Scientists in Sudan have discovered a tattoo with references to Jesus Christ, on a 1,300-year-old body, excavated in a cemetery, near a medieval monastery.
On the right foot of an individual, who is likely a man, the tattoo has what scholars call the “Chi-Rho” symbol, along with the Greek letters alpha and omega.
The individual was likely between 35 and 50 years old when he died. While the tattoo indicated he was a Christian, it’s unclear if he was a monk. The body wasn’t buried in the same cemetery as the monastery’s monks, but rather in a burial ground that may have been used by people from nearby communities. However, the body was likely to be of one of the monks living in the medieval monastic site of Ghazali, which was located 9.3 miles from the banks of the Nile in Northern Sudan.
It is only the second time that a tattoo has been found from medieval Nubia, the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology (PCMA) at the University of Warsaw, whose members are conducting excavation and research at the site, known as Ghazali, said in a statement.
Nubia is a region that encompasses parts of modern-day Egypt and Sudan.
The Chi-Rho symbol combines the Greek letters “chi” and “rho” to form an abbreviation for Christ; this abbreviation debuted around A.D. 324, when Constantine became emperor of the Roman Empire.
The letters alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet and represent the Christian belief that God is the beginning and end of everything, the statement said.
The tattoo’s location on the right foot is intriguing, as Christ may have had a nail driven through this spot during his crucifixion, Robert Stark, a bioarchaeologist with PCMA, and Kari Guilbault, a bioarchaeologist who studies tattooing practices at Purdue University in Indiana, told Live Science. Stark and Guilbault are part of the team that discovered and analysed the tattoo.
Radiocarbon dating indicates that the person lived sometime between 667 and 774. At this time, Christianity was the main religion in the region and thus “very common,” Stark and Guilbault said.
(Picture Courtesy: Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology (PCMA), University of Warsaw)