General Guidelines

I have tried to make the using of the DBMNT as intuitive as possible and I hope that it will be easy to move around, browse, and search the records, not only for regular users of papyrological and epigraphical databases.

Data gathering

The task of gathering all information on the sources presented here and processing them was not easy and required browsing through an enormous quantity of publications, not infrequently extremely hard to access. As a result, along with texts that were published according to editorial standards, DBMNT includes also those that were quasi-published (i.e. they have more or less decent transcriptions but no translations and commentaries or vice versa) and those that are classified as unpublished (i.e. they are only mentioned in passing, their content is described without giving a transcription, or they are available only in the form of photographs or drawings). Of course, the two last cases are the most problematic in terms of metadata (findspot, material, technique of execution, dimensions, colour), and the user will frequently come across empty fields, fields with the note 'not recorded', or names, toponyms, and function designations transcribed in roman characters and supplied with the label ‘unpublished form’. These voids will hopefully be filled in, when access to particular objects and/or their documentation has been obtained and/or new publications come out.

Structure of the database

DBMNT was strongly inspired by the structure of the Trismegistos platform, especially Trismegistos People, and in fact the tables DBMNT Names, Name Variants, and People were created with the priceless help of the Trismegistos people, Yanne Broux and Mark Depauw. In this way, we endeavoured to facilitate the prospective merging of the Nubian onomastic and prosopographic data with Trismegistos. However, while the general structure repeats the framework of TM People, there are some considerable differences in the organisation and presentation of the data. Moreover, the descriptive layer of DBMNT Names is much more developed than what we find in TM People, reflecting varied research questions I have been trying to ask and answer while working on Nubian onomastics and prosopography.

The core of the database is DBMNT Texts, in which every text ever written on Nubian territory or by a Nubian outside Nubia is given a unique serial number and is described with a set of extensive metadata. While the material, technical, typological, chronological, and geographical aspects of Christian Nubian written sources are worth studying in themselves, it is the human agents and actors that should stand in the centre of research. Starting from this axiom, I have tried to develop DBMNT in this direction and find a way to single out individuals from the sources and describe them in a coherent and exhaustive manner. As a result, DBMNT Texts is linked with the table IM References (= Identity Markers References). This is the first major difference between DBMNT and TM People. The IM References table is the equivalent of Trismegistos’s Ref table, but, while the latter collects only ‘attestations of people identified by personal names’ occurring in a given text, the DBMNT version includes all possible personal identifiers (names, epithets, family relations, functions, etc.). In order to establish the connection between DBMNT and TM People, the attestations of names in Nubian sources have a double numbering system, the internal IMRef number and the TM Ref number (for the time being, only those references that existed in TM People prior to creating DBMNT Names are linked; the remaining ones will be integrated at a later stage). This approach provides an ideal basis for creating further sub-databases, covering, for instance, designations of functions and titles of address, as a point of departure for the research on Nubian state apparatus and social structure.

