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Old October 22nd, 2016, 02:58 PM   #1
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Source hunting for Medieval Central Sudan (Ca. 500 - 1500 AD)


As already announced some days ago, I want to write a paper on the Kingdom of Alodia (Aka Alwa or Aloa), a Christian Nubian Kingdom which lasted from the 6th - early 16th century in what is now central Sudan. In contrast to Makuria the sources are fairly spare, especially archaeological ones. This won't prevent me from squeezing every single drop of all sources I can get in my hands. I want to use this thread to collect primary sources for Medieval Central Sudan and I am interested in all sources concerning Alodia itself and sources which can give an idea about the political, religious and social situation, like peripherical chiefs & kings claiming independence, Sudanese travellers / delegations and so on.
I believe there still might be fairly juicy stuff out there, it's just about getting all these tiny jigsaw puzzle pieces and putting them together. I am fairly optimistic that there is still stuff from...

- Egyptian archives (I have high hopes in Fatimid and Mameluke archives, first due to close and friendly relations to Nubia, second due to close, but not so friendly relations)
- unwritten Sudanese oral traditions
- Iranian, Arabic and other Muslim literature
- the Portuguese-Ethiopian block
- the Far East (India & China)

I would be happy about anyone who could suggest me even secondary literature, as long as its based on primary sources.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Now, let's see what we already have for sources:

1) John of Ephesus: "Ecclesiastical History" (Contemporary source about the Christianization of Alodia and whole Nubia)
2) Al-Yaqubi: "Kitab al-Buldan" (Short report about Makuria and Alodia from the late 9th century)
3) Ibn Hawqal: "Surat al-ard" (Important and comperatively comprehensive overview about Alodia, its habitants and organization, late 10th century)
4)Al-Aswani: "Akhbar al-Nuba wa al-Muqurra wa Alwa
wa al-Beja wa al-Nil
" (Pretty much resembling Ibn Hawqal in every aspect, also 10th century)
5) Abu Salih al-Armani: "Tarikh al-Shaykh Abu Salih al-Armani" (Short summary on Alodia and its agriculture, late 12th-early 13th century)
6) Francisco Álvares: "Narrative of the Portuguese embassy to Abyssinia during the years 1520-1527" (Includes the important remaks that pre-Funj Sudan was fractured into "captaincies", also mentions a small Nubian delegation during the 1520's, possibly from Sennar).
7) Al-Fahal Al-Faki Al-Tahir: "Tarikh wa usul al-‘Arab bi-s-Sudan" (Local traditions collected in Sudan concerning the terminal phase of Alodia. Published in English by Giovanni Vantini as "Some new light on the End of Soba")
8) The Funj Chronicles and the Abdallab oral traditions (Both are about the fall of Alodia, but slightly differ from each other. According to the Abdallab, they defeated Alodia before the Funj could penetrate into the area, but later on the Abdallab would voluntary subdue to the Funj. Both can be found in O' Faheys "The Kingdoms of the Sudan", for example)
9) Oral traditions from Fazughli, collected and published in Jay Spauldings "The Fate of Alodia" (Local legends about the flight of the Alodian court into Fazughli after Soba was conquered)
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Old October 25th, 2016, 03:16 AM   #2
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Damn, this thread goes wild.
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Old October 25th, 2016, 03:50 AM   #3

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Originally Posted by Swagganaut View Post
Damn, this thread goes wild.
It is really a very specific theme.

Did you try to take a look to the Ethiopian chronicles?

Ages ago I read the Chronicle of Galâwdêwos (Claudius) in French translation (by Conzelman) of the original in Ge'ez. Don’t recall nothing about Nubia beause my major concern at the time was about the war with Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi of Adal.

