Dialog on the origin of name "Nubia"

From the Nubia list, January, 1996

Message-ID: <NUBIA%96013002023168@SAKSU00.BITNET>
Date: Tue, 30 Jan 1996 01:58:35 SLT
Sender: Discussion forum on NUBIAN <NUBIA%SAKSU00.BITNET@VTBIT.CC.VT.EDU>
From: Ahmed Akasha <D03N003%SAKSU00.BITNET@VTBIT.CC.VT.EDU>

[Text slighly edited. HB]

All netters (maskag jelo)

There is no consensus among historians about the origin of the word "Nubia" and how the area that is known today as Nubia has come to acquire its name. Is the name "modern" or date back to ancient history? Does the name apply to some parts of Nubia or was it more extensively applied in former times? Has it any relation to Kush or Meroites? The word Nubia conjures up all these and more nostalgia in the mind of many, particularly, Nubians.

To them it means identity, past glories, present dilemma, and a hopefull and glorious future.

How did the area come to be known as Nubia, and why did it persist until now? This is important because some historians claim that there is no such name as Nubia, and that "Kush" is the only name that was known to ancient people. Then where did it come from? Certainly, it has't come out of the blue. It must have an origin, especialy since it applies to an area with a distinctive culure and language and a civilisation that dates back to the dawn of history, a civilization of its own, not isolated, but influencing and getting influenced by others.

To give a tentative answer to these questions, here is a rundown of opinions about the name Nubia, it's origins and meaning:-

  1. Traditions say that the word Nubia first appeared in the writings of ancient Egyptian dynasties dating to 3000 b.c., to refer to the area extending south of their kingdom and to its inhabitants, but this has not been verified by historians.
  2. The nearest word to Nubia, with the above connotation to appear in ancient writings is the word "Nibid" which was mentioned in the writings of Tohotmos the first, found at Tumbos, north of Kerma, in the heart of the Sudanese Nubia. Some Egyptologists consider this word to be the origin of the name Nubia.
  3. Some writters claim that the word "Nobo", meaning "gold", was used in Egyptian writings that date back to the reign of Aminhat, one of the kings of the 12th dynasty. Most probably this word "Nobo" is regarded as the origins of the name Nubia, which was famous throughout history for its gold mines. The word for "gold" in modern Nubian language is "nub", which corroborates the ancient meaning of the word "nobo".
  4. The first person to use the word Nubia with its geographical connotation was the famous geographer Erastosthnes (270 - 196 b.c.) Strabo quoted him as saying ". . .in the area lying on the left bank of the Nile and extending from Meroe to the Nile bend, there lived Nobai race - an independent people from the Kingdom of Meroe, constituting a various political communities.
  5. Finally the word Nubia in its various forms appeared also in the writing of ancient geographers and historians like Pliny and others.

n. b. comments on this topic are welcomed from netters.

Message-ID: <NUBIA%96012509533488@SAKSU00.BITNET>
Date: Wed, 24 Jan 1996 15:11:09 SLT
Sender: Discussion forum on NUBIAN <NUBIA%SAKSU00.BITNET@VTBIT.CC.VT.EDU>
From: Hasan El-Melik <D03N003%SAKSU00.BITNET@VTBIT.CC.VT.EDU>
Subject: NAMES & Nubian

Date: Tue, 23 Jan 96 16:15:56 +0100
From: Josef.Wichmann@FernUni-Hagen.de (Josef Wichmann)
Message-Id: <9601231515.AA18002@shogun.fernuni-hagen.deɬ
Subject: Nubia

Dear Mr. El-Melik

I just read your announcement of NUBIA, the Sudanese Nubian Forum, on NEW-LIST.

You mention that "nub" in the nubian language means "gold". Is this the origin of the name for the region Nubia? I consulted Webster's Dictionary, but there nothing is said about the origin of the name.

Are the nubian language and the arabic language closely related, or is your name, which to me looks like a typical arabic name, due to the arabic/islamic influence. Don't Nubians have typical nubian names?

Best wishes to you and for the success of your list,

Message-ID: <NUBIA%96012509533711@SAKSU00.BITNET>
Date: Wed, 24 Jan 1996 15:14:46 SLT
Sender: Discussion forum on NUBIAN <NUBIA%SAKSU00.BITNET@VTBIT.CC.VT.EDU>
From: Hasan El-Melik <D03N003%SAKSU00.BITNET@VTBIT.CC.VT.EDU>
Subject: Names & Nubian

Thank you very much for your intersting and provoking question about Nubians names. You have indeed touched upon one of the main problems the Nubians have been facing for along time: problems of acculturation. Pending a full and, I hope, a satisfactory answer to your questions, please accept the following note for now.

  1. Personal names of pure Nubian origin are scarce now and most current nubian personal names are arabic-islamic.
  2. However, there are names, although arabic, that clearly indicate nubian origins like Dahab, which in arabic means gold and pertains to Nubia and such names are not found any where in the sudan except in Nubia.
  3. It's only in place names and games that the nubian names are still retained.

Thank you again and kindly wait for our answer.

N. B. all netters specially Nubians and in particular Dr. Norman Bell at Oxford, and Dr. Charles Abboni, the author of (KERMA), and all others with an intrest in Nubian language and culture to kindly participate in this.