Dr Adam Simmons rewrites the historical narrative of the fall of Dotawo in historical research paper

In this year’s third Institute for Medieval Studies Research seminar, Dr Adams Simmons examines and questions whether the Nubian kingdom of Dotawo collapsed in the early sixteenth century.

On 8th November, Dr Adam Simmons from Nottingham Trent University gave an interesting and insightful paper entitled ‘Rethinking and redating the fall of the Nubian kingdom of Dotawo: Are we a century out?’, developing the research that he published in September in his monograph Nubia, Ethiopia, and the Crusading World, 1095-1402.  

In the paper, Dr Simmons explained the current historical narrative of the fall of Dotawo, which was conquered by non-Christian kingdoms, including the Funj, which had surrounded this Nubian kingdom from the twelfth to the fourteenth century. One of the key points in the current timeline is the moving of the capital of the kingdom from the more central settlement of Dongola to Daw, a settlement closer to the border with Egypt, in 1365. In the late fifteenth century, Dotawo would have its last Christian ruler, and in 1504 the Funj conquered the city of Soba, which has been considered by many as the point when the kingdom collapsed. 

Dr Simmons however argued that this timeline does not reflect the evidence of recent archaeology. The sources for this traditional understanding of the fall of Dotawo, according to Dr Simmons, come from disparate chronicles, many written by external agents whose focus was on matters not to do with Dotawo. Recent archaeological evidence suggests that, while certain areas may have been in decline, the kingdom was still active throughout the sixteenth, and into the seventeenth century. The archaeology rather suggests a clear shift to a ‘Funj period’ around the mid-seventeenth century. In essence, Dotawo may have been shrinking in the sixteenth century, but not collapsing. 

Dr Simmons concluded by postulating that the kingdom of Dotawo in fact collapsed between 1615 and 1620, when it was finally conquered by the Funj under the rule of makk Bādī to the annoyance of his advisor, according to one account. 

In the discussion after the paper, Dr Simmons explained with excitement that new sites in the Nubian kingdom of Dotawo are being discovered all the time, allowing for the possibility of more insights to come from this fascinating part of medieval Africa. He also explained that much of the pervious archaeology, and even the more recent evidence, has not been carbon-dated, leaving much of the dating up to interpretation. This helpfully explains why the current narrative regarding Dotawo’s collapse has not been challenged effectively before. 

The next talk in the series will be given by Dr Alaric Hall (University of Leeds) in the Medieval and Ancient Research Centre at the University of Sheffield, on 16th November about medieval riddles. For more information about this and future seminars, please check out the What’s on at Leeds page.