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Collectie Louis Théophile Lefort

It's a well-known fact that Théophile Lefort's famous photographic archive was destroyed when the Leuven University Library burned down in 1940. Also lost in the fire was the library's manuscript collection, together with many invaluable Coptic fragments. Fortunately, by the time of the fire disaster, Lefort had already finished his publications of the Coptic material.1  Perhaps not so known is the fact, that Lefort also owned a private collection of Greek, Coptic and Arabic manuscripts, that he acquired after World War II and donated to the university. In the 1970s, following tensions between Flemish and Waloon members of the university, the library was split between the KU Leuven and the newly founded UC Louvain. While the major part of Lefort's manuscripts, as well as his correspondence and papers went to Louvain-la-Neuve, a few Coptic and Arabic manuscripts remained at Leuven.2 The collection is now available online on the library's website. The Coptic fragments have the call numbers Ms. 1162–1172. Of particular interest to the Göttingen Old Testament project is Ms. 1171, a set of two small parchment fragments, one of which contains Genesis 42:38 (recto) and 43:5-6 (verso) in unimodular script. I find it surprising that Lefort never published this, even though he had edited the same passage from Genesis before in his Coptica Lovaniensia

1 Lefort, L.Th., "Coptica Lovaniensia", in: Le Muséon 50 (1937) pp. 5–52; Le Muséon 51 (1938) pp. 1–32; Le Muséon 53 (1940) pp. 1–66. Republished in: Les manuscrits coptes de l'Université Louvain. I Textes littéraires, Louvain 1940.

2 It should be noted that the famous Akhmimic papyrus codex containing the Shepard of Hermas was split between the two universities. For details see now: Batovici, D., "Some Observations on the Coptic Reception of the Shepherd", in: COMSt Bulletin Vol. 3, No. 2 (2017), pp. 81–96.

Guest Lecture by Dr. Ibrahim Saweros

Old Resources ... Modern Methodology: Athanasius of Alexandria in the Memory of the Copts

Dr. Ibrahim Saweros, Sohag University

DAAD Postdoctoral Fellow at the Seminar for Egyptology and Coptic Studies,
Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

2pm Tuesday 16 July 2019

Library of the SFB 1136, Nikolausberger Weg 23, 1st Floor

Computerizing Handwritings

Computerizing Handwritings: Current Approaches on Historical Documents

On a really warm day in Basel a group of doctoral students from Suiss universities met to discuss and share recent developments in Digital Humanities. The Digital Humanities Lab represented by Gerhard Lauer and Lukas Rosenthaler and the d-scribes project represented by Isabelle Marthot-Santaniello had organized the event.

At center stage were past and present efforts in digital handwriting recognition. I was seriously struck by the wealth of young and creative minds at display that engage in pushing the limits further and further. By comparison, my own contribution felt fairly old-school. In any case, I left the event with a lot of food for thought and thankful for the opportunity to attend.      


The Recovery of Two Parchment Leaves Containing Portions of Genesis in Sahidic

In 1962, the Franciscan scholar Gabriele Giamberardini (1917-1978) published two Sahidic parchment folios which contain Genesis 23:18-20; 24:1-24.1  The previous year, the heirs of a “well-known Coptic scholar” (notissimo studioso copto) offered for sale to the Franciscan Center of Christian Oriental Studies in Musky, Cairo, a large casing containing 35 Coptic parchment fragments, including the Genesis leaves that Giamberardini eventually edited. The scholar to whom Giamberardini refers in his article must have been Yassā ‘Abd al-Masīḥ, who passed away in 1959.

