Ancient tombs distributed like galaxies – News

Thousands of Islamic tombs built over the centuries in the Sudanese region of Kessala are distributed according to a scheme similar to that of galaxies: thanks to a statistical model used in astrophysics, it has in fact been discovered that the burials are grouped by the hundreds around nuclei where those are probably found. oldest and most important. This is demonstrated by the study published in the journal Plos One by researchers from the University of Naples ‘L’Orientale’, the University of Milan and the University of Newcastle, as part of an international cooperation that refers to the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museum of Sudan.

The work, conducted in collaboration with Sudanese archaeologist Habab Idriss Ahmed, examined over 10,000 funerary monuments identified in an area of ​​over 4,000 square kilometers thanks to satellite images and field research. “We had very few written and oral sources about the origin of the tombs, which are thousands, all the same and have never been excavated”, tells ANSA the first author of the study, Stefano Costanzo of the University of Naples’ L’Orientale ‘. Thanks to the statistical model NCSP (Neyman-Scott cluster process), originally developed to study the distribution of stars and galaxies, it emerged “that the great necropolises of 3-4,000 tombs actually conceal a subcluster structure that is not immediately identifiable to the naked eye. , but which in all probability – Costanzo affirms – was formed according to the social dynamics of the human groups of the territory ”.

“Basically – explains the researcher – the method allows us to define whether there are unfathomable, potentially socio-cultural inputs in the distribution of archaeological evidence over the territory”. The hypothesis relating to Sudanese tombs is that their distribution on a small scale is due to the custom of making burials close to the recent ones of family members or to other more ancient and important ones, while on a large scale the environmental conditions, such as the conformation of the territory and the availability of building materials.

This innovative method of analysis could be used “whenever a research team were to stumble upon vast aggregations of burials, inhabited sites or any archaeological context”, explains Costanzo. The advantage is that of “being able to study vast geographical areas in remote areas of the world that are otherwise inaccessible due to lack of infrastructure or general restrictions on visits”.