Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Oldest and Longest Ancient Leather Manuscript Found In Egypt


Egyptian Leather Manuscript – Oldest & Longest

Ancient manuscript especially ancient leather manuscripts are rarely found and when the oldest and the longest one is found, it could hold the archaeologists in amazement. An Egyptian leather manuscript had surfaced in September 2015 and after over 70 years of being stored and forgotten in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the manuscripts seemed to be re-discovered by Wael Sherbiny, a Belgian based Egyptologist.

The roll manuscripts which was more than 4,000 years old measures around 2.5 meters long, dating back to the late Old Kingdom to the early Middle Kingdom. It was filled with texts as well as colourful drawings of the finest quality. Sherbiny had informed Discovery News that `taking into account that it was written on both sides, there was more than 5 meters of texts and drawings, making it the longest leather roll from ancient Egypt.

Sherbiny specializes in the ancient Egyptian religious texts, being the first Egyptian to obtain his PhD in Egyptology in 2008 from the Leuven University in Belgium and is preparing the full publication of the amazing leather roll. He had announced his discovery in Florence at the recent International Congress of Egyptologists.

Manuscript in Cairo Museum Shelves & Forgotten

Nothing much is known of the origin of the manuscript. As per Sherbiny, the French Institute for Oriental Archaeology in Cairo had purchased the manuscript from a local antiquities dealer who had then donated the same to the museum a few years prior to the outbreak of World War II.

Sherbiny is of the belief that the manuscript had been probably forgotten since all those who dealt with it after its first discovery had died during the Second World War or shortly thereafter. The oldest Egyptian leather manuscript had been found in the shelves of the Egyptian museum in Cairo and remained forgotten.

Mostly a portable religious manuscript, it seems to be more than 4,000 year-old roll comprising of depictions of divine as well as supernatural beings, which tends to predate the famous drawings that are found in the Book of the Dead manuscripts together with the so-called Netherworld Books from the New Kingdom onwards and religious incantations Formulated in the first person singular it tends to thrive there.

Leather Precious Writing Material – Ancient Egypt

According to Sherbiny, they were likely recited by a priest. It is said that the priest carried leather rolls for reference at the time of reciting sacred text during the religious rituals. Only six other portable manuscripts seem to have survived from ancient Egypt and could probably share a close date with the Cairo leather roll, all of which were of papyri. Sherbiny informs that `leather seemed to be a very precious writing material in ancient Egypt and was the principal writing medium to record holy text together with great historic events.

Moreover it was also more practical than papyrus owing to its flexibility as well as durability. Leather rolls of such prestigious nature were kept in libraries and archives of temple and were also utilised as master copies from which inexpensive copies were reproduced on papyrus.

Though papyri were preserved by the dry climate of Egypt, leather objects seemed to perish quickly. The Cairo roll seemed to be no exception and part of it was broken into very small pieces. Sherbiny had put them all together in one piece like a jigsaw puzzle.

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