Old Dongola (Old Nubian: Tungul; Arabic: Dunqulah al-ʿAjūz) is a town in Sudan, on the east bank of the Nile opposite the Wadi Al-Malik. It is 50 miles (80 km) upstream from (New) Dongola. Old Dongola was the departure point for caravans west to Darfur and Kordofan.
It was an important city in Mediaeval Nubia. From the fourth to the fourteenth century it was the capital of the Makurian state. In the Fifth Century Old Dongola was founded as fortress, but became soon a town. Latest with the arrival of Christianity it became the capital. Several churches were built. There was the Building X and the Church with the Stone Pavement. There were erected about 100 m apart from the walled town centre, indicating that at this time the town already extended over the original walls of the fortress. In the middile of the Seventh century, the town was attacked by the Arabs, but was not conquered. However, the two main churches were destroyed, but shortly after rebuild. Building material of the Old Church was used for supporting the city walls.
The Building X was soon replaced by the Old Church.
The Church of the Granite Columns was erected at the end of the Seventh Century over the Old Church. It was perhaps the cathedral of Old Dongola and adorned with 16 granite columns. These columns had richly decorated granite capitals.
Around the Tenth century, Old Dongola had its heyday. At the place of the Church of the Stone Pavements, the Cruciform Church was erected. At this time Old Dongola had many other churches, at least two palaces, and in the North a huge monastery. Several houses were well equipped and had bath rooms and wall paintings.
In the thirteent an fowerteent Century, the toun lost importance. It wis attackt bi Arabs several times an the throne room o the palace wis convertit tae a mosque.
Unner the Funj, Auld Dongola wis the caipital o the Northren provinces.
When the traveller C.J. Poncet travelled through the ceety, he described it as locatit on the slope o a sandy hill. His description o Auld Dongola continues:
- The hooses are ill built, an the streets hauf desertit an fill'd wi heaps o sand, occasion'd bi floods frae the mountains. The castle is in the vera center o the toun. It is lairge an spacious, but the fortifications are inconsiderable. It keeps in awe the Arabians, who are masters o the open kintra.
A Polish archaeological team haes been excavatin the toun since 1964.
- Charles Jacques Poncet in The Red Sea and Adjacent Countries, William Foster, editor (London: Hakluyt Society, 1949), pp. 99f.