Chronological Systems of Christian Nubia

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This is the title of the PhD dissertation written and defended by Grzegorz Ochała at the University of Warsaw in June 2010. This will also be the title of his book which is now being prepared. Its main purpose is to analyse the existing attestations of any signs of counting time present in Nubian sources between the sixth and the fifteenth centuries. The analysis is both quantitative and qualitative, aimed at finding regularities and rules governing the use of particular chronological systems. Since none of these dating methods was an original Nubian invention, it is of a crucial importance to indicate possible sources of inspiration and influences. Thanks to such connections, it is possible to conduct a comparative analysis of the original and Nubian sources, which, in some cases, reveals the probable means of implementing particular systems on Nubian soil. In this context, the variety of chronological methods applied in Nubia is also an important witness to cultural interchanges and interactions between Nubia and the outside world.

Besides its scientific value, the book also has a practical dimension. For the first time in the history of the Nubian studies, a considerable part of Christian Nubian written sources has been collected in one study. The gathering of the material was not an easy task, since, apart from some dozen publications devoted, at least partly, to Nubian texts, the editions of particular objects are scattered throughout an enormous number of articles in periodicals, proceedings of congresses, and other joint publications (see 'A Guide to the Texts of Medieval Nubia' at this website).

The title of the book intentionally alludes to the substantial work of Roger S. Bagnall and Klaas A. Worp, Chronological Systems of Byzantine Egypt, Leiden – Boston 2004 (2nd ed.), and, to a degree, copies its structure, with chapters devoted to particular dating methods. The chapters have been grouped in two larger parts: ‘Annual dating methods’ and ‘Calendars’. The former consists of five chapters investigating the following dating methods: the Era of Diocletian/the Martyrs, the indictional system, the Era of the Saracens, the so-called Christian eras, and regnal years; and the latter includes three chapters discussing the Egyptian, lunar, and liturgical calendars, as well as a chapter on weekdays. The chapters have been arranged according to the number of attestations of particular systems, reflecting their popularity and importance.

The book is supplemented with a computer database 'Dated Texts from Nubia', gathering the attestations of different chronological systems. It was not only the first stage of work on the book but was also its integral part. At first, the database was intended to record only the information necessary for the study of the subject, such as basic description of the object’s contents, its typological classification, provenance, basic bibliography, and, most importantly, information on chronological systems used in the text. It appeared quite soon, however, that it would be useful to include as much data on objects as possible.

This was, in fact, the birth of an idea of creating a complete database of Christian Nubian texts. The first stage of this project will be to place a basic version of Ochała's database at www.medievalnubia.info [1], accompanying the publication of his book, so that a reader could easily find all detailed information and bibliographic references to particular texts which could not be included in the book. The next step will be to publish this database through our own implementation of the 'Son of Suda On Line' ([2]) and to gradually type in all (not only those with dates) Christian Nubian written sources, building their on-line corpus.