Saturday, December 17, 2016

400+ Mar Behnam Monastery manuscripts saved

SYRIAC WATCH, ARAMAIC WATCH, ARABIC WATCH: Hundreds of Historic Texts Hidden in ISIS-Occupied Monastery (Own Jarus, Live Science).
More than 400 texts, dating between the middle ages and modern times, have been saved at the Mar Behnam monastery, a place that the Islamic State group (also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh) had occupied for more than two years, until November.

The texts, which were written between the 13th and 20th centuries, were hidden behind a wall that was constructed just a few weeks before ISIS occupied and partly destroyed the Christian monastery, according to Amir Harrak, a professor at the University of Toronto who studied the texts before they were hidden away.

Some of the texts are "beautifully illustrated" by the scribes who copied them, Harrak said. "Each one contains lengthy colophons [notes] written by the scribes, telling historical and social, and religious events of their times — a fact that makes them precious sources," Harrak told Live Science.

The texts are written in a variety of languages, including Syriac (widely used in Iraq in ancient and medieval times), Arabic, Turkish and Neo-Aramaic, said Harrak, who is an expert in Syriac.

Also this photo essay, from the same writer in the same publication:

In Photos: Historic Texts Hidden in Christian Monastery in Iraq

I've known about this for a while, but have been waiting for Owen Jarus to finish his research and publish these articles before I mentioned it. This is truly good news in a place where good news has been scarce lately. As regular readers know, I had given these manuscripts up as almost certainly destroyed. I have never been happier to have been wrong. All commendation and respect to Father Yousif Sakat, whose foresight led to them being hidden (in metal barrels and walled up in a building) before ISIS arrived. Now let's hope that the manuscripts stay safe.

Background on the Mar Behnam Monastery, its occupation by ISIS, and its recent liberation during the Mosul campaign, is here and links. For additional background on the history of the monastery, see this post by Christopher Jones at the Gate of Nineveh Blog from May of 2015: What We’ve Lost: Mar Behnam Monastery.