Stela of Mariankouda

© 2004 Photographer Rocco Ricci copyright The British Museum

This high-quality white marble funerary stela was set in the pavement of the North Kom church. When it was broken ten fragments were preserved, although part of the bottom of the inscription and some of the edge are missing. The carved text is in Greek and is twenty-eight lines long, with three small crosses above it. The stela seems to have been laid in memory of a high-ranking government official named Mariankouda, who was probably buried in a nearby crypt. The inscription also mentions the Makurian king, Georgios. The stela was reconstructed by conservation experts at the British Museum.

There is evidence of widespread literacy among the Nubians during the Christian period. Large numbers of letters, business and legal documents, graffiti, religious texts and tombstones all indicate that people could read and write in greater numbers than in the pre-Christian era. Coptic, Greek and Old Nubian, the Nubian language, were written and appear alongside Arabic texts. Greek was used for tombstones and inscriptions as well as the titles of religious officials, whereas religious texts such as the Bible were often written in Old Nubian, as well as Greek.