Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Libraries in the sand reveal Africa's academic past
Reuters via Yahoo ^ | Fri Nov 10, 2006 | Nick Tattersall

Posted on 11/10/2006 2:19:31 PM PST by Pharmboy


A Malian walks out of the Great Mosque in Djenne,
Mali in this August 10, 2003 file photo. Researchers
in Timbuktu are fighting to preserve tens of thousands
of ancient texts which they say prove Africa had a
written history at least as old as the European Renaissance.
(Yves Herman/Reuters)

Researchers in Timbuktu are fighting to preserve tens of thousands of ancient texts which they say prove Africa had a written history at least as old as the European Renaissance.

Private and public libraries in the fabled Saharan town in Mali have already collected 150,000 brittle manuscripts, some of them from the 13th century, and local historians believe many more lie buried under the sand.

The texts were stashed under mud homes and in desert caves by proud Malian families whose successive generations feared they would be stolen by Moroccan invaders, European explorers and then French colonialists.

Written in ornate calligraphy, some were used to teach astrology or mathematics, while others tell tales of social and business life in Timbuktu during its "Golden Age," when it was a seat of learning in the 16th century.

"These manuscripts are about all the fields of human knowledge: law, the sciences, medicine," said Galla Dicko, director of the Ahmed Baba Institute, a library housing 25,000 of the texts.

"Here is a political tract," he said, pointing to a script in a glass cabinet, somewhat dog-eared and chewed by termites. "A letter on good governance, a warning to intellectuals not to be corrupted by the power of politicians."

Bookshelves on the wall behind him contain a volume on maths and a guide to Andalusian music as well as love stories and correspondence between traders plying the trans-Saharan caravan routes.

Timbuktu's leading families have only recently started to give up what they see as ancestral heirlooms. They are being persuaded by local officials that the manuscripts should be part of the community's shared culture.

"It is through these writings that we can really know our place in history," said Abdramane Ben Essayouti, Imam of Timbuktu's oldest mosque, Djingarei-ber, built from mud bricks and wood in 1325.

HEAT, DUST AND TERMITES

Experts believe the 150,000 texts collected so far are just a fraction of what lies hidden under centuries of dust behind the ornate wooden doors of Timbuktu's mud-brick homes.

"This is just 10 percent of what we have. We think we have more than a million buried here," said Ali Ould Sidi, a government official responsible for managing the town's World Heritage Sites.

Some academics say the texts will force the West to accept Africa has an intellectual history as old as its own. Others draw comparisons with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

But as the fame of the manuscripts spreads, conservationists fear those that have survived centuries of termites and extreme heat will be sold to tourists at extortionate prices or illegally trafficked out of the country.

South Africa is spearheading "Operation Timbuktu" to protect the texts, funding a new library for the Ahmed Baba Institute, named after a Timbuktu-born contemporary of William Shakespeare.

The United States and Norway are helping with the preservation of the manuscripts, which South African President Thabo Mbeki has said will "restore the self respect, the pride, honor and dignity of the people of Africa."

The people of Timbuktu, whose universities were attended by 25,000 scholars in the 16th century but whose languid pace of life has been left behind by modernity, have similar hopes.

"The nations formed a single line and Timbuktu was at the head. But one day, God did an about-turn and Timbuktu found itself at the back," a local proverb goes.

"Perhaps one day God will do another about-turn so that Timbuktu can retake its rightful place," it adds.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: africa; alexandria; epigraphyandlanguage; godsgravesglyphs; learning; mali; religionofpieces; timbuktu
Thought this might be of interest...
1 posted on 11/10/2006 2:19:33 PM PST by Pharmboy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: mhking; SunkenCiv

A black history ping and a GGG ping...


2 posted on 11/10/2006 2:20:28 PM PST by Pharmboy (After Tuesday, my tagline won't come out of its room.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Pharmboy

Africa used to have the pre-eminent copy and translation center in the world, much of it BC and nobody knows what was lost. This 1300AD excitement is nonsense.


3 posted on 11/10/2006 2:22:38 PM PST by RightWhale (RTRA DLQS GSCW)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Pharmboy

The burning of the library in Alexandria was a tragedy. That was much older than the Renaissance. How old are these documents again?


4 posted on 11/10/2006 2:23:16 PM PST by kinoxi
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: kinoxi

From what they say, about 800 years old.


5 posted on 11/10/2006 2:24:18 PM PST by Pharmboy (After Tuesday, my tagline won't come out of its room.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: Pharmboy
a government official responsible for managing the town's World Heritage Sites.

The buzz-word for many sites here in the USA being claimed by UN bureaucrats as 'belonging to the world.'

6 posted on 11/10/2006 2:27:36 PM PST by JOAT
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Pharmboy
It's not mentioned here, but it is the Dogon Tribe in this northern Mali area who are known for their almost super intelligence.