For now, only the names are treated in a detailed manner. The IM References table is thus connected with two tables Names and Name Variants, just as in TM People. DBMNT diverges here from its Trismegistos equivalent in that it omits the table NamVarCase, which lists all declined forms of names. This is because the number of attestations of names in Nubian Greek sources, the only ones where declined forms are found in Nubia, is relatively small, and the number of declinable Greek or Greekised names is even smaller. DBMNT Names lists, describes, and classifies all names of individuals occurring in Nubian sources; DBMNT Name Variants gathers different forms, both graphic and orthographic, in which those names appear. The system of numbering in these two tables is compatible with the respective tables of TM People. The most important difference between the two, apart from the elaboration of description, is in the approach to linguistic issues. TM People treats the same form of a name (e.g. ⲁⲃⲣⲁⲁⲙ) occurring in texts written in Greek and Coptic, both using the same alphabet, as separate variants and differentiates them with the use of respective typefaces (thus, TMVar 176: ᾿Αβρααμ and TMVar 52589: ⲁⲃⲣⲁⲁⲙ). This method, however, although allowing for a quick assessment of the number of Greek and Coptic attestations of the form, seems to me a purely academic division, not reflecting the actual onomastic habits and linguistic choices of name-bearers. Moreover, with this approach we lose from sight situations in which a Copticised variant of a name (e.g. TMVar 52586: ⲁⲃⲣⲁϩⲁⲙ) is used in an otherwise Greek source (e.g. DBMNT Text 450). Last but not least, there are in Nubia many texts containing names for which establishing the language is impossible either due to their fragmentary state of preservation or because they consist of only personal names. In TM People, one is forced to choose arbitrarily between the Greek and Coptic variants, thus ascribing a value to the otherwise linguistically neutral or ambiguous text. For Nubia, where we have three languages based on the same alphabet, Greek, Coptic, and Old Nubian, the situation gets even more complicated and would require the use of a separate typeface for Old Nubian variants. Taking all of the above into consideration, I have decided not to distinguish graphically name forms written in the same alphabet, regardless of the language of the text; all forms are thus noted down in the Antinoou font, which includes all necessary signs, also for Old Nubian. Instead, a more fine-grained distinction has been introduced, in which each reference is defined by both the language of the text and their linguistic context, the latter being crucial for keeping track of bi- or trilingual texts.

The last element of the database is DBMNT People, equivalent of the TM Per table, which records all individuals who can be distinguished in our sources. The table is connected on the one hand with DBMNT Names and on the other with DBMNT IM References. Again, the numbering system is compatible with Trismegistos, and the two are linked for the persons who existed in Trismegistos prior to the creation of DBMNT People.

The use of fonts and editorial standards

Some fields contain information in one of four languages of written communication used in Christian Nubia, Greek, Sahidic Coptic, Old Nubian, and Arabic. These are:
  • IMRef attestation
  • Name variant
  • Transcription of dating formula
  • Months
  • Weekdays
  • Feasts
  • Offices & titles
  • Toponyms & ethnonyms.

For Greek, Coptic, Old Nubian I have decided to use the same font based on the Sahidic (Southern Egyptian) uncials, as the majority of Nubian written sources, regardless of their language, were executed in the same (or very similar) kind of script, strongly resembling Coptic uncial. Therefore, all transcriptions in the database should be understood as diplomatic, reflecting the original shape of words in a given source, including diacritical marks, interpunction, non-standard orthography, superscribed letters, abbreviation marks, etc. All transcriptions (including Arabic) are made according to the editorial standards of the Leiden system, employing a set of brackets and underdots; note that no vocalisation is used for Arabic. For the time being, only the field ‘IMRef attestation’ offers the possibility to search for particular words or phrases without all additional signs, like diacritics, brackets, or underdots (so-called clean transcription); moreover, where possible or appropriate, standardised orthography, with all abbreviations resolved, has also been included in the search (standardised transcription). Thus, the phrase ⲓ̄ⲥ︦ ⲙⲉ⸌ⲅ⸍ ⲇ̣[ⲓⲁ]⸌ⲕ⸍ (IMRef 5792) can be searched for as either ⲓⲥ ⲙⲉⲅ ⲇⲓⲁⲕ (this will produce all attestations of the expression abbreviated in the same way) or ⲓⲏⲥⲟⲩⲥ ⲙⲉⲅⲁⲥ ⲇⲓⲁⲕⲟⲛⲟⲥ (this will produce all attestations of the function, regardless of its form), and the genitive form ⲕⲟⲗⲗⲟⲩⲑⲟⲩ will pop up also when you search for the nominative ⲕⲟⲗⲗⲟⲩⲑⲟⲥ. Note also some special rules for transcribing Name Variants: there are no dots under uncertain letters; there are no supralinear strokes other than those representing the schwa in both Coptic and Old Nubian (thus the abbreviation ⲇ︦ⲁ︦ⲇ︦, standing for ⲇⲁⲩⲉⲓⲇ in Nubian texts is recorded as ⲇⲁⲇ in NamVar 53124); suprascribed letters marking the abbreviation are set between the ‘⸌ ⸍‘ signs (e.g. NamVar 300752: ⲇⲁⲩ⸌ⲧ⸍; letters that cannot be read are rendered with normal dots; lacunae that cannot be reconstructed are redered with ‘---’ (e.g. NamVar 300017: ---ⲓⲗⲟ). In the remaining fields, only the transcription from the original edition can be searched for.

