Every archaeologist working in northern Sudan has experienced this: puzzled looks by Nubian workmen addressed with some obviously uncomprehensive instructions and, vice-versa, confusion because the workmen are speaking something very difficult to understand… well – in the Land of the Mahas people, Nobiin is of course frequently found at archaeological excavations! This may therefore cause quite some problems, especially for excavators used to learn the colloquial language ‘on site’ in various regions, e.g. in Upper Egypt.
With my background of excavating in Egypt since 1997 and starting work on Sai Island in 2011, I quickly noted down as my personal wish to assimilate new vocabulary necessary for the work in northern Sudan. Back in my first season on Sai, I even had problems with such basics as addressing my beloved and numerous pottery sherds for the workmen because fukhār was not understandable for all.
I am very proud to present today an open-access, free version of a Short Archaeological Wordlist in English, Sudani Arabic and Nobiin which was compiled by a distinguished Egyptological colleague and expert of Nilo-Saharan languages, Helmut Satzinger. This wordlist is one of the by-products of the archaeological fieldwork of the AcrossBorders project on Sai Island. Within the framework of my project, Helmut joined the fieldwork in January to February 2017.
In these weeks, he compiled the wordlist which is hopefully of use for all coming to the beautiful region of Mahas Nubia. As it will be obvious from the start, not all terms used in the archaeological field or the related camp find correlates in Nobiin. Nevertheless, I believe that this short collection of useful terms helps to deepen one’s understanding of the region.
Today is a very special day – last year, we were celebrating Helmut’s birthday with a boat trip to one of the most beautiful islands in the neighbourhood of Sai in Sudan – today, I am proudly presenting the final, layouted version of the wordlist as a small birthday present.
Happy birthday dear Helmut and many thanks again for everything! May there be many more interesting and happy years full of linguistic challenges around Ancient Egyptian, Arabic, Coptic and Nobiin!