I know from my world travels of almost fifty years now, the Dogons were some of the most amazingly intelligent people I met along the way.
7 posted on 11/10/2006 2:41:04 PM PST by DJ Taylor (Once again our country is at war, and once again the Democrats have sided with our enemy.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Pharmboy
Northen Africa had a great civilization. Carthage was founded approximately 200 years before Rome and was more advanced in commerce, the arts and many other aspects of life before they decided it was a waste to spend to much for their military fighting on the other side of the Tyrhennian Sea. By the time their army reached the gates of Rome, their politicians managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

It didn't happen right away, but 14 years after fighting their way to the gates of Rome, Carthage was forced to defend themselves on their home turf on the Plains of Zama. The lost. They survived as a vassal state for another 56 years.

The rest of Africa fared a little better. Roman rule helped a little and even Carthage was rebuilt, getting another 750 years or so of life. Mali, Timbuktu and surrounding areas were building great cities and libraries at a time Europeans were largely prefeudal and illiterate. The decline of the civilizations of North Africa, the Indian Subcontinent and final destruction of Cathage for the final time in 698 a.d. all coincided with the introduction of the Religion of Peace. But I'm sure it was just a strange coincidence. < / sarcasm >

8 posted on 11/10/2006 2:45:33 PM PST by Vigilanteman (Are there any men left in Washington? Or are there only cowards? Ahmad Shah Massoud)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Pharmboy

Fascinating. I recently read Dorothy Dunnett's "House of Niccolo" series of novels, set in the 15th century. One novel takes place in Timbuktu, where the salt caravans came south to trade salt for gold. She speaks of great learning, libraries, early manuscripts. Evidently that was the case.

But the city, related to the Arab nations of the north but closer to the black tribal kingdoms of the south, had a hard time keeping its independence. The main characters leave shortly before it falls.


9 posted on 11/10/2006 2:53:09 PM PST by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Vigilanteman
The decline of the civilizations of North Africa, the Indian Subcontinent and final destruction of Cathage for the final time in 698 a.d. all coincided with the introduction of the Religion of Peace

This perhaps says something about Western Europe's future, and maybe also America's if America does not get serious about defending itself.

10 posted on 11/10/2006 2:54:06 PM PST by arthurus (Better to fight them over THERE than over HERE)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: Vigilanteman
For greater clarity, the life of society could be divided in three more or less autonomous areas [albeit they influence and interpenetrate one another]:
1. Economics;
2. Culture [everything man-made [excepting economics and sociology] in the life of that society - from national cuisine and architecture to song, dance and pottery shards - the stuff of ethnologists and archaeologists.
3. Sociological [i.e. civilization proper] aspects - how that society exists and self-perpetuates as a sociologically distinct entity, i.e. how its members relate to one another and to their groups in socially important situations. Sociological aspects of "national character", value systems [weltanschauung] and dominant religions come right here. This is merely an elaboration of Huntington's thesis - he used the whole religion [and not only its sociological side] as a convenient marker. Such an elaboration is perfectly justified - Huntington did not split the Western Civ into Protestant civ[s] and a Catholic Civ, after all.
Thus what you were talking about is mostly culture. Even a most primitive and barbaric Stone Age tribe could have a great dancer or a singer [or a totalitarian despotism could have good scientists], but this fact does not make that tribe a civilized one. As far as the civilization is concerned, one could argue that "at a time Europeans were largely prefeudal and illiterate" the Germanic tribes already posessed the rudiments of [sociologically superior] civilization.
11 posted on 11/10/2006 3:07:13 PM PST by GSlob
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: Pharmboy

Why, always, would the Muszies be competing with Western culture? "We are NOT living in the dark ages. ONCE we had books, really we did, we just found them, buried in the sand."


12 posted on 11/10/2006 3:23:41 PM PST by bboop (Stealth Tutor)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Pharmboy
The texts were stashed under mud homes and in desert caves by proud Malian families whose successive generations feared they would be stolen by Moroccan invaders, European explorers and then French colonialists.

A backup disk for a civilization - too bad they never got the chance to reboot their society. Much similar may need to be done for our own.

13 posted on 11/10/2006 3:37:53 PM PST by garbanzo (Government is not the solution to our problems. Government is the problem.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Vigilanteman
Carthage was founded approximately 200 years before Rome and was more advanced in commerce, the arts and many other aspects of life

You don't say. Bit of a pity about their human infant sacrifices then.

d.o.l.

Criminal Number 18F

14 posted on 11/10/2006 3:42:14 PM PST by Criminal Number 18F (Build more lampposts... we've got plenty of traitors.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: Criminal Number 18F
Carthage was founded approximately 200 years before Rome and was more advanced in commerce, the arts and many other aspects of life

Founded by the Phoenician traders, more of a Mediterranean colony than an African society.

