Home > In the news > Heritage Fund preserves ancient manuscripts

Heritage Fund preserves ancient manuscripts

Legend has it they were created in a day after God intervened to delay the sunset. Today, a British charity revealed how it had worked to save the Garima Gospels and set out evidence suggesting they may form one of the earliest surviving illustrated Christian manuscripts.
Kept at the remote monastery of Abuna Garima in northern Ethiopia, the two volumes had become fragile. But an Anglo-French team of specialists sponsored by the Ethiopian Heritage Fund travelled there to preserve them.
The gospels are named after Abba Garima, a monk who arrived in Ethiopia in the fifth century. The story goes that, with God’s assistance, he copied the four gospels in a day. In the 1960s specialists studied them and concluded they were created around 1100. Later, however, a French specialist in Ethiopian art took two fragments to Oxford and one was dated to the fifth century.Read full story at the Guardian.

Categories: In the news
  1. Ayele Bekerie
    July 9, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    Dear Arefe,
    Abuna Gerima’s Gospel and its determination as perhaps the oldest Christian manuscript on parchment is a game changer. This means that literary tradition in Ethiopia has begun much earlier than what has been perpetuated so far. The tradition goes back to the time of the Aksumite period, some fifteen hundred years ago. It also means that the Ethiopic Writing System may have reached perfection much earlier than what has been assumed in the past. Moreover, the Ge’ez language, the free and non-ethnic language, may have achieved grammatical stability much earlier than the fourth century of the Common Era.

    In other words, literary tradition in Africa began at least fourteen hundred years before the European colonial period in Africa. Just like the medieval period pre-colonial manuscripts discovered in West Africa, the Abba Gerima’s Gospels are generating new evidence to rewrite the history of Africa, particularly the rewriting of its literary traditions.

    Moreover, given the scientific verification of the earlier date for the Gospel, it is incumbent upon us to take our indigenous intellectuals and scholars seriously. The verification further strengthens the hypothesis that the Ethiopic writing system is indigenous to Aksumite civilization. The pre-colonial literature in Africa is the major focus of an international conference to be held in December 2010 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The organizers of the conference will be in Addis in mid July and we hope to have a conversation with you then.


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