Showing posts with label Ancient Manuscript. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ancient Manuscript. Show all posts

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.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Bible Manuscripts

Bible 1
Biblical Manuscript – Handwritten copy of section text of Bible 

A biblical manuscript is a handwritten copy of a section of the text of the Bible and the word Bible is derived from the Greek biblia or book, while manuscript comes from Latin manu or hand and scriptum or written. The original manuscript is known as the `autographs’.

These manuscripts are of different sizes from tiny scrolls comprising of individual verse of the Jewish scriptures to huge polyglot codices of both Hebrew Bible or Tanakh and the New Testament together with extracanonical works.

Bible 5
It is essential to study the biblical manuscripts since the handwritten copies of books may contain errors and the science of textual criticism tends to reconstruct the original text of the books particularly the ones which could have been published earlier to the invention of the printing press. The oldest Hebrew language manuscript of the Tanakh was the Aleppo and Leningrad codex.

The discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls at Qumran pushed the manuscript history of the Tanakh back a millennium from the previous two complete codices and prior to this discovery, the earliest manuscripts of the Old Testament were of Greek like the Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus.From the 800 manuscripts which were found at Qumran, 220 were from the Tanakh.

Bible 2
Ancient Manuscripts in Hebrew

Sections of the New Testament are preserved in more manuscripts than any other ancient work with over 5,800 complete or fragmented Greek manuscripts, 10,000 Latin manuscripts and 9,300 manuscripts of various other ancient languages comprising of Syriac, Slavic, Gothic, Coptic, Ethiopic and Armenian.

Though there are several ancient Biblical manuscripts, the importance of the Leningrad Codex as well as the Aleppo Codex, codices created by Masoretic scholars is in the comments contained in the text. The ancient biblical manuscripts that are written in Hebrew does not have vowels and even if there is no question with regards to the letters of a given text, there still remains a question as to how a particular word could be pronounced and its meaning. Similarly, the ancient biblical manuscripts like the Dead Sea Scrolls could contain no indication on how the Torah sections and the prophetic reading should be chanted in the synagogue.

Bible 3
Only Complete Copy of Hebrew Bible – Leningrad Codex

On the other hand codices like the Leningrad Codex and Aleppo Codex have vowel marking in the form of subscripts and superscripts and also contain other markings showing pitch relationships in guiding the cantor in chanting the prescribed Torah.

Bible 4
Besides this, an important aspect is that they contain massive marginal notations regarding cruxes in the text which are difficult to interpretation. Till they were damaged and lost partially, the Aleppo Codex was considered to be the `crown’ of the ancient biblical manuscripts as well as the version of the Hebrew Bible which eventually became the most authoritative text in Judaism and its loss was a big blow to Jewish scholarship though another complete codex existed in the Leningrad Code.

The only complete copy of the Hebrew Bible from the same period like the Aleppo Code was the Leningrad Codex in St. Petersburg which is similar to the Aleppo Codex in several respects with regards to dates as well as in distinction. The Leningrad Codex like the Aleppo Codex has vowel marking, extensive textual notes and cantillation signs.

Monday, October 20, 2014


Rongorongo – Mysterious Glyphs 

Rongorongo is believed to be a script or glyphs which was discovered in the 19th century on Easter Island after the visit of the Spanish in 1770 and seems to be a system of enigmatic glyphs which were found written on several artifacts.

Many are of the opinion that they portray a system of writing or proto writing. It was probably inspired by some written document or annexation which was given to the islander to be signed, though from 1860, they seemed to lose the interest to read it resulting in the inability to understand it and no inhabitant of Easter Island was then capable of reading it.

Several attempts have been made at decipherment with none of them being successful. The glyphs however, remains undecipherable resulting in its true messages which according to some hints on the perplexing collapse of the statue building Easter Island civilization, being lost forever.

Though some calendrical and some which seemed to be genealogical information have been identified, none of these glyphs are readable. Around two dozen wooden objects with rongorongo inscriptions, some of which heavily weathered, burned or damaged were collected in late 19th century but are now scattered in various museums and private collections with none of them available on Easter Island.

These are typical tablet shaped from irregular pieces of wood, at times like driftwood which include a chieftain’s staff, a bird man statuette and two reimiro ornaments. Besides these there are also a few petroglyphs which include short rongorongo inscription.

Carved on Tablets or Staves – Ritual Chanting 

Rongorongo 1
Referring to oral history it was suggested that only few were literate and the tablets were considered as sacred. The word rongorongo was derived from the Polynesian island of Mangareva which was connected to the script that were carved on tablets or staves and used as mnemonic devices for the ritual chanting by the rongorongo men at that time.

The men here competed in annual ritual which were connected with the birdman cult and associated to the deity Makemake. Besides a part of one tablet which has portrayed dealing with a lunar calendar, none of the text can be understood and even the calendar itself cannot be accurately read.

 Three serious obstacles are there to be deciphered, the small number of the remaining text, which comprises only of 15,000 legible glyphs, the lack of context of interpreting the text like illustrations or parallels to the text that can be read and the modern Rapanu language that is mixed with Tahitian.

