Ancient writing systems in the Mediterranean

A critical guide to electronic resources

Old Nubian

edited by: Daniele Salvoldi

  • Introduction
  • Ancient Writing Systems
  • Further information



(8th-15th cent A.D.)


After the fall of the Kingdom of Meroe in the 4th century AD, the political situation in Nubia and Sudan became chaotic with the arrival of the Nuba and the raids of the Blemmyes. Around the 6th century AD, the region was reorganized in a different geopolitical arrangement because of the establishment of three Christian kingdoms: Alodia (or Alwa) with capital Soba, between Khartum and the Fifth Cataract; Makuria/Dotawo (Dotawo is the endoetnonym) with capital Dongola, between the Fifth and Third Cataracts; Nobadia with capitals Ibrim and Pakhoras (Faras) between the Third and First Cataracts. Makuria/Dotawo then annexed Nobadia between 600 and 650 AD, constituting it into an eparchy.

The three languages used were Greek, Coptic and Old Nubian; the latter, ancestor of present-day Nobiin, was spoken in the northern part of the Makuria/Dotawo kingdom. Later Arabic also made its appearance due to frequent relations with Egypt. Christian Nubia ceased to exist as a political entity in the 15th century; the last dated document in Old Nubian is from 1483 AD.

Ancient Writing Systems

  1. Old Nubian

Further information

  1. Bibliography
  2. Online resources