Cyrus Cylinder: missing parts may have been part of the Museum’s collection

Cuneiform fragments being examined

The Cyrus Cylinder held and exhibited by the British Museum is written in Babylonian Cuneiform and dates to the conquest of Babylon and the neo-Babylonian Empire by Cyrus the Great who ruled the Medo-Persian Empire in the 6th century BCE. 

The cylinder has often been described as a bill of rights, and displays a pluralistic view of world religions that characterized the Medo-Persian Empire. In this declaration, Cyrus returns national religious treasures to the Babylonians, in a similar way to the edict of Cyrus recorded in the Biblical book of Ezra 1.

The cylinder has been missing some pieces of the edict, as can be seen on the official photographs provided by the British Museum. Now the discovery of cuneiform fragments among other holdings of the museum that could be from the cylinder has heightened interest in the artifact.  The fragments are to be studied and published firstly, before being put on display in Iran, a nation which traces its descent from ancient Persia.

Tags: Archaeology, Cyrus the Great, Ezra, Persia

Fragment from world's oldest Bible found hidden in Egyptian monastery

Section of Joshua from Codex Sinaiticus found as bookbinding in St Catherine's library
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Details: Fragment from world's oldest Bible found hidden in Egyptian monastery
Codex Sinaiticus

The Codex Sinaiticus considered the oldest and most complete example of the Bible was found in St Catherine’s Monastry, Mt. Sinai in the mid 19th century by Constantine Tischendorf.  Subsequently, additional pages have been found in the past decades.  Now another missing section has been identified in the binding of another book in St Catherine’s Library.

The Independent, a UK newspaper reports:

A British-based academic has uncovered a fragment of the world's oldest Bible hiding underneath the binding of an 18th-century book.

Nikolas Sarris spotted a previously unseen section of the Codex Sinaiticus, which dates from about AD350, as he was trawling through photographs of manuscripts in the library of St Catherine's Monastery in Egypt.

. . . Academics from Britain, America, Egypt and Russia collaborated to put the entire Codex online this year but new fragments of the book are occasionally rediscovered.

Mr Sarris, 30, chanced upon the fragment as he inspected photographs of a series of book bindings that had been compiled by two monks at the monastery during the 18th century.

. . . A Greek student conservator who is studying for his PhD in Britain, Mr Sarris had been involved in the British Library's project to digitise the Codex and quickly recognised the distinct Greek lettering when he saw it poking through a section of the book binding. Speaking from the Greek island of Patmos yesterday, Mr Sarris said: "It was a really exciting moment. Although it is not my area of expertise, I had helped with the online project so the Codex had been heavily imprinted in my memory. I began checking the height of the letters and the columns and quickly realised we were looking at an unseen part of the Codex."

Mr Sarris later emailed Father Justin, the monastery's librarian, to suggest he take a closer look at the book binding. "Even if there is a one-in-a-million possibility that it could be a Sinaiticus fragment that has escaped our attention, I thought it would be best to say it rather than dismiss it."

The use of old codices for bookbinding is not unusual as the quality of the old parchment  was ideal for the task. But it also speaks to the way in which the monastry valued older codices, in this case a codex that has not been far from the center of  textual considerations of the Bible since it was found, a little over a century ago. 


Tags: bible, Archaeology, Codex Sinaiticus, St Catherine's

Jordan requests that Canada seize the Dead Sea Scrolls!

Politics and Archaeology
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Details: Jordan requests that Canada seize the Dead Sea Scrolls!
Jordan and Dead Sea Scrolls

An exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, of the Dead Sea Scrolls, provided and sponsored by the Israeli Antiquities Authority is the subject of diplomatic moves by Jordan.  The Government of Jordan has requested that Canadian Government seize the scrolls presently in Toronto which “Jordan claims were illegally taken by Israel in 1967.”

At the heart of the issue is an international agreement signed in 1954.  Toronto’s Globe and Mail reports:

Summoning the Canadian chargé d'affaires in Amman two weeks ago, Jordan cited the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, to which both Jordan and Canada are signatories, in asking Canada to take custody of the scrolls.

Jordan claims Israel acted illegally in 1967 when it took the scrolls from a museum in east Jerusalem, which Israel seized from Jordan during the Six-Day War and subsequently occupied. The Hague Convention, which is concerned with safeguarding cultural property during wartime, requires each signatory “to take into its custody cultural property imported into its territory either directly or indirectly from any occupied territory. This shall either be effected automatically upon the importation of the property or, failing this, at the request of the authorities of that territory.”

This means Canada must act, says Jordan. “The Government of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan would be grateful if the Government of Canada would confirm … whether it is prepared to assume its international legal responsibility, and the means by which it intends to do so,” it wrote.

Canada has not responded positively to the request, but the action by the Jordanians probably spells the end of any traveling exhibits from Israel, without some prior guarantee that the objects will be safely returned to the IAA.

The action by Jordan is not a denial of the Jewish character of the Scrolls, but rather who really owns the material.

H/T James Davila, PaleoJudaica

Tags: Jordan, Dead Sea Scrolls, israel, Jews

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