Monday, June 13, 2016

Afghan "geniza" update

BACK IN THE NEWS: Silk Road Jewish Documents Dating Back to the 11th Century Come to Light. Written in Aramaic, Hebrew, Persian, Judeo-Arabic and Judeo-Persian, the 1,000-year-old documents are the family archive of Abu Nassar Ben Daniel, who lived along the old Silk Road (Nir Hasson, Haaretz). This story has been out for quite a while, but this article contains some new information. Excerpt:
[Israeli antiquities dealer Lenny] Wolfe has been following the clue ever since. About three years ago, he was able to purchase 29 documents and bring them to Israel. The documents were sold to the National Library and have been under study ever since. Six months ago, after a long search, Wolfe managed to purchase 100 more documents from the cache. As in the previous case, the Israel Antiquities Authority authorized Wolfe to buy the documents for the state.

However, he has yet to find a buyer for the new documents, which are held in a safe. “I’m sure the material will eventually find its way to an appropriate institution,” he said, declining to say more about negotiations over the material. Neither would Wolfe disclose the price he paid for the documents.

Experts say they believe the price was not astronomical, because the documents contain only text, and no illustrations.

Scholars now know that the source of he documents is not a genizah – a hidden cache of documents – like the one found in Cairo, but rather the archive of a Jewish family of traders who lived on the Silk Road in northern Afghanistan in the 11th century. The head of the family is named in the documents as Abu Nassar Ben Daniel and the family apparently lived in the central Afghani city of Bamyan. The city made headlines 11 years ago when the Taliban blew up two huge statues of Buddha there. The collection of documents came to light a few years later, after the war that led to the downfall of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Rumor has it that the collection was found in a cave or deep rock crevice somewhere in Afghanistan, where it had been secreted by its owners about a thousand years ago.
Read it all before it goes behind the subscription wall.

Much background here and here and links (cf. here).