Old Nubian Alphabet

Old Nubian Alphabet (c. 700-1300s) is an alphabet derived from the Egyptian Coptic Alphabet, which was derived from the Greek Alphabet, for writing the Christian Nubian language, from the 700s to 1300s.


The alphabet uses six non-Greek characters, three from Demotic Hieroglyph and three from the Meroitic Script.

The alphabet was used to write the Old Nubian language, belonging to the Nilo-Saharan family, of the Eastern Sudanic. Old Nubian was the tongue of the three Nubian Christian kingdoms: Makuria with its capital at Dongola, Nobatia with its capital at Faras, and Alwa with its capital at Allodia. The Old Nubian Language is related to modern Nobiin or Mahas/Fadidja.

Manuscripts of Old Nubian can be found in the British Museum and the Berlin Museum. Qasir Ibrim was discovered to hold a large archive of documents. Most documents deal with religious, business, and legal subject matter. The Old Nubian Miracle of Saint Menas Manuscript in the British Museum is a very important document written in Old Nubian Script.


The Old Nubian Script replaced the Meroitic Script, as the main script of the Nubian people, some scholars believe at the decline of the Meroitic State in 350 A.D. It is not known for certain what language family Meroitic belongs to. Meroitic is different from the Nubian language that the Old Nubian Alphabet transcribed.

German Karl Schmidt in 1906 identified the script as unique and different from Coptic. Research in Old Nubian was started by Griffith. The later scholars contributed to the field: Zyhiarz, Vycichl, Hintze, Sagina and Brown.

tags: christian nubia