Friday, May 28, 2004

MORE ON THE JEWISH MANUSCRIPTS FROM IRAQ, now frozen and awaiting restoration:
Jewish Artifacts Remain in Limbo in Iraq (Yahoo! News via Archaeology Magazine News)

Thu May 27, 1:55 PM ET

By CARL HARTMAN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - A damaged Torah, a centuries-old Bible and other rare documents important to Iraq (news - web sites)'s few remaining Jews were rescued from a flooded cellar in Baghdad, only to remain in limbo here.


The materials are in moderate to poor condition � they remained wet for several weeks after being salvaged, which allowed mold to grow, and some records became detached from their bindings and were lost, according to the Iraqi Jewish Archive Preservation Report. The study was prepared for the Coalition Provisional Authority, which is overseeing Iraq until a June 30 transfer of some sovereignty to the Iraqis.


When it was found over a year ago, the collection first had to be taken from three feet of mucky water � a U.S. bomb had wrecked the plumbing of the police building.

A salvage crew heaped the documents in piles, loaded them into sacks and took them to a nearby courtyard, where they were partly dried. Later they were packed into 27 metal trunks and stored in a refrigerated truck to halt the mold.

They were then shipped to Texas, where they were freeze-dried to stop the remaining moisture from causing further damage. They are now at a National Archives laboratory.

Among the items are a Bible printed in Venice in 1568, rare books on Jewish law, pamphlets and parchment scrolls, including sections of a damaged Torah.

Doris Hamburg, in charge of conservation at the National Archives, said a 1,400-year-old Talmud, thought to have been in police hands, is still missing.


I'm skeptical about this seventh century Talmud, which would come from very close to the time of its final editing, and thus would be extremely important. It would also be hard to miss: the Babylonian Talmud consists of many large volumes; it's not something you could carry around in your backpack. I hope this early copy really is out there somewhere, but I'll believe it when I see it.

UPDATE: I should have linked to this earlier post too, which links to the detailed "Iraqi Jewish Archive Preservation Report."

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