15 posted on 11/10/2006 4:20:30 PM PST by hinckley buzzard
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: Criminal Number 18F

The Carthagenians had a number of problems by today's standards. I'm aware they invented crucifixition as well as engaged in human infant sacrifices. The Romans practiced crucifixtion as well as human sacrifice and had depraved entertainment. Modern liberals would, if it were in their power, grow infants to harvest organs, think nothing of murder in the womb, but get all squeemish about giving the most cruel of adult murders a swift and relatively painless needle in the arm. You tell me which is more civilized.


16 posted on 11/10/2006 5:39:40 PM PST by Vigilanteman (Are there any men left in Washington? Or are there only cowards? Ahmad Shah Massoud)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: Criminal Number 18F

hahahah, a perfect response, 18F.


17 posted on 11/10/2006 5:43:12 PM PST by bboop (Stealth Tutor)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: Vigilanteman

North Africa is a product of Mediteranean civilization. Carthage and Egypt. Prior to the Arabization of Africa and the Muslimization of Africa these were all a part of Alexander the Great's greater Greece. South Africa has no great civilization so revisionist history and the culture of self-esteem tries to portray the Ancient Egyptians as dark skinned. Also Carthage was rightfully burned to the ground after 2 broken treaties with Rome and Hannibal's plunder of the Italian penninsula for about 20 years. Scipio the African finally defeated the savages and upon doing so returned to his farm.


18 posted on 11/10/2006 6:00:44 PM PST by ffusco (Maecilius Fuscus,Governor of Longovicium , Manchester, England. 238-244 AD)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: Pharmboy
There is an excellent program on the History Channel about this, and other Saharan cultures.

Also, anyone here read "Skeletons on the Zahara"?

19 posted on 11/10/2006 7:30:56 PM PST by GVnana (Former Alias: GVgirl)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Pharmboy; blam; FairOpinion; StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; 24Karet; 3AngelaD; ...
Thanks Pharmboy.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list. Thanks.
Please FREEPMAIL me if you want on or off the
"Gods, Graves, Glyphs" PING list or GGG weekly digest
-- Archaeology/Anthropology/Ancient Cultures/Artifacts/Antiquities, etc.
Gods, Graves, Glyphs (alpha order)

20 posted on 11/11/2006 1:35:01 AM PST by SunkenCiv (Dhimmicrati delenda est! https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Pharmboy
Some academics say the texts will force the West to accept Africa has an intellectual history as old as its own.

1300 AD is as old as 500 BC? And I'll be forced to accept this?

21 posted on 11/11/2006 9:34:37 AM PST by A.J.Armitage (http://calvinist-libertarians.blogspot.com/)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: A.J.Armitage
1300 AD is as old as 500 BC? And I'll be forced to accept this?

Now, now! Let's not be losing our heads over such a minor matter.

Keep perspective: what is an 1800 year discreapancy in the entire scheme of history?

Keep your head, and accept it; or deny it, and lose your head...there is no compulsion in religeon or learning, since the choice is entirely up to you.

22 posted on 11/11/2006 1:24:21 PM PST by ApplegateRanch (Islam: a Satanically Transmitted Disease, spread by unprotected intimate contact with the Koranus.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 21 | View Replies]

To: Vigilanteman
The Carthagenians had a number of problems by today's standards. I'm aware they invented crucifixition as well as engaged in human infant sacrifices.

The Romans were cool on crucifixion, true, but contemporary Romans were pretty appalled by the baby-burning Baal faith of the Barca boys. Indeed, for centuries apologists for the Carthaginians practiced, shall we call it, small-h holocaust denial. Until the 19th Century science of archaeology exposed actual sacrifice sites.

There were cults in Rome that did human sacrifice, true, but they were not mainstream. Now, cruel and barbaric entertainments, that was certainly a Roman cultural fact, but they had their issues with baby sacrifice.

Certainly the Greeks, too, were imperfect; all societies of that era enslaved most of their inhabitants, for one thing. But an objective read of history ought to have us thanking our stars that our culture and civilisation was transmitted via Greece and Rome vice Persia and Carthage... at least, that's my opinion.

As far as liberals' modern intent, you'll find nothing to argue with me about.

23 posted on 11/11/2006 10:59:17 PM PST by Criminal Number 18F (Build more lampposts... we've got plenty of traitors.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]


· join list or digest · view topics · view or post blog · bookmark · post a topic ·

 
Gods
Graves
Glyphs
Just updating the GGG info, not sending a general distribution.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.
GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother, and Ernest_at_the_Beach
 

· Google · Archaeologica · ArchaeoBlog · Archaeology magazine · Biblical Archaeology Society ·
· Mirabilis · Texas AM Anthropology News · Yahoo Anthro & Archaeo ·
· History or Science & Nature Podcasts · Excerpt, or Link only? · cgk's list of ping lists ·


24 posted on 08/04/2008 8:52:44 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/_________________________Profile updated Friday, May 30, 2008)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 20 | View Replies]


 GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother & Ernest_at_the_Beach
newer, related topics: Just updating the GGG info, not sending a general distribution.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.


25 posted on 06/30/2012 12:05:32 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson