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Saturday, September 01, 2012

Giovanni R. Ruffini, Medieval Nubia A Social and Economic History

Among the few surviving archaeological sites from the medieval Christian kingdom of Nubia--located in present day Sudan--Qasr Ibrim is unique in a number of ways. It is the only site in Lower Nubia that remained above water after the completion of the Aswan high dam. In addition, thanks to the aridity of the climate in the area the site is marked by extraordinary preservation of organic material, especially textual material written on papyrus, leather, and paper. Particularly rich is the textual material from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries CE, written in Old Nubian, the region's indigenous language. As a result, Qasr Ibrim is probably the best documented ancient and medieval site in Africa outside of Egypt and North Africa.

Medieval Nubia will be the first book to make available this remarkable material, much of which is still unpublished. The evidence discovered reveals a more complicated picture of this community than originally thought. Previously, scholars had thought medieval Nubia had existed in relative isolation from the rest of the world and had a primitive economy. Legal documents, accounts, and letters, however, reveal a complex, monetized economy with exchange rates connected to those of the wider world. eFurthermore, they reveal public festive practices, in which lavish feasting and food gifts reinforced the social prestige of the participants. These documents show medieval Nubia to have been a society combining legal elements inherited from the Greco-Roman world with indigenous African social practices. In reconstructing the social and economic life of medieval Nubia based on the Old Nubian sources from the site, as well as other previously examined materials, Giovanni R. Ruffini will correct previous assumptions and produce a new picture of Nubia, one that connects it to the wider Mediterranean economy and society of its time.
Uses native (Old Nubian) language evidence never before published
Challenges previous interpretations claiming that Nubia had no private property and no monetized economy
"Medieval Nubia: A Social and Economic History is that rare thing: a truly pioneering study. Drawing on Old Nubian documents from Qasr Ibrim, Professor Ruffini persuasively argues that Medieval Nubia was a Mediterranean society in Africa. It is a major contribution to the history of Medieval Africa and Islamic Egypt."--Stanley Burstein, California State University, Los Angeles
"This book is an outstanding work of scholarship. The author takes an important but neglected body of primary sources and exhaustively analyzes them for what they can tell us about the economy and society of their times. The resulting study revolutionizes our understanding of medieval Nubia."--T. R. Wilfong, University of Michigan

Product Details
320 pages; 8 illus., 1 map; 6-1/8 x 9-1/4;
ISBN13: 978-0-19-989163-4
ISBN10: 0-19-989163-X
About the Author(s)
Giovanni R. Ruffini is Associate Professor of History and Classical Studies at Fairfield University.