Sandstone frieze


British Museum

British Museum

Little is known of the period immediately after the Kushite (about 2,500-1,500 BC) state collapsed during the fourth century AD. In the sixth century the three Nubian kingdoms, Nobatia, Makuria and Alodia (Alwa), which occupied what had been the territory of Kush, were converted to Christianity. Faras, just inside the modern northern border of the Sudan, was the capital of Nobadia. With the takeover of the kingdom of Nobadia by Makuria Faras retained its importance as the seat of a bishop into the 15th century. The archibishops were based at Old Dongola, capital of the kingdom of Makuria. One of the latest of these bishops, Timotheos, who was appointed as was customary by the Patriarch of Alexandria, died on route to Faras at Qasr Ibrim in AD 1371-2.
Before being flooded by the new Lake Nasser (Nubia) in 1964 formed by the construction of the Aswan High Dam, the site of Faras was excavated by a Polish expedition; the extremely well-preserved remains of spectacular buildings were discovered, including cathedrals. This sandstone block comes from the first cathedral, forming part of a decorative frieze in the apse of the sanctuary chamber. Between the pillars stands a dove or eagle, wings outstretched, beneath a Coptic-type cross. Both birds were important symbols in Egyptian and Nubian Christianity - representing paradise.

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  • Title: Sandstone frieze
  • Date Created: 600/699
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 43.00cm; Height: 25.40cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: painted
  • Registration number: 1844,1109.2
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Faras
  • Period/culture: Early Christian Period
  • Material: sandstone
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Collected by Moody. From Moody, E