Evidence of African civilizations

Jan 2016
Victoria, Canada
Of all of the contemporaries who wrote on the Fourth Crusade, only Robert of Clari, a knight from Picardy bothered to mention that a Nubian king was visiting Constantinople. The king could presumably communicate because at least into the twelfth century the governing and clerical classes were skilled in Greek.


Thereafter it came to pass one day that the barons went to divert themselves in the palace, for to see Isaac and the emperor his son. And when the barons were within the palace, lo, there came thither a king whose flesh was all black, and he had a cross in the middle of his forehead, which had been made with an hot iron. This king sojourned in a very rich abbey in the city, where that Alexius that had been emperor had commanded that he should be and that he should be lord and master thereof so long as he desired to sojourn there.

When the emperor saw him coming he rose up to meet him and did him much honour. And the emperor enquired of the barons, “Know ye now” (quoth he) “who this man is?”

“Nay, lord,” quoth the barons.

“By my faith!” quoth the emperor. “This is the King of Nubia, who is come on a pilgrimage to this city.”

And they bade the interpreters speak to him, and they caused these to ask him where his own land was. And he made answer to the interpreters, in his own tongue, that his land was yet an hundred days’ journey beyond Jerusalem, and from thence had he come to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage; and he said that when he departed from this land he brought full three score of his countrymen with him, but when he came to Jerusalem there were but ten of them left alive, and when he was come from Jerusalem unto Constantinople he had but two yet living. He said, furthermore, that he wished to go on a pilgrimage to Rome, and from Rome to Saint James, and then return thence to Jerusalem, if he might live so long, and then die there. And he said that all they of his land were Christians, and when a child had been born there, it was baptized, and a cross was marked in the middle of its forehead with an hot iron, even such a mark as he himself bore. And the barons looked upon this king with great amazement."
Medieval Nubia really is fascinating. Some ssorted examples of Nubian art, from the 8th-12th centuries:

Jan 2016
Victoria, Canada

This last one is of a 12th century king, Moses George (about whom, and Christian Nubia in general, @Swagganaut could tell you a lot more than me -- see his excellent posts here, for example):

Most of these come from Faras Cathedral (build in the 9th century? 10th? 8th century, as it turns out), which was unfortunately flooded by Lake Nasser but from which the above frescoes were thankfully rescued by a team of Polish archaeologists. A reconstruction of the cathedral:

The cathedral as it was found before the creation of Lake Nasser:

A video showing a 3d reconstruction of the church can be found here.

Others come from the 11th century Cathedral of Banganarti, and other churches of Old Dongola. The remains of the church:

A reconstruction:

More reconstructions of the 9th century round church of Old Dongola (although I don't know quite how credible these are, or upon what remains they're based):

Finally, the 9th century Throne Hall of Dongola; later turned into a mosque, hence its preservation up to the present day:

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Jan 2016
Victoria, Canada
More images of the rock-carved churches of Lalibela, named (both the town and buildings) after the 12th-13th century king, Gebre Mesqel Lalibela, who is said to have commissioned them, although there are some dating from an earlier period of 11th-12th century work (note especially the many cisterns, drainage channels, and baptismal pools built into the complex):