Accepted paper:

Medieval Nubia: documentary evidence and the production of power


Giovanni Ruffini (Fairfield University)

Paper short abstract:

The Old Nubian legal documents, correspondence and accounts from the medieval site of Qasr Ibrim introduce us to the production of power in Christian Nubia.

Paper long abstract:

My recent study, Medieval Nubia: A Social and Economic History, analyzes the published documents in Old Nubian from Qasr Ibrim, a central site in northern Nubia. My forthcoming work publishes editions and translations of further unpublished Old Nubian documentary archives from the same site. Together, the published and unpublished material reveals much about the administrative and legal practices of this understudied civilization of medieval Africa. The land sales give direct glimpses at the activity of the eparch of Nobadia, the region's highest political official, who was active in the region's private land market. Other office-holders named in these texts shed light on the rise and fall of various factions in Nubian politics. The accounts suggest the existence of a cash economy and a gold to silver exchange rate identical to that of Muslim Egypt. The personal correspondence hints at power struggles between Nubia's center and its periphery. In short, documentary production in medieval Nubia was neither economically nor politically neutral. Nubia's elite needed its documentary evidence to construct its power.

panel P152
Administrative and legal documentation in pre-colonial Africa and beyond