The Franciscans were not able to purchase the manuscripts because the price requested by Yassā ‘Abd al-Masīḥ’s heirs was prohibitive, but they were nevertheless allowed to photograph them. After this, the fragments disappeared and, for several decades, Giamberardini remained the only source of information regarding to two Genesis leaves. However, while the fragments were not available for inspection anymore, Peter Nagel realized on the basis of the photos published by Giamberardini in his article that they were part of a White Monastery codex which contained the Sahidic version of Genesis.2  Other codicologically related fragments are kept today in Berlin, Paris, Vatican, Vienna, and London. In his Biblia Coptica, the late Karlheinz Schüssler assigned to this manuscript the siglum “sa 1.”3  During the reorganization of the material inventoried, often chaotically and incorrectly, by Schüssler, our Sahidic Old Testament project in Göttingen gave to the same codex the siglum “sa 2020.”

Notably, all previous publications relied exclusively upon Giamberardini’s paper, mentioning that the Genesis fragments edited by him would be kept in an unknown private collection in Cairo. However, it appears that all the fragments seen by Giamberardini in 1961, including those of Genesis, are kept today in the Vatican library under the call number Vat. copt. 111. Although the pope received them in 1972, they were finally integrated into the papal library in 1974.4  As they do not belong to the well-known Borgia collection, they have flowed under the radar of Coptologists interested in the reconstruction of the Sahidic Bible.

Color photos of Vat. copt. 111 are now available online over at the Vatican Library’s website.  They allow us to establish with certainty that the two Genesis leaves published by Giamberardini in 1962 are ff. 96-97 of this miscellaneous manuscript. The recovery of the fragments will offer us the opportunity to collate them again in the near future and, hopefully, to obtain a better edition. 

  1. G. Giamberardini, “Testo copto ṣa‘idico del Genesi 23,18-20, 24,1-24,” Studia Orientalia Christiana. Collectanea 7 (1962) 207-220.
  2. P. Nagel, “Fragmente eines sahidischen Genesiskodex der Nationalbibliothek zu Paris (BN copte 1291 fol. 8-13),” Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde 116 (1989) 71-90, at 72 n. 4.
  3. K. Schüssler, Biblia Coptica. Das sahidische Alte und Neue Testament vol. 1/1 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1995) 20-26.
  4. D.V. Proverbio, “Additamentum Sinuthianum. Frammenti dal Monastero Bianco in un codice copto della Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana,” Rendiconti Accad. Lincei, Sc. Morali, s. 9, vol. 12 (2001) 409-417.

KOHD-Tag 2019

Am 26. Juni war unser Projekt zum Berliner KOHD-Tag eingeladen, ein jährliches Treffen mit Vorträgen und Berichten aus den Arbeitsstellen des Projektes Katalogisierung der Orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland (KOHD) und seiner Partnerprojekte. Das Treffen hat sich mittlerweile als eine feste Institution etabliert und bietet den Rahmen um Berichte,  Neuigkeiten sowie kleinere und größere Entdeckungen aus der täglichen Arbeit der Projekte präsentieren zu können. Die Vorträge der Teinehmenden, die sich im gut klimatisierten Brugsch-Pascha-Saal des Berliner Archäologischen Zentrums an diesem Nachmittag eingefunden hatten, reichten von den alttürkischen Turfantexten und den persischen Handschriften der Staatsbibliothek über Materialaspekte koptischer Papyruskodizes bis hin zu neu entdeckten koptischen Handschriften. Wir danken den Mitarbeiterinnen und Mitarbeitern der Berliner KOHD-Arbeitsstelle für ihre großartige Unterstützung unserer Arbeit am koptischen Alten Testament und freuen uns schon auf ein Wiedersehen beim KOHD-Tag 2020.



Research Trip to the British Library

From May 28th to 31st, I was able to work at the Asian and African Manuscripts Room of the British Library examining several Coptic Old Testament manuscripts. Ilana Tahan, Lead Curator of Hebrew and Oriental Studies in the British Library, was extremely welcoming and instrumental in the success of my research trip. 

