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Ancient 'Christ Tattoo' Discovered on 1,300-Year-Old Body Near Sudan Monastery

Michael Foust | CrosswalkHeadlines Contributor | Updated: Feb 16, 2024
Ancient 'Christ Tattoo' Discovered on 1,300-Year-Old Body Near Sudan Monastery

Ancient 'Christ Tattoo' Discovered on 1,300-Year-Old Body Near Sudan Monastery

Scientists in Sudan have uncovered a 1,300-year-old body near an ancient monastery that includes a Christian tattoo that references Scripture.

The discovery was made by Kari A. Guilbault of Purdue University as she examined the body in a lab at the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology at the University of Warsaw. The body was found at a burial near a medieval monastery in Sudan and studied by bioarchaeological researchers who examine remains found at archaeological sites. 

The tattoo, on the individual’s right foot, depicts a Christogram and the Greek letters “alpha” and “omega.” A Christogram is a Christian symbol “combining the Greek letters ‘chi’ and ‘rho’ to form a monogram abbreviation for the name of Christ,” a news release said. The “alpha” and “omega” letters apparently are a reference to Revelation 22:12-13, where Jesus says: “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

Scientists believe the individual was male. The tattoo was discovered during photo documentation of the body.

“It was quite a surprise to all of a sudden see what appeared to be a tattoo when I was working with the Ghazali collection,” Guilbault said. “At first, I was not certain, but when the images were processed and the tattoo was clearly visible, any initial uncertainties were removed.”

A news release called it a “rare medieval religious tattoo.”

A tattoo depicting Christ on a 1300 year old boy in a Sudanese monastery

The medieval monastic site is located in Ghazali, which is situated in the Wadi Abu Dom region of the Bayuda desert in northern Sudan.

Researchers told Live Science that the individual was not buried with the monks but in a separate cemetery. Thus, it’s possible the person was not a monk but instead someone who lived nearby. The body was discovered in 2016 but the tattoo “has only just come to light with additional recent post-excavation analyses and full spectrum photography,” researchers told Live Science. 

The Christian apologetics website Patterns of Evidence said it is “astonishing that the man’s foot tattoo lasted over a thousand years but because of the arid conditions of Sudan many of the Ghazali cemetery remains have been naturally mummified.”

“This discovery,” Patterns of Evidence said, “highlights the spread of Christianity’s influence during the first centuries.”


Image credit: ©Kari A. Guilbault

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist PressChristianity TodayThe Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

Ancient 'Christ Tattoo' Discovered on 1,300-Year-Old Body Near Sudan Monastery