Sudanese Islamic burial sites do not exist by chance, as was traditionally thought. On the contrary. Thanks to satellite technology, it has been discovered that contrary to the belief that these Islamic burials were scattered randomly over the ancient landscape, thousands of burial sites follow a “galaxy-like” distribution pattern.
When I know this audience, I know I’m sure to open this story with the deeply Gnostic statement: “As above, so below.” I am convinced that the vast majority of you will understand the implications associated with this concept, and at the end of this article it will become quite clear why I chose this phrase to represent the results of a new study published in open-access journal PLOS ONE by Stefano Costanzo from the University of Naples “L̵
Islamic burial grounds scattered around Jebel Maman in Sudan. (Costanzo et al. / PLOS ONE )
Discover the galaxy-like distribution pattern of tombs and Islamic burials
The Kassala region of eastern Sudan hosts a wide range of burial monuments dating back anywhere between thousands of years ago all the way up to the Islamic tombs of modern Beja people. Sudanese Islamic tombs are found scattered in patches throughout the area known as Jebel Maman, and until now it was assumed that they were located at random. However, the new study shows that they were distributed according to large environmental factors and small social factors, creating what is described as “a galaxy-like distribution pattern.”
According to a report in WordsSideKick.com , Professor Costanzo said that archaeologists suspected that the location of these monuments was probably influenced by geological and social factors. On this premise, the researcher set about revealing any underlying patterns within the ancient burial landscape. His goal? To provide new insights into the “old cultural practices of the people who built them,” according to the new paper.
Satellite images depicting 1,195 qubbas or Islamic burials, around and on top of a small rocky mountain. (Costanzo et al. / PLOS ONE )
Above and Below: Using Satellite Images to Find Patterns
To get back to the above “As above, so below.” In this new study, Costanzo and his team used telemetry with satellite imagery to plot the location of 10,000 funeral monuments over 4,000 km2 (1,544 sqm). To analyze the dataset, they adopted a “Neyman-Scott Cluster model” that was originally developed to study spatial patterns within the cluster of stars and galaxies.
Thanks to this new application, it was revealed that like stars clustering around high-gravity centers, funeral monuments in Kassala cluster of hundreds around central “parent points”. The researchers believe that these parent points are likely to represent older tombs of regional significance.
So what made some places become overarching points or central regional places of importance over others? The authors assume that the environment has greatly influenced the larger scale distribution of graves. The so-called areas with “high gravity” are centered on regions with “favorable landscapes and available building materials” according to the paper.
They also established that small-scale distribution was more of a “social phenomenon” and that tombs surrounded older central or important burial structures. Have you noticed that I still have not answered the last question I asked myself? Let’s ask it another way. Why were some burial sites more important than others, so much so that they became “parenting points” in the new study?
An example of foot tumuli in the Kassala region of eastern Sudan, which are simple stone-high structures that were widespread throughout African prehistory and history. (Costanzo et al. / PLOS ONE )
The Dawn of Cosmo-Archeology
The answer to “why” some burial sites became more important remains unanswered. It is suspected, however, that perhaps more recent family funerals have caused more intense clustering, or that the preponderance of funerals is increasing around old funerals of traditional significance. What is perhaps a greater discovery than the new fact that Sudanese Islamic cemeteries are not randomly distributed is that archaeologists have for the first time used “advanced geospatial analysis” to uncover the environmental and societal impacts underlying it. burial landscape in ancient eastern Sudan.
In essence, what happened here was a change of resolution, and that change revealed hidden old secrets. Standing at any cluster of burial sites looking over the horizontal plane, archaeologists have only a fraction of the geodata required to value any underlying distribution patterns. Using satellites, a whole new dimension was achieved and the clusters were identified. Thus, the new study represents the first time a cosmological approach has been applied to an archaeological problem in this way.
What this means is that the better our measurement technologies become, the more we realize that in our universe, what is above , is really reflected below. And on a more immediate level, the use of satellite technology in archeology to establish that ancient burial mounds and Islamic burials cling like stars in distant galaxies around central locations represents the beginning of a whole new approach to diving into our ancient origins. .
Top image: A landscape view of qubba tombs, a type of Islamic tomb or shrine, around an area known as Jebel Maman. (Costanzo et al. / CC-BY 4.0 )
By Ashley Cowie