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Open Access Publications from the University of California


Nubian studies needs a platform in which the old meets the new, in which archaeological, historical, and philological research into Meroitic, Old Nubian, Coptic, Greek, and Arabic sources confront current investigations in modern anthropology and ethnography, Nilo-Saharan linguistics, and critical and theoretical approaches present in postcolonial and African studies.

The journal Dotawo: A Journal of Nubian Studies brings these disparate fields together within the same fold, opening a cross-cultural and diachronic field where divergent approaches meet on common soil. Dotawo gives a common home to the past, present, and future of one of the richest areas of research in African studies. It offers a crossroads where papyrus can meet internet, scribes meet critical thinkers, and the promises of growing nations meet the accomplishments of old kingdoms.

War in the Sudan

Issue cover


Preface by the Editor

The aim of this thematic collection is to offer new insights on wars and violent conflict in the Sudan either as case-studies or as broader historical patterns.

The Role of Warfare and Headhunting in Forming Ethnic Identity: Violent Clashes between A-Group and Naqada Peoples in Lower Nubia (mid-4th millennium BCE)

This article reassesses the earliest cemeteries dating to the 4th millennium BCE in northern Lower Nubia. Remains from two cultural groups have been found in the region – native predecessors of the A-Group people and Naqada people arriving from Upper Egypt. The evidence presented suggests that Naqada people from the chiefdom at Hierakonpolis conducted a violent expansion into Lower Nubia in the mid-4th millennium BCE. The violent encounters with the natives are testified through evidence of interpersonal violence in five cemeteries of the predecessors of the A-Group people, young males buried with weapons in a Naqada cemetery in A-Group territory, and a settlement pattern shifting southwards. The author argues that the violence led to an ethnogenesis among the native population of northern Lower Nubia, and the ethnic boundary between the two groups became even more defined through headhunting provoking a schismogenesis. This case study provides new insights into warfare in ancient Nubia and an opportunity to discuss ethnic identity, ethnogenesis, and schismogenesis in the Nile Valley at the beginning of the Bronze Age.

The Archers of Kerma: Warrior Image and Birth of a State

A research programme conducted by the Swiss archaeological mission in the oldest sectors of the Eastern Cemetery of Kerma has uncovered the tombs of several dozen archers. The appearance of these armed warriors dating from ca. 2300 BC onwards can be put in parallel with the resumption of commercial activities between Egypt and Nubia, illustrated by the Harkhuf expeditions. The archers and their warrior attributes probably participate in the emergence of kingship ca. 2000 BC, which takes control of the commercial axis along the Nile and is illustrated by the accumulation of wealth and the development of servitude. This article proposes to describe these Kerma archers and then to look at the evolution of funerary rites that show in their own way how a social hierarchy emerges that will lead to the birth of a state, in this instance the kingdom of Kerma.

Gender as Frame of War in Ancient Nubia

Gender research in Sudan archaeology and Meroitic studies is a nascent field. Studies of gender are especially lacking in investigations concerning war and violence, which are usually written from an androcentric perspective, and often focus solely on soldiers, army, weaponry, and images of battles and enemies. The experiences of non-combatants in the context of war in ancient Nubia are rarely considered; nor is the gender background of war. This paper deals with gender structure in the lists of spoils of war, women and children as prisoners of war, feminization of enemies in royal texts, participation of royal women in war, and depictions of royal women smiting enemies. In gender as a frame of war, Kushite kings were represented as masculine and their enemies as feminine. This binary opposition has also been observed in ancient Egyptian and Neo-Assyrian sources, and was clearly a shared vocabulary of the great powers of the second and first millennium BCE. Such a frame of war was based on a gender disposition of men as active and strong, and women as passive and weak. It “naturalized” Kushite domination over their enemies just as it “naturalized” male domination in Kush. However, the participation of Meroitic queens in conflicts and their depictions smiting enemies shows how the visual vocabulary of violence can be utilized even by some women, in their own expressions of power

Words on Warfare from Christian Nubia

This article is an attempt to assemble the vocabulary related to war found in Nubian written sources (primarily manuscripts) and discuss the insights it offers about warfare in Christian Nubia. All four languages used in medieval Nubia are examined, but the focus is on Old Nubian. Saint Epimachos, Saint Mercurios, Saint George, and the Archangel Michael are the personae around which pivot the narratives that offer insights into weapons, offices, and practices in the otherwise very scarcely documented military of Christian Nubia.

The Art of Revolution: The Online and Offline Perception of Communication during the Uprisings in Sudan in 2018 and 2019

The article deals with art from the Sudanese revolution in 2018 and 2019 (the December Revolution). The focus is on the most recognizable and widespread images from the uprising and their presence on the streets of Sudanese cities and social media. The article shows how freedom of expression exploded on the Sudanese streets after years of censorship, suppression, and violations of freedom of speech, media, and civil rights. Art and social media had significant roles in covering the uprising. Issues related to the importance and value of art in transmitting social discourse and dissent in a tightly controlled society are raised. These issues should be the subject of wider research on conflict and social media in Sudan. This article focuses only on a small part of this vast and important topic.