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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.

Miscellanea Nubiana

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An Ethiopian Fugitive Allied with a Nubian King? Ēwosṭātēwos and Sābʾa Nol at Nobā through Hagiographical Narrative

Around the year 1337, the Ethiopian monk Ēwosṭātēwos left his kingdom. If his vita depicts his journey as a pilgrimage, one must admit that it was actually an exile. As a staunch advocate of the double Sabbath as well as an opponent of lay authorities, the monk held highly controversial views. At the beginning of the 14th century, he created a powerful, yet dissenting, movement in northern Ethiopia with his disciples, called the Eustatheans. Nevertheless, this success led him into trouble. The newly appointed Metropolitan Yāʿeqob, head of the Ethiopian Church, deprived him from all support. Moreover, king Amda Ṣeyon (1314–1344) banished the rebellious monk, and Warāsina Ἐgzi, a local governor, cast him out.

A Note towards Quantifying the Medieval Nubian Diaspora

Throughout the Christian medieval period of the kingdoms of Nubia (c. sixth–fifteenth centuries), ideas, goods, and peoples traversed vast distances. Judging from primarily external sources, the Nubian diaspora has seldom been thought of as vast, whether in number or geographical scope, both in terms of the relocated and a non-permanently domiciled diaspora. Prior to the Christianisation of the kingdoms of Nobadia, Makuria, and Alwa in the sixth century, likely Nubian delegations, consisting of “Ethiopes,” were received in both Rome and Constantinople alongside ones from neighbouring peoples, such as the Blemmyes and Aksumites. Yet, medieval Nubia is more often seen as inclusive rather than diasporic. This brief discussion will further show that Nubians were an interactive society within the wider Mediterranean, a topic most commonly seen in the debate on Nubian trade.

The Memories of Byzantium as Preserved in Nubia’s Political Ideology after the 7th Century CE

This study mainly focuses on the formation of the dominant ideology that Nubian rulers conveyed to the Nubian people and aims to show how the ideological influences from Byzantium integrated with the indigenous background into Nubia’s political system and created a unique Afro-Byzantine state.

The Nubian Frontier as a Refuge Area Warrior Society between c. 1200 and c. 1800 CE: A Comparison between Nubia and the Ottoman Balkans

The period from the Ayyubid invasion of Lower Nubia by Salah ad-Din’s brother in 1172–1173 to Mohammed Ali’s conquest of northern Sudan in 1820–1821 has been termed the Feudal Age by William Adams, the nestor of Nubian archaeology. The characterizing feature of the Feudal Age was the disappearance of centralized government, and in its place “a growing spirit of military feudalism […] manifested itself in the appearance of castles and military architecture, in the rise of increasingly independent local feudatories, and in dynastic quarrels within the ruling houses.” The rocky and isolated region of Batn el-Hajar has been considered as an area of refuge during these tumultuous times. For the people living in Nubia, this period was marked by the emergence of tribal societies. Some inaccessible tracts, like Batn el-Hajar, were also characterized by religious resilience where Christianity prevailed, although there was a religious shift from Christianity to Islam among their neighbors.

For Sale: Geography in Old Nubian Land Sales

In this article I want to focus on the way in which land property is described within the Makuritan kingdom, based on a grammatical analysis of Old Nubian land sales. I will argue that such descriptions are always relative in nature, referring to adjacent plots oriented from south to north on the banks of the Nile. South is thus considered the “up/forward” direction. I will also discuss the multiple ways in which the function and ownership of land can be described.

From Nub to Dahab: The Lexical Shift of Fadija Nobiin to Arabic in Egypt

A language shift occurs in a minority language if the dominant language is widely used in various domains. A shift has occurred, and is still occurring, in Fadija Nobiin because of contact with the Arabic language, which is used by the majority. In this paper, I will investigate language shift in the Nobiin language, particularly lexical change in Fadija Nobiin. More specifically, this paper analyzes heavy lexical borrowing from Arabic into Fadija Nobiin, using a Nobiin folk song as an example. Factors that influence language maintenance and shift are discussed to reflect on the Arabic language influence on a minority language. Nubians, including the speakers of Fadija and other vernaculars, are concerned about their language endangerment and many are showing commitment and cooperation to revitalize it and save it from extinction.

Medieval Presence at the Periphery of the Nubian State of Makuria: Examples from the Wadi Abu Dom and the Jebel al-Ain

This paper presents some medieval material from remote areas within the Bayuda and the Western Deserts in Sudan, and draws several conclusions about the presence of Christianity and the Makurian administration within them. First, the general topographical setting of the different areas are described in order to define the geographical frame of the paper. The Wadi Abu Dom is an ephemeral fluviatile valley situated within the central and western Bayuda between the Sudanese provinces River Nile State and Northern State. It drains several dendritic khors in volcanic mountains of the central Bayuda – the most prominent of them named “Ras ed-Dom,” whose name refers to its role as the uppermost offspring of the (Wadi Abu) Dom. It flows at its very beginning from north to south, and later in western or northwestern direction. North of the modern town of Merowe directly opposite the Gebel Barkal, it meets the River Nile.

The Land of the š3sw (Nomads) of yhw3 at Soleb

The temple of Amun-Ra at Soleb, constructed in Kush (Nubia) during the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep III in the 18th Dynasty and “rediscovered” in 1813 by Burckhardt, is famous for its status as the southernmost temple and its scenes of the Heb-Sed Festival of Amenhotep III. Located about 185 kilometers southwest of Wadi Halfa, the partially preserved Soleb temple of Amenhotep III on the west bank of the Nile, just south of the Third Cataract, can be difficult to access. According to the building inscription of Amenhotep III from Thebes, the Soleb temple was named Khaemmaat and was dedicated to Amun-Ra and to Amenhotep III as a deity. A New Kingdom cemetery was nearby to the west, and subsequent rulers Akhenaten, Ay, and Tutankhamun also had modifications made to the temple. Even as early as 1829, the expedition of Major Felix which visited the site recognized that the prisoner inscriptions on visible columns were commemorating the victories of Amenhotep III, but after the centuries, Sector IV of the hypostyle hall was in ruins, toppled, and partly covered by sand. However, following the 1957–1963 excavation expedition led by Michela Schiff Giorgini, the uncovered remains were analyzed and reconstructed with the available pieces which had been discovered and identified. The columns of the hypostyle hall, decorated with bound prisoner reliefs and the names of peoples or places rendered in Egyptian hieroglyphs, are of significant geographical and historical importance.