Belongings of a monk living 1300 years ago discovered

A pair of leather sandals, a set of pottery vessels, a large wine amphora, pieces of clothes, shards of glass vessels and a letter on a piece of papyrus were among the finds in an hermitage within the Naqlun monastery in the Fajum oasis in Egypt.

General view of the studied hermitage site (by W. Godlewski)

The monastery was constructed in the middle of the 5th cent. AD as a vast complex of hermitages carved into the walls and niches of the nearby hills. In the 7th cent. it was inhabited by around 120 hermits. It was occupied even till the end of the 20th century, when it had only two inhabitants. The expedition of the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology of the University of Warsaw study the site since 1986.

During the last season of excavations a hermitage consisting of three chambers carved in the rock wall has been studied. In the 6th and early 7th century it was a living space of a monk and after his death probably abandoned. The hermitage had to occupational zones – one for the daily activities consisting of two chambers and one consisting of a small kitchen.

The daily chambers were carefully covered with plaster and its walls were equipped with niches for keeping personal objects. In one of the kitchen chamber’s corners a grain pit was found that was used for storage. The pit was equipped with a ventilation shaft that run outside the walls, which said to be an unique solution in the complex.

The letter discovered in the hermitage
The letter discovered in the hermitage (by W. Godlewski)

One of the discoveries is a papyrus letter addressed to a monk named Neilos. It survived in fragments but forms and understandable content. The letter, as the papyrologist prof. T. Derda states, in an invitation for the hermit from a high stated persona in the church hierarchy, presumably the bishop of the city Arsinoe, as the cloister  is located in its region. The papyrus is just one of the discovered at the site. The most known find was made in 1997 when over 50 medieval documents dated to 10th century were discovered.

(after Nauka w Polsce & W. Godlewski)

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