Saqia in Old Nubia(n)

After a set of special entries dedicated to topics linked with the Old Nubian as well as the modern Nubian languages, the use of the cows to move the waterwheels brings us back to the initial topic for the Medieval Sai Project in this first part of 2011, namely the saqia – waterwheel.

For this photo we deeply thank our friend and colleague Sebastian Speiser.

In order that the succession between subjects is smooth, though, we will present today the Nubian terms relating to the water-lifting devices, as well as the respective references in the preserved to our day Old Nubian texts.

There are two terms referring to the water-lifting devices used in Nubia and Sudan (according to the dictionaries of Khalil and Armbruster):

The ‘shaduf’ is identified by archaeologists working in the Middle Nile Valley with the lifting device that was probably used by the Meroitic architects to construct their pyramids, as the experiments by the late architect Hinkel have shown.

Nevertheless, anthropologists can report that the ‘shaduf’ is also used as a water-lifting device and here we publish such an example from the photographic collection of professor emeritus at the University of Bergen, Gunnar Haaland, taken during his fieldwork in the mid-1970s at the Kheiran Oases in Kordofan.

In Old Nubian only the term for ‘saqia’ is preserved, however, and this is closer to the Nobiin term (according to the dictionary by Browne):

The term is to be found seven times in three documents coming from Qasr Ibrim and published by the ubiquitous in Old Nubian studies, late professor Gerald M. Browne, in Old Nubian Texts from Qasr Ibrim, volume II, document 24 (London 1989: 44-45), and volume III, document 36 and document 60 (London 1991: 12-13 & 50-53; 35 & 74).

The first is a letter from Masi, eparch of Nobadia, domesticus of Pachoras and eikhshi, to Elonna(l), asking for a water-wheel, not yet sent, to be brought to him:

One may logically wonder as to the size of this water-wheel and the reasons for such a transportation…

The next four references come from a list of properties in Nobadia of the Church of Jesus in Dongola (?). These four waterwheels were distributed as such: two in Tamit East, one in Ibrim and one in Tonde (?). This list of properties opens with these four references and continues with six streams, one caly-area, two fertilized areas, and five plots, underscoring the importance of saqias in the Middle Nile Valley of that time.

Textually speaking, the interest lies that after the first reference to a saqia with the casual term, the other three are repeated with an abbreviation, writing `K΄ above OC. Such a scribal convention was very common in Nubia.

Last but not least, there is a Sale of Land between a woman called Kapopi and another called Neuesi. Among the first details of this sale there is a reference to a water-wheel west from a plot of irrigation, like the numerous such installations we recorded on Sai Island too, and to which we will return in the coming entry. But now the original text:

What is furthermore of interest in this document is that among the officers listed in the opening formulae of the document there is a certain Papannê of Sai, son of Annako(l), being Great Scribe.

This person was not included in the very useful paper by Adam Łajtar, titled Christian Sai in Written Records (Inscriptions and Manuscripts) from the 36th volume of the Journal of Juristic Papyrology published in Warsaw in 2006 (pp. 91-104). However, it would be interesting to link perhaps the office of this Papannê as Great Scribe, as attested in Qasr Ibrim, with that of Merki, the Chartoularios of Sai, whose epitaph was found in Hambukol. The issues of literacy on Sai are  one of the focal points of research by the GNM.

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One Response to Saqia in Old Nubia(n)

  1. Pingback: Photo 21 – UBB-HAA-222 « Darfur Before

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