First, Ms Tahan and I finalized the creation of a showcase of BL Ad. 17183, a Coptic-Syriac palimpsest Biblical manuscript. It was decided that our colleague, Theresa Kohl, will create a Collection Items entry for the British Library homepage that will briefly describe the manuscript and also provide a link to our site where visitors could view all of the multi-spectral images of the Book of Ruth and Ms. Kohl’s digital transcription of that Coptic text.
Furthermore, I managed to examine eight manuscripts (most of them in very fragmented forms) that are not fully or at all represented in our photographic records and establish in what form they are; how they are stored; and how relevant they are to our project. 

Most importantly, though, during this visit at the British Library, I was able to start my codicological survey of Or. 5000 (previously published by E. A. Wallis Budge, The Earliest Known Coptic Psalter, 1898). Around 100 years ago the manuscript was taken apart from its original binding (the binding is still there but kept separately) and placed in glass frames, 2 folia in each frame. All together the manuscript can be found now in 154 frames. This division was done in order to preserve the papyrus folia better. Even in the short period I had to work with the first folia of Or 5000 I was able to detect several corrections and possible manuscript preservation attempts by the initial scribe that are not easily visible in our black and white images. I plan to finish the study of the rest of the folia in the near future.

Coptic Literature in Context - PATh conference in Rome

Our partner project, the ERC funded project Tracking Papyrus and Parchment Paths, An Archaeological Atlas of Coptic Literature, invited, on the occasion of the online inauguration of the PATh-website, to a confernce at the Sapienza Università di Roma, from February 25-27, under the heading: Coptic Literature in context - The Contexts of Coptic Literature, Late Antique Egypt in a dialogue between literature, archaeology and digital humanities. The project team of PATh and many international specialistes, among them our team members Heike Behlmer, Alin Suciu, and Frank Feder, presented papers to material, geographical, and text historical aspects with a special focus on the application of digital tools and methods. The papers included topics from the Scientific systematic study of inks (Ira Rabin and Tea Ghigo), about Copic literary rotuli and scrolls: a typological assessment (Alin Suciu), to Literacy of Christian Nubia (Adam Lajtar). More information about the conference and, of course, about PATh is available at:



Talk in Liverpool, 22.11.18

On the 22nd November 2018 I had the pleasure to present my PhD thesis in a short talk at the University of Liverpool. I talked about the early research of my thesis which involves Coptic manuscripts from Touton in the Fayum between the 9th and 11th centuries CE. The presentation was done as part of the ACE (Archaelogy, Classics, and Egyptology) department's "Work in Progress" seminar series, organized by Charlotte Sargent and Elaine Sanderson, who are PhD students at the department. The seminar series covers a broad range of topics and students from any related discipline could apply to present their work.


It was a fantastic opportunity to for me to present my thesis in its very early stages to a group of brilliant young scholars and get some feedback from fellow PhD students. I obtained my BA in Egyptology from the University of Liverpool back in 2011, so I was very grateful for the opportunity to go back years later as a PhD student and see how the department evolved throughout the years. The ACE department is now part of th School of Histories, Languages & Cultures, but it's location remains unchanged, just behind the beautiful Abercromby Square.


My short stay in Liverpool was rounded off with a visit to the recently refurbished Egyptian collection of the World Museum, which has a rich range of objects brought from Egypt by explorers and archaeologists, most notably John Garstang. There are a few Coptic objects in the collection, although most of them are not on display.


You can learn more about the museum and explore the collection here.


Coptic Bible Workshop in Helsinki (October 22–24)

Last month, members of our Göttingen team participated in a workshop on the Coptic Bible, held at the University of Helsinki from October 22–24. The workshop brought together several different projects from the fields of Coptology and Septuagint Studies: our own project (represented by Frank Feder, Alin Suciu, Troy A. Griffitts, Malte Rosenau, Felix Albrecht), the "Coptic Manuscripts from the Ilves Collection" project (Antti Marjanen, Ivan Miroshnikov), and the Göttingen Septuagint projects on the Books of Samuel (Anneli Aejmelaeus, Tuukka Kauhanen, Elina Perttilä). 

The workshop was perfectly organized by Tuukka Kauhanen and the Academy of Finland's Centre of Excellence Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions (CSTT) in collaboration with the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities. 