Written in Alternate Direction – Reverse Boustrophedon 

Rongorongo 2
This is unlikely to reflect the language of the tablets especially if they tend to record any special register like an incantations and the remaining few examples of the old language are either restricted in genre or would not correspond to the tablet.

Authentic rongorongo texts are written in an alternate direction which is a system known as reverse boustrophedon. The lines of text in the third tablets are inscribed in shallow fluting carved in the wood and the glyphs seem to be outlines of animal, plant, human, artefact and geometric shapes.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Devil’s bible – Codex Gigas

Codex Gigas
Codex Gigas known as the Devil’s Bible is the largest and the strangest manuscripts in the world.

 It is so huge that it is said to have taken more than 160 animal skins to make it, needing at least two people to lift it and measures around one metre in length. Gigas in Latin means giant and Codex Gigas when translated mean `giant book’.

It is an appropriate name since the codex is the largest single volume surviving from the 13th century monks.

The medieval manuscript according to legend was created out of a pact with the devil and this is the reason why it is sometimes referred to as the Devil’s bible.

 It is said to be written during the 13th century in Latin in the Benedictine monastery of Podlazice in Bohemia which is modern Czech Republic and though the origin of the manuscript is not known, a mention in the manuscript states that it was pawned at Sedlec in 1295 in a monastery.

Entire Collection Plundered by Swedish Army - 1648

Codex Gigas
Codex Gigas has a complete vulgate Latin translation of the Bible and five other major texts and begins with the Old Testament continuing with Antiquities of the Jews, by Flavius Josephus, Encyclopedia Etymologiae by Isidore of Seville, a collection of medical works of Hippocrates, Theophilus and others, the New Testament and the Chronicle of Bohemia by Cosmas of Prague.

Smaller text have also been included in the manuscript like magic formula, exorcism, images of the Heavenly city together with illustration of the devil which was why the legend was said that the codex had been written with the devil’s help.

 It was during the 30 years’ war in 1648, that the entire collection was plundered by the Swedish army but is now preserved at the National Library of Sweden in Stockholm, though not on display. Many have been debating that one man could not have written the complete text alone but a recent investigation team of scholars who had been sponsored by National Geographic, support this claim that the Codex has been the work of one man.

Inked Used from Crushed Insect Nest

Codex Gigas
On research done of the manuscript’s text, investigators discovered that the book used only one kind of ink which was made from crushed insect nest and the style and font of the calligraphy was consistent throughout, leading the investigators to believe that the manuscript was the work of a single scribe instead of many.

The team were also of the opinion that the manuscript could have taken a minimum of twenty five to thirty year to get it completed.

The lettering of the text is believed to be self, due to the lack of sophistication and the pages made from the skins of donkeys. Codex legend indicates that the text sprang from a pact which was made between a doomed monk and the devil.

The manuscript consists of illuminations in blue, green, gold, red and yellow, with capital letters elaborately illuminated, frequently across the whole page.

It has a unified look with no change in the writing, without any signs of age, disease or mood on the part of the scribe which may have led to believe the that entire book could have been written in a short time though scientists are of the belief and researching the theory that it could have taken over years for completion.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

History mystery: Ancient Manuscript Bodmer Papyri

Bodmer Papyri 1
Collections of ancient manuscripts were named after Martin Bodmer, a Swiss humanist and collector of rare literature around 1899–1971, who formed his library of world literature. They are a group of twenty two papyri which were discovered in Egypt in 1952 containing various segments from the Old and New Testaments, early Christian literature, Menander and Homer. The papyri are reserved at the Bibliotheca Bodmeriana in Cologny, outside Geneva in Switzerland. Around 2007, the Vatican Library obtained two of the papyri which are now in the custody of the Vatican Library. The Bodmer Papyri were found at Pabau near Dishna, Egypt, an ancient headquarters of the Pachomian order of monks in 1952. This discovery site is near Nag Hammadi where the Nag Hammadi library was found many years back.

These manuscripts were assembled by Cypriote, Phokio Tano of Cairo which was smuggled to Switzerland and then a bulk of which was bought by Martin Bodmer and a variety of it was in the possession of Sir Chester Beatty, the Universities of Mississippi and Cologne and the Fundacio `Sant Lluc Evangelista’ in Barcelona. The Papyrus Bodmer series were published in 1954 and the transcription of the text with note and introduction was given in French accompanied with French translation. Bodmer’s share numbered in excess of sixteen codices, three rolls of which have been published, in Pap XVII – 1-2 Peter, excluding Bodmer XVII, which belonged to a codex of heterogeneous material and was presented to Pope Paul VI at the time of his visit to Geneva in the year 1969. Presently it is housed in the Vatican Library.

Bodmer Papyri 2
The Bodmer are not Gnostic cache like Nag Hammadi Library but bear some pagan as well as Christian script, around thirty five books in all, in Coptic and in Greek along with the fragments of correspondence and the number of individual texts, has reached to fifty. While most of the scripts are in codex form, few are in scrolls, three of which are written on parchment. Homer’s Iliad, Books V and VI together with three comedies of Menander, Dyskolos P4, Samia and Aspis are among the Bodmer Papyri collections accompanied with gospel text – Papyrus 66, P66 which are part of text of the Gospel of John dating back to 200 CE according to the manuscript named the Alexandrian text type.