The field IMRef Attestation can also be searched using transliteration of words or phrases. The general transliteration rules for all the languages occurring in DBMNT can be found here. However, not all attestations of IM References, as this is the files in which transliterations will mostly occur, have been transliterated. Transliterations in principle follow the Leiden system of editions, with the use of brackets and ‘\ /’ for suprascribed letters; the only difference is that uncertain letters are not dotted and letters that cannot be read are rendered with normal dots. However, to facilitate the searching, the queries can be entered without the editorial signs and diacritics (supralinear strokes or dots under the letters). The transliteration tables for languages occurring in the DBMNT can be downloaded here.

Finally, a note should be added on the notation of the basic forms of personal names in DBMNT as well as the names of particular persons. I have adopted the following rule here: when a name derives from non-Nubian onomastic stock, its basic form, as found in the ‘Name’ field of DBMNT Names, normally takes a standard form current in the Greek Christian East (e.g. Antonios, Chael, Mouses); if, however, the name is of local origin, the ‘phonetic’ notation has been applied, taking into account, most importantly, the phenomenon of iotacism (thus, e.g., DBMNT Nam 39390: Isminna is the notation of the form ⲉⲓⲥⲙⲓⲛⲛⲁ and the form ⲁⲗⲁⲭⲏ produces DBMNT Nam 36443: Alachi). Similarly, the names of persons are, as a rule, noted down in such a ‘phonetic’ transliteration, depending on the (most common) attestation of their name.

General search

The database is (almost) fully searchable. The search can be general or detailed, individual for each of the five tables. In the general search, available from anywhere within the database, the user can make queries by entering requested phrases in the search files located in the upper right corner of the screen. The following fields of the database can be searched with this function:
  • DBMNT Text no.
  • Provenance
  • Excavation no.
  • Present location
  • Museum no.
  • Date
  • Medium
  • Material
  • Type of text
  • Language
  • Contents
  • Offices & titles
  • Toponyms
  • DBMNT Identity Marker Reference no.
  • IM Reference attestation (transcription and transliteration)
  • IM Reference translation
  • DBMNT Identity Marker Variant no.
  • DBMNT Name no.
  • Name
  • DBMNT NamVar no.
  • Name variant
  • DBMNT Person no.
  • Person

The general query does not allow the use of value list, which are available in detailed search views. To effectively use this function one has to check the vocabulary for respective fields. It, however, supports the standard operators AND, OR, and AND NOT (always in uppercase). The default operator between two words/phrases separated by space is OR. The same operators can be used in detailed search.

The result of the query is displayed in the form of lists of objects containing the searched phrase across all elements of the DBMNT (Texts, Names, Name Variants, IM References, People). By clicking on the elements of these lists, you can proceed to the detailed view of the record, which will open in the default format for the respective part of the database.

As there is no easy technical solution to assign the searched values to concrete fields, a query may sometimes produce unexpected results. For example, a search for ‘Dongola’ will return not only texts with such provenance, but also those that mention the capital of Makuria (in whatever form), and looking for the date ‘923’ will give also all texts with this number, DBMNT Texts 923, 1923, 2923, etc.

How to cite

Both TM People and DBMNT use the same set of identifiers for names, name variants, and people, but, because of differences in approach to and presentation of the data described above, it is crucial to indicate the source of information in a proper way. To ensure this please take care to cite the data from DBMNT in the following formats:

DBMNT Text 1234
Identity marker reference
DBMNT IMRef 1234
Identity marker variant
DBMNT IMVar_1.123
Identity marker
DBMNT Nam 1234
Name variant
DBMNT NamVar 1234
DBMNT Per 1234