Edit: Or “The Kebra Nagast” that is available online

http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/kn/

Last edited by Tulius; October 25th, 2016 at 03:56 AM.
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Old October 25th, 2016, 04:22 AM   #4
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I could give the chronicle of Amda Seyon a shot, and I could definetly try out secondary literature concerning foreign relations in Ethiopian history. What I can say concerning possible contacts between Alodia and Aksum is that Aksumite travellers, possibly merchants, are recorded in Alodia just before it was converted to Christianity (580 AD). Also two fragments of the distinctive so-called "Soba-Ware" had been found in Aksum. Doesn't sound like much, but then we also must remember that Aksum is barely excavated yet.
I've also read about Medieval Ethiopian expeditions into Wälläge, which is in the border region to Sudan and very likely Alodia as well.
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Old October 31st, 2016, 09:05 PM   #5

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Originally Posted by Swagganaut View Post
As already announced some days ago, I want to write a paper on the Kingdom of Alodia (Aka Alwa or Aloa), a Christian Nubian Kingdom which lasted from the 6th - early 16th century in what is now central Sudan. In contrast to Makuria the sources are fairly spare, especially archaeological ones. This won't prevent me from squeezing every single drop of all sources I can get in my hands. I want to use this thread to collect primary sources for Medieval Central Sudan and I am interested in all sources concerning Alodia itself and sources which can give an idea about the political, religious and social situation, like peripherical chiefs & kings claiming independence, Sudanese travellers / delegations and so on.
I believe there still might be fairly juicy stuff out there, it's just about getting all these tiny jigsaw puzzle pieces and putting them together. I am fairly optimistic that there is still stuff from...

- Egyptian archives (I have high hopes in Fatimid and Mameluke archives, first due to close and friendly relations to Nubia, second due to close, but not so friendly relations)
- unwritten Sudanese oral traditions
- Iranian, Arabic and other Muslim literature
- the Portuguese-Ethiopian block
- the Far East (India & China)

I would be happy about anyone who could suggest me even secondary literature, as long as its based on primary sources.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Now, let's see what we already have for sources:

1) John of Ephesus: "Ecclesiastical History" (Contemporary source about the Christianization of Alodia and whole Nubia)
2) Al-Yaqubi: "Kitab al-Buldan" (Short report about Makuria and Alodia from the late 9th century)
3) Ibn Hawqal: "Surat al-ard" (Important and comperatively comprehensive overview about Alodia, its habitants and organization, late 10th century)
4)Al-Aswani: "Akhbar al-Nuba wa al-Muqurra wa Alwa
wa al-Beja wa al-Nil
" (Pretty much resembling Ibn Hawqal in every aspect, also 10th century)
5) Abu Salih al-Armani: "Tarikh al-Shaykh Abu Salih al-Armani" (Short summary on Alodia and its agriculture, late 12th-early 13th century)
6) Francisco Álvares: "Narrative of the Portuguese embassy to Abyssinia during the years 1520-1527" (Includes the important remaks that pre-Funj Sudan was fractured into "captaincies", also mentions a small Nubian delegation during the 1520's, possibly from Sennar).
7) Al-Fahal Al-Faki Al-Tahir: "Tarikh wa usul al-‘Arab bi-s-Sudan" (Local traditions collected in Sudan concerning the terminal phase of Alodia. Published in English by Giovanni Vantini as "Some new light on the End of Soba")
8) The Funj Chronicles and the Abdallab oral traditions (Both are about the fall of Alodia, but slightly differ from each other. According to the Abdallab, they defeated Alodia before the Funj could penetrate into the area, but later on the Abdallab would voluntary subdue to the Funj. Both can be found in O' Faheys "The Kingdoms of the Sudan", for example)
9) Oral traditions from Fazughli, collected and published in Jay Spauldings "The Fate of Alodia" (Local legends about the flight of the Alodian court into Fazughli after Soba was conquered)


Jay Spaulding cites some primary sources in his article "Medieval Christian Nubia and the Islamic World: A Reconsideration of the Baqt Treaty" (1995) which I do not see on your preliminary list above. In the third footnote in his article he mentions that for the article he relied upon "two important anthologies of contemporary foreign writings about Nubia: Mustafa Muhammad Musad, ed., al-Maktaba al-Sudaniyya al-Arabiyya (Cairo, 1972) and Giovanni Vantini, ed. and trans., Oriental Sources Concerning Nubia (Heidelberg and Warsaw, 1975).".

