A public appeal has been launched to save the hundreds of thousands of ancient manuscripts smuggled out of Timbuktu during the crisis in Mali, which are now facing a more insidious threat: moisture damage.
Dating back over 700 years, the fragile manuscripts range from poetry to commerce records, and are from Andalusia and Southern Europe, Arabia, Egypt, Morocco,and Arab trading ports on the Indian Ocean as well as the region of Timbuktu itself. Initially reported to have been destroyed by Islamist rebels in a fire, the 300,000 manuscripts were evacuated from Timbuktu by librarians and archivists.
Stored in the metal boxes used for their evacuation, the texts are already showing signs of damage and exposure to moisture, and experts have launched an appeal to raise $100,000 to help preserve them. The IndieGoGo campaign from Libraries in Exile is asking the public to donate money to save the manuscripts: $30 would preserve a single manuscript, while $9,000 would protect an entire footlocker. Read more.
The preservationists of Timbuktu’s centuries-old artifacts have been holding their breath for weeks, waiting for the moment when the French military would seize back Mali’s ancient northern capital from the Islamic militants who have occupied it for 10 months. At stake were the city’s most precious treasures: tens of thousands of centuries-old, priceless calligraphed manuscripts, whose fate under the jihadists’ rule was deeply uncertain.
On Monday, that moment finally came — and by nightfall, the state of Timbuktu’s treasures was as confused as it had been before.
When Malian and French soldiers rolled into town in armored vehicles early Monday, they found what the preservationists had most dreaded: Timbuktu’s new Ahmed Baba Institute, an expensive adobe construction opened in 2010 — the city’s splashiest international project in years — had been torched by militants of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb last Thursday as they prepared to flee the French advance. From Bamako, Timbuktu’s Mayor Hallé Ousmane Cissé, who had fled his city nearly four weeks ago, told journalists that the militants had burned the center’s collection of about 40,000 ancient manuscripts, some of the 300,000 or so historic documents stashed in libraries in Timbuktu and the villages around it, mostly as family heirlooms. “The manuscripts were a part not only of Mali’s heritage but the world’s heritage,” Cissé told the Guardian.
That is not so, according to those who’ve worked for months to keep the documents safe. Read more.
Islamist insurgents retreating from Timbuktu set fire to a library containing thousands of priceless historic manuscripts, according to the Saharan town’s mayor, in an incident he described as a “devastating blow” to world heritage.
Hallé Ousmani Cissé told the Guardian that al-Qaida-allied fighters on Saturday torched two buildings that held the manuscripts, some of which dated back to the 13th century. They also burned down the town hall, the governor’s office and an MP’s residence, and shot dead a man who was celebrating the arrival of the French military.
French troops and the Malian army reached the gates of Timbuktu on Saturday and secured the town’s airport. But they appear to have got there too late to rescue the leather-bound manuscripts that were a unique record of sub-Saharan Africa’s rich medieval history. The rebels attacked the airport on Sunday, the mayor said. Read more.
A trove of ancient manuscripts in Hebrew characters rescued from caves in a Taliban stronghold in northern Afghanistan is providing the first physical evidence of a Jewish community that thrived there a thousand years ago.
On Thursday Israel’s National Library unveiled the cache of recently purchased documents that run the gamut of life experiences, including biblical commentaries, personal letters and financial records.
Researchers say the “Afghan Genizah” marks the greatest such archive found since the “Cairo Genizah” was discovered in an Egyptian synagogue more than 100 years ago, a vast depository of medieval manuscripts considered to be among the most valuable collections of historical documents ever found. Read more.
The Dead Sea Scrolls, arguably the greatest archaeological discovery of the 20th century, have now been placed online for anyone to freely view them in unprecedented high resolution detail.
Launched the middle of December, 2012, the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library is the brainchild of a collaboration between the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and the Google Research and Development Center in Israel. The objective is to eventually place the entire collection of about 930 manuscripts, comprised of thousands of Dead Sea Scroll fragments and representing the complete known archive of the world-reknowned ancient documents. Already, hundreds of images have been placed online for view and study by anyone interested.
NEW DELHI: The Gilgit Lotus Sutra Manuscripts, discovered by cattle grazers in Gilgit in a Buddhist stupa in 1931, are set to be released in a facsimile edition in New Delhi on Thursday.
The rare manuscripts, housed with the National Archives of India, date back to 5th-6th century AD and are perhaps the only body of Buddhist manuscripts discovered in India. This is not just the oldest surviving manuscript collection in India but also one of the oldest manuscripts in the world.
The facsimile edition of the manuscripts, discovered in three stages in 1931, is the exact replica published in the form of a book designed to reach wider readership.
The first set of the Gilgit Lotus Sutra Manuscripts was found in a wooden box inside a circular chamber of a Buddhist stupa in Gilgit in 1931, now in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Sources at the National Archives informed that the ancient manuscripts had managed to survive for centuries due to two vital reasons - the near-zero temperatures of the region and the fact that the manuscripts were written on the bark of the Bhoj (birch) tree that does not decay. Read more.
The Lux in Arcana exhibition at the Musei Capitolini from 1st March to September 2012 will reveal for the first time codes, files, scrolls, records and manuscripts of remarkable historical value, preserved for 400 years in the Vatican Secret Archive.
One of the documents included in the exhibition is a letter by Marie Antoinette, written in 1793 while she was in prison to an individual thought to be Louis XVI’s brother Charles Philippe, Count of Artois, who in 1824 became Charles X, King of France.
The letter, which is only ten lines in length, is handwritten on a sheet of ordinary paper folded in two. It reads, “The sentiments of those who share my pain, my dear brother-in-law, are the only consolation I can receive in this sad circumstance.” The letter is then signed, “Your loving Sister-in-Law and Cousin Marie Antoinette.”
The clear and regular handwriting confirms that it was penned by Maria Antonia of Habsburg-Lorraine, daughter of Maria Theresa of Austria, who in 1770 had married the future King Louis XVI of France, and from then on was always called Marie Antoinette. Read more.
This much is known: rare, medieval Jewish manuscripts have been discovered along the fabled Silk Road in Afghanistan and are for sale.
Are they authentic? Scholars who have examined them say they are.
The rest — who found them, where they came from, whether there are more to unearth — remains a mystery.
But the discovery of the 200 or more documents, some in good condition and others crumpled or in fragments, has excited academic interest around the world.
“For the first time we have concrete evidence of Jewish existence (in Afghanistan), not only in the material sense of tombstones or household artifacts, but documents that (tell us) about the spiritual world of the people who lived there 1,000 years ago,” says Haggai Ben-Shammai, academic director of the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem. Read more.