There are Christian text also that have been declared apocryphal in the 4th century like the Infancy Gospel of James and a Greek Latin lexicon in some of Paul’s letters besides some fragments of Melito of Sardis. In these works one will find Christian Vision of Dorotheus, son of Quintus the poet who is assumed to be the pagan poet Quintus Smymaeus, written in the earliest Christian hexameter poem, Homeric hexameters, where the earliest copy of the Third Epistle to the Corinthians was published in Bodmer Papryri X. These collection have some non literary material like the collection of letters from the abbots of the monastery of Saint Pachomius with the possibility that unifying circumstance of collections was part of a monastic library and the latest of the Bodmer Papyri dates to the 6th or 7th century.

Friday, February 14, 2014

History mystery: Palimpsest – Ancient Manuscript

Codex Armenicus palimpsest
The word Palimpsest is derived from the Latin word palimpsestus and from Ancient Greek, palimpsestos, meaning scratched or scraped again, originally from palin meaning again and psao, scrape, which literally means scraped clean and used again. Earlier, the Romans wrote on wax coated tablets which could be smoothed and then reused and the term palimpsest by Cicero was referred to this practice. A Palimpsest is a manuscript in codex or roll form, of earlier text that had been partly erased and apparently having an additional text underneath it and the underlying text is considered to be `in palimpsest’ where the vellum or parchment can be reused.

Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus
It was a common function especially during the medieval ecclesiastical time, to erase an earlier existing piece of writing with the aid of washing or scraping of the manuscript and then to prepare it for a new text. The idea of making palimpsests could have been economic and reusing the parchment which was cheaper than getting hold of a new one. Another option could have been directed by Christian piety, in the conversion of a pagan Greek script by overlaying it with the word of God.

Sealed Codices
Before the 20th century, faint legible text were read through technique that helped to make text readable and scholars of the 19th century used chemicals to read palimpsests which were at times very destructive, using tincture of gall and later ammonium bisulfate. Present day historians interested in ancient writing, employed infra red and digital enhancement techniques, to restore the erased text, very often with successful result. From the various important palimpsests, the most notable one being the Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus from which, only 299 leaves are available.

Codex Calixtinus
Since parchment which was prepared from animal hides is considered more durable than paper or papyrus, most of the palimpsests are parchment which was popular in Western Europe after the 6th century. The papyrus was in common use then and reuse as writing media was less common since papyrus was much cheaper than costly parchment. The writing from the parchment or vellum was washed with milk and oat bran and with the passage of time, the faded remains of the earlier text would reappear so that scholars could discern the text known as the scriptio inferior, meaning the underwriting, enabling them to decipher the same.

Codex Calixtinus-1
Towards the later stage of the Middle Age, the surface of the vellum was scraped with powdered pumice resulting in losing the text and the most valuable palimpsests are the one that were overwritten in the early Middle Ages. The Medieval codices were developed in `gathers’ that were folded and stacked together in the form of newspaper and sewn together at the fold. The prepared parchment sheets have retained the original central fold with each fold cut in half making a quarto volume of the original folio and the overwritten script running perpendicular to the effect manuscript.

Archimedes Palimpsest
Several ancient works have been restored only as palimpsests and Vellum scripts were overlaid with the intention of reducing the cost or dearth of the material. With regards to the Greek manuscripts, the consumption of old codices in terms of the material was essential that a synod decree of the year 691 restricted the destruction of the manuscripts of the Scriptures or the church fathers which was only permitted for imperfect or badly affected volumes. This resulted in mounted pressure in retrieving the vellum where the secular manuscripts were texted and the decline of the vellum trade with the introduction of paper being scarce lead them to reuse the material. Besides this, the cultural considerations also lead to the creation of palimpsest.

Codex Manesse
Most of the text which were prone to being overwritten included obsolete liturgical and legal, at times, of intense interest to the historian or scholar. The Scripture translation of Early Latin was rendered obsolete by Jerome Vulgate and the text might have been either in foreign languages or in some unfamiliar scripts which could have become illegible over the years or the possibility that the codices could have been damaged or incomplete.

Devil codex Gigas
The Heretical text were dangerous to hold since there was a compelling religious and political reason to eliminate texts viewed as heresy and reusing the media was economical than to burn the books. Major destruction of the broad quartos during the early centuries happened during the period following the fall of the Roman Empire though palimpsests created in the form of new text were needed during the Carolingian renaissance.

The Codex Benedictus
A valuable Latin palimpsests which was found in the codices was remade from the early large folios during the 7th to the 9th centuries and it has been indicated that no complete work is found anywhere in the original text of the palimpsest but sections of many works have been gathered to make a single volume. Overall, the Early Medieval scribes were not indiscriminate to supply material from old volumes which were available at hand.