Our meeting was a great opportunity to discuss different approaches in working with digital methods and editing tools, as well as a nice opportunity to get special insights into ongoing research, such as Ivan Miroshnikov's amazing discovery of hitherto unknown fragments of the Letter to the Hebrews in Palaeo-Bohairic, the edition of the Sahidic Twelve Minor Prophets by Malte Rosenau and my own edition of the Greek Twelve Minor Prophets.
All together, nine interesting papers on different topics had been presented. 

We are very thankful for the Finnish hospitality and hope to further establish the (old and new) connections between Göttingen and Helsinki.

Felix Albrecht (currently Visiting Fellow at the CSTT Centre of Excellence in Helsinki)

Guest Post by Lloyd Abercrombie

Studying Coptic can be a lonely affair: there are only a handful of places in the world with ongoing projects devoted to Coptic studies, places where scholars and students can work not in pairs or small groups, but teams. One such place is Göttingen, Germany where the Digital Edition of the Coptic Old Testament project finds its home. Knowing that traveling to Göttingen would afford me a unique opportunity to immerse myself in a pool of Coptic expertise, I applied for a mobility grant from ATTR (Authoritative Texts and their Reception), an international research school funded by the Norwegian Research Council and of which I am a member. After receiving a generous grant, on September 1st, 2018, my wife and I flew from Oslo to Frankfurt and then took a train to Göttingen. 

Our two-month stay only disappointed by feeling too short. Göttingen is a beautiful and historic city with buildings relatively untouched by the destruction of the Second World War. While there, we were treated with warm hospitality: the Chair of the Steering Board, Heike Behlmer, before our arrival and despite being busy, arranged for us accommodation; upon arrival, Malte Rosenau, one of the project staff members, kindly picked us up from the train station; and on our last day, the project staff gathered to listen to me present part of my project and then threw us a farewell party. Our reception in the interim period was no different from these acts of kindness at the beginning and the end. 

Germany academia is sometimes stereotyped as being stuffy and formal, but at Lagarde-Haus – the headquarters of the Digital Edition of the Coptic Old Testament project – the atmosphere is informal, friendly, and even playful, but without sacrificing academic excellence and intellectual rigor. Serious conversations about Coptic linguistics or manuscript studies are often continued over lunch, coffee, and/or after-work beers. 

Being around so many expert Coptologists on a daily basis was invaluable for my own research into Coptic manuscripts dating from the Fāṭimid period and associated with Esna and Edfu. If I had a question about a specific manuscript or manuscript feature, I could, for example, walk into the next room and ask Alin Suciu. Questions about scribal practices could be answered down the hall in Chrysi Kotsifou’s office. Information about Coptic liturgy was no farther away than Diliana Atanassova’s desk, and Malte Rosenau and So Miyagawa were, among other things, great help with anything computer or software related. It was also during my time in Göttingen that I participated in the Summer School in Coptic Literature and Manuscript Production in Hamburg (discussed elsewhere on this blog by Joanna Hypszer) with Göttingen project members Alin, Diliana, Frank Feder, Heike, Malte, Joanna, and So Miyagawa, along with many other graduate students and researchers from around the world.

Readers paying attention to last names may have noticed another felicitous feature of the project in Göttingen: it is, in miniature, a model of the international nature of modern research. Regular project staff and collaborators include those from Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Japan, Poland, Romania, and the United States. The languages spoken by the staff are even more, including Latin which, unlike most academics who can only read it, Julian Delhez can actually speak fluently. 

Also deserving of thanks for their friendship and conversation during September and October, are project members Ulrich Schmid, Troy Griffitts, Uwe-Karsten Plisch, Suzana Hodak, and Theresa Kohl. As the world of Coptology is small, I have faith that I will see all my Göttingen colleagues again and look forward to doing so!

