Sunday, January 01, 2012

Potentially huge geniza find in Afghanistan

From JPost:

Screenshot from Channel 2 report (unclear if this is actual or illustrative)
The Jewish scholarly world is abuzz over the discovery of ancient Jewish scrolls in a cave in Afghanistan’s Samangan province, Channel 2 reported on Friday.

According to Arab Affairs correspondent Ehud Yeari, if validated the scrolls may be the most significant historical finding in the Jewish world since that of the Cairo Geniza in the 19th century.

“We know today about a couple of findings,” Haggai Ben-Shammai, Professor Emeritus of Arabic Language and Literature at Hebrew University was quoted as saying. “In all, in my opinion, there are about 150 fragments. It may be the tip of the iceberg.”

The scrolls, which were part of a geniza, a burial site for sacred Jewish texts, date from around 1,000 years ago and are in Arabic, Judeo-Arabic and ancient Persian.

One scroll, whose replica was shown to the cameras, is apparently a dirge written for an important person whose identity has not been determined.

Other texts said to be found include an unknown history of the ancient kingdom of Judea, passages from the book of Isaiah and some of the works of Rabbi Saadia Gaon, a medieval sage.

In addition, rings with Jewish names like Shmuel Bar Yosef inscribed in Hebrew on them have surfaced.

The area in which the findings were discovered is on the so-called Silk Road, a trade route that connected Eastern Asia with the Middle East and Europe which Jewish merchants often traveled.

Yeari quoted sources as saying the scrolls were first moved to Peshawar province in Pakistan and from there had been sold to antiquities dealers around the world in Geneva, London, Dubai and Jerusalem.

He said the Prime Minister’s Office and several Jewish businessmen had expressed an interest in buying the scrolls from dealers and collectors but that the process was in its early stages.

The Cairo Geniza, which the said discovery was been compared with, has produced 280,000 texts providing a wealth of information on almost every aspect of Jewish history.
The last couple of paragraphs make it sound like the actual site of the findings is not under any sort of control, which could make it much harder to research properly. It might require some Indiana Jones-style archaeologists to properly deal with this!

(h/t Yoel)