The aritcle "Notes on the Topography of the Christian Nubian Kingdoms" (1935) by L.P. Kirwan cites some sources in the footnotes that I also do not see on your list above, and it also mentions Alodia on the last page.

The article "New Light on Medieval Nubia" (1965) by P.M. and L. Shinnie discusses some archaeological findings, but you may have already read it since it is old news by now.

I don't know if you aren't already familiar with all of these references but that's about as much help as I can give.
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Old October 31st, 2016, 11:22 PM   #6

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I don't know if this will be of any use to you, since you might be familiar with all of this information already, but below I have posted excerpts from an old article from a historical journal from the 1970s. The article deals with Sennar, which is outside of the period of time specified in the opening post, but it briefly mentions the supposed connection between Christian Nubia and the later Funj Sultanate.

Quote:
Introduction

The Funj Sultanate was an eastern sudanic state which, from its ascendancy early in the sixteenth century to its conquest by the Ottoman Turks in 1821, dominated that region of the Nile Valley situated between Mamluk Egypt in the north and Ethiopia in the east. In the west and south, the sultanate shared boundaries with Borno and the Shilluk state of the White Nile basin respectively. This clearly was a very strategic position which made for effective control of such vital sudanic and trans-Saharan trade routes connecting Borno in the west with the Red Sea port of Suakin in the east, as well as those linking Egypt with the Upper Nile. Movement of men and of goods along these routes generated socio-economic as well as political relations with the various neighbouring states; and the control of the routes often constituted the major consideration in the often hostile relations between Sennar and its neighbours. The Funj invasion of Darfur in the west, its numerous armed clashes with Ethiopia and the Turko-Egyptian conquest in the nineteenth century were all inspired more or less by contests for the control of the trade routes.
The Funj triumph over its hostile neighbours indicated the strength of its organisation. This, matched with the wealth accruing from agriculture and more particularly from trade, brought widespread fame to the sultanate. David Reuben, a Jewish traveler who visited the Funj court in 1523, described the political strength and the extent of the wealth of the sultanate:
. . .the king has innumerable servants among whom there were captains of war and governors of the cities of the kingdom and officers to administer their law. . .The king has many horses and captains who rode on them and fine camels and innumerable herds of cattle and sheep; he also has gold dust. . .1
Besides, the area occupied by the sultanate has always merited the attention of historians in any consideration of the history of the Nile Valley because of the precedence of such famous ancient African kingdoms like Napata and Meroe which constituted outposts of the celebrated ancient Egyptian civilisation.

1 The quotation is taken from J.L. Spaulding, 'Kings of Sun and Shadow: A History of the Abdallab Provinces of the Northern Sennar Sultanate, 1500-1800,', Ph.D thesis, Columbia University, 1971.
Quote:
Traditions of origin