Exhibit of Coptic Manuscripts at the University of Michigan

Two members of our team, Frank Feder and Alin Suciu, will curate an exhibit of Coptic manuscripts at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. The exhibit is entitled "Written Culture of Christian Egypt: Coptic Manuscripts from the University of Michigan Collection." The opening will take place November 12 at 4:30 p.m. in the Hatcher Library Gallery. In the morning of the same day, Alin and Frank will present a workshop on Coptic manuscripts in the same location.

We would like to thank our colleagues from the University of Michigan for the smooth collaboration and for inviting us to Ann Arbor.

Links to the events can be found HERE and HERE.

Summer School in Coptic Literature and Manuscript Production, Hamburg

From the 17th to 21st September I attended the Summer School in Coptic Literature and Manuscript Production at the centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures in Hamburg. It was a week of intensive study of various aspects of Coptic manuscripts and related fields, such as Ethiopian or Syriac Christianity.


Students not only from the area of Coptic Studies, but also from neighbouring disciplines took part and were able, through lectures given by specialists in their fields, to get a thorough insight into numerous aspects connected with manuscript production in  Egypt. A variety of topics were covered, from the Coptic Bible, via alchemy, to the archaeometric analysis of Coptic inks. A few selected participants were also given the wonderful opportunity to briefly present their own work in progress. The stimulating discussions which ensued after the lectures created the impression of being at a Coptological conference.


Among the lecturers were also colleagues from the Digital Edition of the Coptic Old Testament. On the first day, we heard from Frank Feder about the challenges and problems the project has to overcome. He also made the students aware of the complexities of Coptic dialectology.




Alin Suciu gave comprehensive overviews of the library from the Monastery of Apa Shenute (White Monastery), and of Greek patristics in Coptic. He made the participants aware of the state of research on Coptic literature, as well as the issues, which scholars face while researching early Christianity in Egypt. 




Diliana Atanassova delivered a passionate presentation on “The Primary Sources of Sahidic-Coptic Liturgy,” giving the participants a glimpse of several vital publications which she brought with her, and encouraging students towards research on Coptic liturgy, an area severely underrepresented in Coptic Studies.




Malte Rosenau made sure that participants got to do hands-on exercises, showing us first hand how the Virtual Manuscript Room of the Coptic Old Testament project works. In particular, the participants learnt how to properly index and transcribe a biblical manuscript.





Heike Behlmer and So Miyagawa presented “Bible studies and the Literary Dradition and Digital Text Re-use Research," a topic which combined examples of the use of Biblical quotations in the literary work of Shenute with more general observations on how Digital Humanities methods can be used in philological research.


We were also given the unique opportunity to visit the State and University Library and see original manuscripts as well as watch Thea Ghigo's archaeometry in action, observing how the type of ink on a papyrus is determined using near-infrared photography.


In addition to these, there were just too many other lectures from renowned scholars to mention in this short text, but the full programme can be found here:


The school ended with an important message from Paola Buzi, relevant not only for Coptic Studies but for scientific research in general: nowadays it is vital to share research data. Exchange of research and dialogue among scholars is essential for the progress, a statement no one can argue with.


It was a very intensive, but fruitful week with not only plenty of information, but also new contacts and potential for future collaboration. A huge thanks to Paola Buzi and her PAThs ("Tracking Papyrus and Parchment PAThs: An Archaeological Atlas of Coptic Literature”, Rome) team for the terrific organisation of the event.



Research mission to Montserrat and Barcelona

Between 1 and 5 October, 2018, Frank Feder and I made a research trip to Montserrat and Barcelona. Our aim was to prepare a complete inventory list of the Coptic manuscripts kept there, since both collections are relatively poorly known. At the same time, we hoped to find new fragments of the Sahidic Old Testament for our project.

Our first stop was at the Montserrat Abbey, home of a large collection of Greek, Latin, and Coptic manuscripts which belonged to Fr. Ramon Roca-Puig.

