Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Database of Medieval Nubian Texts

Database of Medieval Nubian Texts (DBMNT)
This website is the result of four years of research on the subject “Chronological systems of Christian Nubia”, concluded with a monograph under this very title (G. Ochała, Chronological Systems of Christian Nubia [= The Journal of Juristic Papyrology Supplement Series 16], Warsaw 2011). The present database is an integral part of the book and, although the database can, should, and hopefully will exist on its own, the book is at least difficult to use without the database. This is because the written sources analysed in the monograph are essentially referred to, for the sake of convenience, by their catalogue numbers, given to them arbitrarily while preparing an offline version of the DBMNT and preserved in the online one.

Of course, this does not preclude the utilising of the database without reading the CSCN. And to those who do so, I owe a few words of introduction: The DBMNT, at the present stage of development, collects 733 texts of medieval Nubian provenance (with a few exceptions of Egyptian Nubian texts) that contain any signs of counting time by the inhabitants of the middle Nile Valley. The assemblage is dated between the sixth and the fifteenth centuries, roughly a millennium in which three Christian kingdoms existed on this territory: Nobadia, Makuria, and Alwa. It has long been known that in Christian Nubia several different dating methods were employed, yet the only one that has so far drawn scholars’ more detailed attention is the Nubian lunar calendar (Bagnall – Worp 1986; CSBE, pp. 313–314). Apart from general statements on the types of the chronological systems used and detailed commentaries on dates of particular texts, the whole issue has never been studied comprehensively.

The Nubians used as many as five annual dating methods (the Era of Diocletian/the Martyrs, the indictional system, the so-called Christian eras, the Era of the Saracens/the Hegira, and reganl years) and two calendrical systems (the Egyptian solar calendar and a lunar calendar). There are also attestations of the names of the weekdays used in Christian Nubia as well as some traces of a liturgical calendar of the Nubian Church. All known texts, both published and yet unpublished but somehow available to me, attesting to the use of the above-listed chronological systems have been carefully collected and analysed and are now presented to the user.

Due to the state of publication and/or inaccessibility of particular sources, some of the fields in the DBMNT must remain empty, especially those concerning physical description. However, the database is not, by its nature, a closed structure and it is to be hoped that in time such objects will be located, described, and photographed, so that the missing information could be supplemented. It is also my intention to conduct further work on the DBMNT to develop it into a fully operational database collecting the whole corpus of the medieval Nubian written sources, not only the specimens containing dating lemmata. In both these tasks, supplementing the existing records and adding new ones, the collaboration of other scholars is important and in fact much desired. Therefore, at a certain stage of development, willing contributors will be granted access to editing the DBMNT.

It is also worth mentioning here that the DBMNT is paralleled by another project connected with digitizing the Nubian written sources. This is the so-called Nubian SoSOL, a division of Son of Suda On Line, a modern papyrological platform designed to bring together the existing papyrological digital resources in the framework of the project Integrating Digital Papyrology (http://idp.atlantides.org/trac/idp/wiki/). The Nubian SoSOL has been initiated by Giovanni R. Ruffini (Fairfield University) with my collaboration and will contain transcriptions of all medieval Nubian textual finds. The DBMNT will be linked to the Nubian SoSOL as the latter will develop.
The DBMNT is modelled on other online papyrological databases and the user familiar with these tools will have no problems with using it.

The bibliographical references are given according to ‘A Guide to the Texts of Medieval Nubia’ by Grzegorz Ochała and Giovanni R. Ruffini, available online at www.medievalnubia.info.

Grzegorz Ochała
Department of Papyrology
Institute of Archaeology
University of Warsaw

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