But in spite of all these considerations which have given the Funj Sultanate a deserving prominence, the origins of the state are still, like the origin of most ancient states, wrapped in the uncertainty of legends and myths. So far, there have been four principal hypotheses. As in most other cases in Africa, and particularly in the Sudan where the tendency is to attribute some exotic origin to prominent kingdoms and empires three of these four hypotheses would derive the Funj Sultanate from outside the area.
First, was the tradition of an Arab Muslim, specifically, an Ummayad, origin whereby Armara Dunqas, the first Muslim ruler of the state and whose reign fell in the first decades of the sixteenth century, was credited to an Ummayad paternity. This is clearly a feed-back tradition resulting from an orthodox Islamic historiography designed to give the sultanate a prestige in the thinking of Muslims. It fails, however, to take account of the fact that even if Armara Dunqas has an Arab father, which is doubtful, he was clearly not the first ruler of the state which, as has been noted, dated much further back and started off even as a Christian kingdom. In any case, the decisively Negro pattern of the court organisation, particularly the royal investiture, which we describe later, points to an origin much closer than Arabia.
Next in importance were the speculations attributing the foundation of the sultanate to a Borno prince referred to as Uthman B. Kaday who took refuge in the region in the fifteenth century. This conjecture rested principally on the traditions collected by H.R. Palmer, for several years a British administrator in Northern Nigeria with experience of wide travel in the Sudan and a reputation as an orientalist in the England of his time. In addition to the relevant traditions which he had collected from the Borno end of the story, Palmer has also argued on the basis of similarity in the culture, particularly the pottery, of Borno and Sennar. However, lacking direct confirmation from the Sennar end of the story, this cannot be regarded as having any greater validity than the Ummayad oriented speculation. Besides, similarity in culture does not always suggest a common origin of peoples sharing the same cultural traits. . .Contact between peoples, such as was so much the possibility and actuality in the Sudan, was probably the explanation for the similarity between Borno and the Funj, as between them and other Sudanic cultures. To be similarly disposed of is the third tradition, which takes the view of an Ethiopian or Eritrean origin for the sultanate.
The fourth tradition, attributing the sultanate to a Shiluk or Nubian origin appears, however, to deserve closer attention. The popularisation of the Shilluk hypothesis is owed to James Bruce, the eighteenth-century Scottish traveller in the Sudan, who found that this was the prevalent tradition in Sennar at the time of his visit in 1772. The tradition was that the founders of the Funj Sultanate were the Shiluk, a mixed agricultural and culturally proud Bantu group inhabiting the White Nile basin, who in early times migrated to found the state.
Dr. Spaulding's recent investigation seems to validate this eighteenth century view but adds that the Shiluk themselves were relatively later invaders. Spaudling would attribute the nucleus of the Funj state to a Southern Nubian group called the Apfuny or the Opfuni, alternatively referred to as the Funj, who had established a kingdom before the Shiluk arrived. In conquering the original Funj rulers who eventually withdrew towards the Blue Nile where their descendants now survive as hill dwellers, the Shiluk took advantage of a political rift said to be opening at that time between the Funj and another group called the Dinka. The Shiluk allied with the Dinka to defeat the Funj and ultimately succeeded in imposing their control over their Dinka allies in the context of a new state which continued, however, to be identified as Funj.
The essential attraction in the Nubian-Shiluk hypothesis is its emphasis on a Black African antecedence of the Funj Sultanate. The Nubian particularisation seems to harmonise with the general view about the historical link between the sultanate and such ancient Nubian states such as Meroe and Napata. Besides, the style of court organisation and the succession and enthronement procedures in the sultanate, which will presently be described, bear out the contention about closer connection with the Black African states further south. Reubeni, the sixteenth-century Jewish traveller mentioned on page 17, also gave a clear impression of the Negroid attributes of the Funj rulers when he referred to Amara Dunqas, the reigning sultan at the time of his visit in 1522-1523, as 'a black potentate ruling over black and white', the latter term ostensibly referring to the light-skinned Arabs.2

2 P.M. Holt, 'The Funj Sultanate' in Volume 4 of The Cambridge History of Africa, c. 1600-1790, Cambridge University Press, 1976.
Quote:
The state formation process

