one culture’s rubbish: crocodile rock on the nile

The magnificent survival of records. Though was, natural disasters, hatred, forgetfulness and other human stupidities have obliterated vast treasures of past cultures, occasional good luck, the chances and mischances, have at least allowed us to rescue part of our written legacy from oblivion…

----Dating from the Second Intermediate Period of Egypt, the Rhind Mathematial Papyrus is the most significant document of Egyptian mathematics. It was copied by the scribe Ahmes from a now-lost text from the reign of Amenemhat III (12th dynasty). The manuscript is 33 cm tall and over 5 meters long, and is written in hieratic script. It is dated Year 33 of the Hyksos king Apophis and also contains a separate later Year 11 on its verso likely from his successor, Khamudi. "In the opening paragraphs of the papyrus, Ahmes presents the papyrus as giving 'Accurate reckoning for inquiring into things, and the knowledge of all things, mysteries...all secrets'." Alexander Henry Rhind, a Scottish antiquarian, purchased the papyrus in 1858 in Luxor, Egypt. It was apparently found during illegal excavations in or near the Ramesseum.---Read More:

…And a truly magnificent copy of Book II of Homer’s Iliad was set in a coffin as a pillow beneath the head of a young woman, whose fune skull bones, small regular teeth and black hair made us believe she was a beauty: certainly she was beloved. Even stranger were the finds at Tebtunis, where P. Grenfell and  A.S. Hunt came on a cemetery of sacred crocodiles. One dead sacred crocodile is very like another, and the job of excavating thse saurian mummies soon palled. Eventually a workman lost his temper and smashed one of them to pieces. Then it appeared that the crocodiles, too, were incased in molded papyri, and some even had rolls stuffed into their mouths, “and other cavities.” From such absurd hiding places do we recover the records of the past.

---The Nekcsei Bible - Library of Congress, Washington Bologna, before 1335, commissioned by Demeter Nekcsei---Read More:

Almost all the papyri written in Greek or Roman lettering that we now have were found quite literally in rubbish dumps or in ruins of abandoned houses. Since it scarcely ever rains in Egypt, they lay quite comfortably beneath the dry earth until modern searchers dug them up. The modern Egyptians thought it was about as stupid as digging in Western dumps for tin cans, but they cooperated, for a wage, and even imitated these early excavators when they found out how valuable the rubbish was. In one days work south of Cairo, Grenfell and Hunt got thirty-six basketfulls of papyrus rolls out of one mound alone. These had apparently been discarded as worthless.

---Bibliothèque Nationale de France A painting from the Maqamat of al-Hariri by Yahya al-Wasiti, Iraq, 1237 C.E. In part, the exhibition’s unskeptical approach seems also to reflect the fact that it is dedicated to a living religion, not an antique belief system. It lays out Muslim beliefs without exploring the archaeological and anthropological matrices from which they issue. The question this raises is: should a scholarly and secular institution refrain from such exploration in order to accommodate religious sensitivities? In this regard it may be noted that the lead essay on the early Hajj was commissioned from Hugh Kennedy, a “safe” medieval historian, rather than a scholar of religion such as G. R. Hawting. In line with the views of some western revisionists Hawting suggests that the “idolatry” against which Muhammad inveighed may not have been an actual practice, but a rhetorical trope used in arguments between rival monotheists.---Read More:

We have as yet no idea of the treasures that still may be hidden in the dry sands of Egypt and the neighboring countries. The oldest Latin papyrus ever found and the oldest text of Cicero , part of his most famous set of speeches, written down not long after his death are now in Leipzig: it was bought from Egyptian dealers in the Fayum in 1926: but where did they get it? In 1945 a Gnostic library of thirteen volumes was found in Upper Egypt, containing, among other things, a Gospel in Coptic, adapted from a Christian work written in Greek, which evidently preserved some beautiful traditional words of Jesus.

---Meir Karsenti, 80, a manager (gabbai) at the Abuhav Synagogue in Safed, was particularly excited last week as he geared up to take out what is thought to be the oldest Torah scroll in the world which can still actually be used. "From research we conducted it appears the scroll was written in the 14th century by Isaac Aboab of Castile," Karsenti said. "A scribe examined the scroll two years ago and confirmed it was fit for reading. There are many ancient Torah scrolls in museums but they are banned for reading during prayers because of erased letters or words. This scroll can be read in a synagogue," he said.---Read More:

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