Guidelines to DBMNT IM References

The idea to create a database of Nubian identity markers came as a part of the project IaM NUBIAN. Identity and Memory in Christian Nubia: A study on strategies of (self-)presentation and preservation of the past in medieval African society, financed by the Horizon 2020’s Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions programme and realised at Leiden University in 2019–2021. The basic rationale behind the project is that each utterance, spoken or written, is characterised by three key elements: its purpose, targeted audience, and applied medium. Thus, tracing this triad allows identifying linguistic strategies used to indicate, for instance, a person’s gender, social status, religious or ethnic affinity, it can reveal their – sometimes multiple – identities. While I acknowledge that the notion of ‘identity’ is not unproblematic and has generated serious criticism in scholarship (e.g. here), I have nevertheless used it for the IaM NUBIAN project and the database, viewed as a process of constructing the self through social interactions, with language playing a pivotal role. In this context, ‘identity marker’ is defined very broadly as any element of a text that can tell us who the persons occurring in it were or considered themselves to be. Thus, all elements of personal identification, such as names, designations of functions and occupations, titles of address, epithets, indications of family relations and place of origin, have all been included here and to them different types of identities have been ascribed: gender, religion, ethnicity, family, social status and function, and physical appearance. Naturally, any identity marker is not restricted to one concrete identity, and each of them can display any number of identities. There are also such to which no identity has been ascribed. This does not necessarily mean, however, that they did not encode any identity, but rather that we are unable to decode it. Such cases should constantly remind us that our conceptual grid and apparatus are completely different than those of any past society. This, together with our incomplete knowledge of the past and difficulties in understanding and interpreting ancient sources, makes it virtually impossible that we will ever be able to fully comprehend the mindset of ancient people. This does not mean, however, that it is not worth trying.

Currently there are 8,538 references of identity markers recorded in DBMNT, including 133 ghost attestations, which belong to eight basic categories of identity markers (IM_1: Name; IM_2: Function; IM_3: Title of address; IM_4: Epithet; IM_5: Family relation; IM_6: Origin; IM_7: Occupation; IM_8: Social status) occurring altogether in 325 variants. The variants are numbered according to the format IMVar_1.1, IMVar_1.2, IMVar_2.1, IMVar_2.2, etc., where the first digit refers to the basic category of identity markers, the second being the serial number within the category.

In order to establish the connection between DBMNT and TM People, the attestations of names in Nubian sources (IM_1) 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).

Please note that IM References lists only these identity markers that can be linked with a concrete person; those that describe anonymous people or people whose names have not survived in the text are for now excluded.

From the starting site of DBMNT IM References you can either go directly to a particular record (by entering its DBMNT number in the field ‘IM Reference no.’), launch a search, or simply browse the list of all records. Clicking on the item on the list will display the detailed card of the object beneath the list.

Description of the fields

There are two tabs in the detailed view of IM References, ‘Reference’ and ‘Illustration’. The former contains the following fields:
  • Attestation – transcription of identity markers according to editorial standards (see here); for reasons stated here, Greek, Coptic, and Old Nubian texts are all rendered in the Coptic typeface; Arabic fragments are rendered in Arabic script
  • Translation – translation of identity marker into English (where possible) or its transliteration in standardised form (for names and untranslatable designations of functions, epithets, etc)
  • Description – brief characterization of the identity marker or the summary of its meaning
  • Text – DBMNT Text no., with a link to the text view
  • Provenance
  • Date
  • Language – language of the text
  • Linguistic context – language in which the identity marker was written (important for bi- and trilingual texts)
  • Side/page / Column / Line – location of the identity marker within the text
  • Latest edition
  • Comment – important additional information on the identity marker, discussion of possible interpretative problems and ambiguities
  • Identity marker – general category to which the reference belongs; pointing the cursor over the sign will provide basic information about the identity marker
  • Identity marker variant – variant of the general category represented by the reference; pointing the cursor over the sign will provide basic information about the variant
  • Second identity marker variant – only for double names
  • Identities revealed – list of values ascribed to identity markers according to several categories: gender, religion, ethnic/regional, family, social status, social function, physical appearance
  • Person – DBMNT Person no., with a link to the person view
  • Role – function of the person in the text
  • Name – DBMNT Name no., with a link to the name view
  • Name variant – DBMNT Nam Var no., with a link to the name variant view
  • Second name – only for double names
  • Second name variant – only for double names

Attestations, names, and name variants the reading of which is uncertain are marked with an encircled question mark sign () to the right. Ghost attestations, names, name variants, and persons are marked with the icon of a ghost () to the right.

The ‘Illustration’ tab contains photos or drawings of identity markers the graphic form of which is important from the point of view of establishing the identity of a person (e.g. monograms).

IM References search

The following search fields are accessible:
  • DBMNT Identity Marker Reference no.
  • Attestation – the search covers transcriptions, transliterations, and translations of identity markers; for standards of transcribing and transliterating see here
  • Ghost attestation
  • DBMNT Identity Marker no.
  • Identity marker (list)
  • DBMNT Identity Marker Variant no.
  • IM variant (list)
  • DBMNT NamVar no.
  • Name variant
  • DBMNT Name no.
  • Name
  • Identities revealed by IM Variant (list)
  • DBMNT Person no.
  • Person
  • DBMNT Text no.
  • Provenance (list)
  • Kingdom/region (list)
  • Date
  • Type (list)
  • Linguistic context (list)
  • Language (list)