The open nature of the area covered by the sultanate has, since ancient times, encouraged the immigration and settlement of a diversity of racial types moving in from all directions. These movements seem to have involved principally the Negro groups from the south, the Semites (mainly the Arabs) and the Nilotic types. The mixture that occasionally took place between a number of these groups, particularly through marriage, has contributed to the cultural and racial diversity, as the various shades of hybrids have had to be added to the original stocks. It was this heterogeneous character of the demography of the sultanate that led Monsieur Caillaud, the impressionistic French explorer who visited the area during the first half of the nineteenth century, to attempt a rather racialist and colour-oriented categorisation of the peoples into what he called the Yellow, the Red, the Blue, the Green, the Mixed Colour and the Black.
For a meaningful discussion of the political organisation and relations in the sultanate, however, a geographical approach to classification should be preferred. In that sense, the Funj sultanate may be said to contain first and foremost the southern groups who constituted the metropolitan and the core area of the sultanate. Here the cultural and racial influence was predominantly Negro or Funj. In the north, on the other hand, the dominant culture and racial influence belonged to the Arabs; and this assertion may be taken to cover the Dongola in Dongola, the Jaaliyun in the north-east and the Hadariba of Suakin. The third, the Shaqiyya, a group of hybrids, occupied the north-east sector of the sultanate where they became politically important only in the second half of eighteenth century.
The integration of these various groups into one state makes a fascinating account. There were two foci of power. The Arabs who conquered the northern parts and established their base in Dongola would seem to have done so at about the same time when the Shiluk rulers were moving into the southern districts, conquering and consolidating their positions against the Funj and the Dinka. The Arab conquest of the north took place under the leadership of one Abdallab Jamma, believed to be a descendent of Prophet Mohammed, hence the application of the term Abdallab Kingdom to this part of the sultanate. The capital, originally located in Qarri, was eventually shifted to Halfaya some time in the middle of the eighteenth century. Also in the south, the state capital was, as in Ethiopia about the same time, initially unstable. . .
It is not clear how and when exactly the two separate bases were integrated into one. But the traditions, as contained in the records of James Bruce, indicate a direct conquest of the Arab domain by the forces of the Shiluk ruling over the southern state which, in spite of the earlier overthrow of the Funj, remained identified as the Funj kingdom. Although the Arab Muslim traditions in Halfaya would deny the claim of a conquest by the south, attention has been drawn to the significant fact that the title of Manjil, which remained the official title of the Arab Muslim ruler of the Abdallab semi-Kingdom, was indisputably a Funj or Shiluk term, depicting the subordinate status of the bearer vis-à-vis the king or sultan in Sennar.
- A.I. Asiwaju, "The Funj Sultanate of Sennar, c. 1500-1821" (1977), Tarikh, Vol. 5, No. 2
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Old November 1st, 2016, 01:53 PM   #7

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After re-reading that article I posted excerpts of above, I see that the author called the Shiluk a Bantu group. I don't believe that's correct, as everything I've seen on them suggests they weren't Bantu, so I guess that's just an error on the part of the author.
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Old November 1st, 2016, 03:10 PM   #8

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Chapter 1 ("The Historical and Ethnographic record") of this book:

https://www.amazon.com/Kingdom-Alwa-...=9780919813946

seems to list the sources that were known to the author at the time of the book's publication (1991). You can preview some of the book through Google:

https://books.google.com/books?id=t9...page&q&f=false
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Old November 1st, 2016, 05:44 PM   #9

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I didn't realize David Reubeni's description of Sennar (a few lines of which were quoted above in the excerpts from that article) was on the medievalnubia.info website. It's a pretty interesting description:

Welcome To Medieval Nubia - David Reubeni
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Old November 2nd, 2016, 08:51 AM   #10
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Thanks for you effort, I appreciate that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ighayere View Post
Jay Spaulding cites some primary sources in his article "Medieval Christian Nubia and the Islamic World: A Reconsideration of the Baqt Treaty" (1995) which I do not see on your preliminary list above. In the third footnote in his article he mentions that for the article he relied upon "two important anthologies of contemporary foreign writings about Nubia: Mustafa Muhammad Musad, ed., al-Maktaba al-Sudaniyya al-Arabiyya (Cairo, 1972) and Giovanni Vantini, ed. and trans., Oriental Sources Concerning Nubia (Heidelberg and Warsaw, 1975).".
There are many more primary sources concerning Nubia than the ones I listed, but the thing is that they aren't about Alodia but only Makuria. Makuria had been in the focus of Islamic schoolars for centuries, since it was the direct neighbour of Egypt. Meanwhile, Alodia has much less sources since its contacts to the Islamic were only indirect, mercantile ones.
Btw, Vantinis "Oriental sources" can be found here:Welcome To Medieval Nubia - Giovanni Vantini's Oriental Sources Concerning Nubia

