This morning, I returned to my work at the University of Bergen after an adventurous trip to Vienna. The adventure was caused by the strike of the pilots of Norwegian Airlines that has brought trouble to hundreds of thousands of people the last ten days… I was among the lucky lot that managed both to get to my destination and return, although only the international leg of my ticket was unaffected by the strike. So, I had to change my transport means from the plane to the train and thus expand the time away from home and family by two nights. Perhaps it was a minor punishment for my arrogant attitude regarding the easiness of traveling inside Europe, in contrast to migrating to our continent from Africa, as I had written in a post in December.
In any case, the reason for going into that trouble to reach Vienna for such a short period was the invitation I received from the Wiener Archäographisches Forum (WAF) and the Center of Image and Material Analysis in Cultural Heritage (CIMA) to present the progress of work with the textual material discovered in the church on Sur Island, in the Fourth Cataract Region in Sudan.
The site was coded SR022.A and the manuscripts on parchment constituted the data base for my doctoral dissertation. The most important of the manuscripts on leather was presented in the Neuchâtel Nubiological conference. And the leather fragments belonging originally to book binding, book covers, and other practices related with literacy are under study in the frame of my postdoctoral project at the University of Bergen titled “Religious Literacy of Christian Nubia”.
The interdisciplinary character of CIMA, combining philology, conservation, image enhancement, and chemical analyses proved an excellent milieu to ask dozens of questions that surely occupy the minds of all those who work with manuscripts, but who more often than not are – by definition of labor tasks, time, knowhow, and so on – confined to the study of the text of a given manuscript, perhaps its palaeographic character, at best some codicological issues. It is undoubtedly my very strong wish that the visit to Vienna proves the beginning of a most fruitful and long lasting collaboration.
Such a future collaboration made me think about the future of another project, what we have been calling the last 6 years “The Medieval Sai Project” and its online presence. How is it excused to continue writing under this heading when many posts – and in fact most of them in the last year or two – are very vaguely related with the project or with the island of Sai? It is perhaps because this blog is the outcome of the Sudanological activities of Henriette and Alexandros, and thus Alexandros and Henriette’s activities even beyond Sai Island, Sudan Archaeology, Sudan Studies and the like remain of relevance. Or is this not the case?
For example, my interest in manuscript studies in general and Nubian texts in particular are in the periphery of this blog. The texts that have come from Sai, and have been published or are under study, constitute an integral part of the initial concept though, and thus a category of entries on Nubian texts is appropriate.
The same goes with all that may concern Sudan archaeology more generally – news, books, critic, anecdotes. Although most of that stuff is gradually presented online by the International Society for Nubian Studies, the webpage of SFDAS, or other blogs, like the one by Julia Budka dedicated to the Pharaonic-period archaeology of Sai Island, we feel that we address also a different audience and that we promote Nubian and Sudan Studies out there, so we’d continue providing such material.
There are also of course news and ideas relating with Medieval Nubia more particularly. The presentation and discussion of this material, we cannot do without. As examples of this category, let me mention two very important contributions in the online resources concerning Nubia that I found out about in the hectic days before the departure to Vienna :
1. An online version of Giovanni Vantinit’s Oriental Sources Concerning Nubia has been edited by Robin Seignobos, Adam Simmons, and Giovanni Ruffini, in the renowned Nubiological wikipage medievalnubia.info. Surely this is a very good first step towards the complete revision of this corpus as has been promised by Robin.
2. And indeed my dear friend has not remained idle! He has also offered us an online catalogue of the Arabic inscriptions from Nubia, which he prepared for the online Thesaurus d’Épigraphie Islamique. Just log in and search for Sudan in the field for “country”.
Nevertheless, Robin must now turn fully his attention to completing his doctoral dissertation that will be his passport for pursuing all these other tasks.
In our own world, the feeling of having passed to another phase is very strong the last weeks, since Henriette has submitted her doctoral dissertation and she is now preparing for her defense and the steps ahead. Difficult to describe how proud I feel, and how much I am looking forward to seeing the reactions of our colleagues to the work she has striven to produce while her main occupation has been the care for our two boys.
Our blog of course will hopefully in the future be the recipient of more entries from Henriette. But these need not only be about the medieval period of Nubia, since her specialization is primarily the Bronze Age of the Nile Valley and her entries relating to the prehistory of Sudan have already ranked among the most successful posts in our blog. Therefore, some new sub-section of this blog should be dedicated to this sort of writings.
We should thus envisage a new structure for our blog where everything “Medieval Sai”, “Medieval Nubia” and “Sudan Archaeology” obtain their own section in a new layout.
In this new layout, two categories of writings will not find a place:
1. All material that concerns the activities by the “Organization for Greek-Norwegian cooperation for the fields of culture and humanities”.
2. All material that relates with the Greeks in Sudan in particular or in Africa more generally.
These two fields will be served in the future by two different internet spaces. About these two spaces you will hear shortly.
For the time being we’d love to read your opinions before we change the layout of Medieval Sai Project. Until comments are scrutinized and the new layout is at place, this can be considered the last entry of the Medieval Sai Project in its present form…