minister, Poland
2008 – 2012 Deputy Director
Civil Service Department, Chancellery of the Prime Minister, Poland
2007 – 2008 Deputy Director
European Territorial Cooperation and European Neighbourhood and Partnership Department, Ministry of Regional Development

Research monographs (peer reviewed)
2014 Obłuski, A., The Rise of Nobadia. Social Changes in Northern Nubia in Late Antiquity, The Journal of Juristic Papyrology Supplement Series 20, University of Warsaw
2016 Łajtar, A., Obłuski, A., Zych, I., (eds.) Aegyptus et Nubia Christiana. The Włodzimierz Godlewski Jubilee Volume on the Occasion of his 70th Birthday, Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology University of Warsaw

Book chapters (peer reviewed)
2016 Obłuski, A., First contacts between Islam and Nubia: A Nubiological perspective, in Eger A. (ed.) The Archaeology of Islamic Frontiers, 31pp., University of Colorado Press, submitted to the publisher 2016 Obłuski, A., Nobadian and Makurian church architecture. Qasr el-Wizz, a case study, in: Łajtar, A., Obłuski, A., Zych, I., (eds.) Aegyptus et Nubia Christiana. The Włodzimierz Godlewski Jubilee Volume on the Occasion of his 70th Birthday, 481-512, Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology University of Warsaw

Conference proceedings (peer reviewed)
2014 Obłuski, A., Rank-Size Rule in Nubian Settlement Systems, in: Anderson, J.R. , Welsby, D.A., The Fourth Cataract and Beyond. Proceedings of the 12th International Conference for Nubian Studies, British Museum Publications on Egypt and Sudan 1, 867-873
2010 The formation of the Nobadian State. Social changes in Lower Nubia in Late Antiquity, Proceedings of the 11th International Conference for Nubian Studies Warsaw University 27 August – 2 September
2006, Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, 607-618

Articles (peer reviewed)
2016 Obłuski, A., Ochała, G., La redécouverte d’un monastère nubien : premiers résultats des fouilles polonaises à el-Ghazali, Actes de la Seizième Journée d’études coptes, Genève 19-21 juin 2013, 63-79
2015 Obłuski, A., Bogacki, M., Małkowski, W., Maślak, S., Zaki ed-Din Mahmoud, “Al-Ghazali monastery 2012. The first preliminary report”, Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean 24, 425-435
2014 Obłuski, A., Excavation at site C.01 on the citadel of Tungul (Old Dongola), Sudan: preliminary report, Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean 23/1, 296-310

Articles in leading periodicals in the discipline
2014 Obłuski, A., Ghazali Site Presentation Project 2012 – 2014 preliminary results, Der Antike Sudan 25, 197-204
2013 Obłuski, A., Dodekaschoinos in Late Antiquity. Ethnic Blemmyes vs. Political Blemmyes and the Arrival of Nobades, Der Antike Sudan 23, 141-147
2009 Zych, I., Obłuski, A., Wicenciak, U., Marina El-Alamein Site Presentation Project (ARCE/EAP). Preliminary Archaeological Report, Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean 18, 83–100
2008* Obłuski, A., Tomb building tradition in Lower Nubia from the Meroitic age to after Christianization, Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean 20, 525-540
2005* Klimaszewska-Drabot, E., Obłuski, A., Merowe Dam Archaeological Salvage Project. Excavations on Saffi Island sites 7, 48 and 32”, Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean 16, 329–337
* before the peer reviewing in Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean was established

Encyclopedia entries
2016 Obłuski, A., Christianization of Nubia, in: Curta F., Holt A. (eds.), Great Events Religion: An Encyclopedia of Pivotal Events in Religious History”, ABC-CLIO, 2016
2017 Obłuski, A., Nobadia, in: Aderinto S. (ed.), African Kingdoms: An Encyclopedia of Empires and Civilizations, ABC-CLIO, March 2017, in press
2017 Obłuski, A., Makuria, in: Aderinto S. (ed.), African Kingdoms: An Encyclopedia of Empires and Civilizations, ABC-CLIO, March 2017, in press
2017 Obłuski, A., Alwa, in: Aderinto S. (ed.), African Kingdoms: An Encyclopedia of Empires and Civilizations, ABC-CLIO, March 2017, in press
Contracted and forthcoming (peer reviewed)
Obłuski, A., Archaeology in medieval Nubia, in: Emberling G., Williams, B., (eds.) Oxford Handbook on Nubia, Oxford University Press
Obłuski, A., (ed.), Excavations at Qasr el-Wizz, George T. Scanlon, Director. With contributions by Katarzyna Danys-Lasek, Artur Obłuski, Alexandros Tsakos, and Dobrochna Zielińska. The University of Chicago Oriental Institute Nubian Expedition, vol. 15. Chicago: The Oriental Institute
Obłuski, A., The economy of monasticism in the peripheries of Christian world. A view from Nubia, Proceedings of Fourth International Symposium of the Monastic Institute of the Pontifical University of Sant’Anselmo, , Rome, 7-10 June 2016, Analecta Monastica. Studia Anselmiana