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ighayere View Post
The aritcle "Notes on the Topography of the Christian Nubian Kingdoms" (1935) by L.P. Kirwan cites some sources in the footnotes that I also do not see on your list above, and it also mentions Alodia on the last page.
What does it say about Alodia? My Jstor shelf is already full and I can't change stuff for an other two weeks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ighayere View Post
The article "New Light on Medieval Nubia" (1965) by P.M. and L. Shinnie discusses some archaeological findings, but you may have already read it since it is old news by now.
Considering its date I would assume that it's mostly based on the results of the Unesco excavations in lower Nubia and Shinnies excavation in Soba. For the later I already have the whole book on my USB-port.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ighayere View Post
The article deals with Sennar, which is outside of the period of time specified in the opening post, but it briefly mentions the supposed connection between Christian Nubia and the later Funj Sultanate.

- A.I. Asiwaju, "The Funj Sultanate of Sennar, c. 1500-1821" (1977), Tarikh, Vol. 5, No. 2
Sennar is of use for me pretty much only concerning possible continuities in terms of customs and political organization (Like court structure, for example).
Btw, I really like the Bornu tradition concerning the Fung origins. I have read a bit about Fung warfare and its parades, and there are striking similiarities to the states of the western Bilad al-Sudan.

I also find this part interesting:
Quote:
In the north, on the other hand, the dominant culture and racial influence belonged to the Arabs; and this assertion may be taken to cover the Dongola in Dongola, the Jaaliyun in the north-east and the Hadariba of Suakin.
I want to learn more about the spread of Arabs in central Sudan and how it might have affected the decline of Alodia. The most important work on that field is McMichaels "A history of the Arabs in the Sudan", but whenever I try to read it I get pretty hard headaches.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ighayere View Post
After re-reading that article I posted excerpts of above, I see that the author called the Shiluk a Bantu group. I don't believe that's correct, as everything I've seen on them suggests they weren't Bantu, so I guess that's just an error on the part of the author.
Yup, the Shilluk are Nilotic.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ighayere View Post
Chapter 1 ("The Historical and Ethnographic record") of this book:

https://www.amazon.com/Kingdom-Alwa-...=9780919813946

seems to list the sources that were known to the author at the time of the book's publication (1991). You can preview some of the book through Google:

https://books.google.com/books?id=t9...page&q&f=false
I have the complete book already. Afaik it's still the only larger work about Alodia, at least outside of Sudanese literature. The big problem of that book is however that it was published before the results of Welbsys excavations in Soba have been published.
I can also list other important secondary literature I already own:

1) David Edwards - The Nubian past, 2004 (A couple of pages about the state of archaeology in Alodia)
2) Derek Welsby & C. Daniels - "Soba. Archaeological Research on a Medieval Capital on the Blue Nile", 1991
3) Derek Welsby - "Soba II. Soba II. Renewed excavations within the metropolis of the Kingdom of Alwa in Central Sudan", 1998
4) Derek Welsby - "Meroitic Soba" in "Meroitica", 1999
5) Derek Welsby - "Medieval Kingdoms of Nubia", 2001 (Welsby tries his best to include as many references to Alodia and his excavations in Soba as possible)
6) Giovanni Vantini - "Some new Light on the End of Soba" in "Acta Nubica", 2006
7) Grzegorz Ochała - "Multilingualism in Christian Nubia" in "Dotawo", 2014 (Briefly summarizes the state and amount of indigenous written sources)
8) P. Shinnie - "Excavations at Soba", 1961
9) Roland Werner - "Das Christentum in Nubien", 2013 (Important German work for Medieval Nubia in general)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ighayere View Post
I didn't realize David Reubeni's description of Sennar (a few lines of which were quoted above in the excerpts from that article) was on the medievalnubia.info website. It's a pretty interesting description:

Welcome To Medieval Nubia - David Reubeni
I didn't mention David Reubeni since he is interesting only concerning the state of Soba, which he describes in ruins. This exludes the claim of the Fung chronicle that Soba had been the capital of the early kingdom. Also proves in what miserable state the former Alodian capital must have been even in late Alodian times.

Last edited by Swagganaut; November 2nd, 2016 at 08:54 AM.
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