Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Database of Medieval Nubian Texts

Database of Medieval Nubian Texts (DBMNT) 

I am happy and proud to present to you the Database of Medieval Nubian Texts (DBMNT), which is the outcome of roughly ten years of my work on different aspects of literary culture of Christian Nubia. The DBMNT was officially inaugurated in 2011 as an integral part of my book entitled Chronological Systems of Christian Nubia, where different aspects of counting time in the Nubian kingdoms of Nobadia, Makuria, and Alwa between the mid-sixth and fifteenth centuries are treated in detail. At the beginning, the database consisted of 733 records, gathering all Nubian texts in which various chronological phenomena are recorded. However, since the beginning of work, the DBMNT was constructed to include different kinds of written sources from Christian Nubia, not only those containing dates and/or other chronological indicators. For the past four years, I have focused on collecting and entering those sources to produce a major update to the DBMNT. As a result, at present the database contains 2942 records, which cover all possible forms of written expression left by the inhabitants of the Middle Nile Valley in the Middle Ages. Hence, the user will find here written sources of various forms and functions (from important administrative inscriptions and documents, through literary and liturgical manuscripts, private correspondence, elaborate epitaphs and modest tombstones, graffiti left by pious pilgrims on walls of churches, to various symbols scratched on ceramic vessels), executed on all possible kinds of media (stone, papyrus, paper, parchment, leather, pottery, wood, metal, textiles, glass, rocks, and walls of buildings).

The task of gathering all these sources and processing them was not easy and required browsing through an enormous quantity of publications, not infrequently extremely hard to access. As a result, along with texts that were published lege artis (i.e. with a full description, transcription, translation, commentary, and – most ideally – photo and/or tracing), the DBMNT includes also those that were quasi-published (i.e. they have more or less decent transcriptions but no translations and commentaries or vice versa) and those that are classified as unpublished (i.e. they are only mentioned in passing, their content is described without giving a transcription, or they are available only in the form of photographs or tracings/drawings). Of course, the last two cases are the most problematic in terms of metadata (findspot, material, technique of execution, dimensions, colour) and the user will frequently come across empty fields and fields with the note 'not recorded'. These voids will hopefully be filled in, when access to particular objects and/or their documentation is obtained and new publications come out.

Grzegorz Ochała
Department of Papyrology
Institute of Archaeology
University of Warsaw


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