We were told that Roca-Puig was able to buy most of the valuable manuscripts he possessed with money raised from rich Catalan families. Unfortunately, only a tiny portion of the Coptic fragments has been published. Some years ago, I identified among the unedited Sahidic manuscripts in Montserrat two fragments on the book of Numbers and one Isaiah fragment. During our visit, Frank and I had the possibility to photograph and examine them more closely. Furthermore, we found a new fragment containing portions of Psalms 36-37 (LXX). Finally, we photographed numerous other potentially interesting fragments, some of which may be biblical. We will carefully check these in the following weeks.


After we finished our work at Montserrat, we travelled to Barcelona, in order to study the Palau Ribes manuscripts. This collection was formed by the Jesuit priest José O’Callaghan, with the help of Catholic monks residing in Cairo. Among Coptologists, the Palau Ribes collection is well known for housing the famous Sahidic codex containing the gospels of Mark, Luke, and John (PPalau Rib. Inv.-Nr. 181-183). Nevertheless, we were surprised to find out that they have hundreds of other Coptic fragments, especially Sahidic ones. We identified several new biblical fragments, including fragments of Proverbs, Psalms, and Job.


Buchpublikation von Uwe-Karsten Plisch

Unser Teammember Uwe-Karsten Plisch hat gerade eine Neuauflage seines Buches "Was nicht in der Bibel steht - Apokryphe Schriften des frühen Christentums" veröffentlicht. Eine lesenswerte und informative Zusammenstellung frühchristlicher Schriften, die sehr populär waren, es aber nicht in den Bibelcanon geschafft haben.

Das sehr empfehlenswerte Buch kann hier zu einem sehr moderaten Preis erworben werden.

Vorstellung der Datenbank-Plattform „Koptoo“ anlässlich der Projektetage 2018 des DAI

Vom 9. bis 12. Juni fanden die alljährlichen Projektetage des Deutschen Archäologischen Institutes (DAI) in Kairo statt. Als Vertreterin des von der DFG und der FWF geförderten Deutsch-Österreichischen Kooperationsprojektes „Sakraltopographie einer Klosterlandschaft und ihre Entwicklung auf dem Hügel von Dra’ Abu el-Naga / Oberägypten: Deir el-Bachît und das thebanische Pauloskloster“ war ich eingeladen, über den aktuellen Stand der Grabungen in Deir el-Bachît und die Arbeit an den Ostrakafunden mit Schwerpunkt der Vorstellung ihres Editionsformates zu sprechen.

Abbildung 1: Introseite der Datenbank

Die Edition der Texte erfolgt nicht im üblichen Printformat, sondern auf einer innovativen Datenbank-Plattform, genannt „Koptische Ostraka online“ (abgekürzt: Koptoo) [Freier Zugang für Benutzer unter folgender URL: (fakultativ Eingabe „Koptoo“ in die Suchmaschinen der Internetbrowser)].

Abbildung 2: Beispiel Online-Format der Edition eines Ostrakons

Bei der Datenbank handelt es sich um eine Volltext-Datenbank, die sämtliche an eine konventionelle Printedition gestellten Parameter erfüllt. Sie enthält Metadaten, Abbildungen, Textabschriften, Übersetzungen und Anmerkungsapparate. Darüber hinaus umfasst sie eine detaillierte grammatische und semantische Analyse der Texte. 

Für die Einbindung der Texte in die wissenschaftliche Gesamtauswertung der Klosteranlage wie auch ihrer Auswertung vor dem Gesamtkontext des zeitgleichen weltlichen und monastischen Lebens auf dem thebanischen Westufer sind multiple Suchoptionen von besonderer Bedeutung. Die Analyse der Texte ist weder in der Quantität noch in der Qualität der miteinander kombinierten Suchkriterien begrenzt. Sowohl die Metadaten, die Textabschrift, die Übersetzung als auch die grammatische und semantische Analyse sind suchbar.

Die Datenbank stellt aber auch in anderer Hinsicht das ideale Publikationsformat für das Deir el-Bachît Projekt dar. So sind durch die Implementierung von Korrektur- bzw. Update-Funktionen die Voraussetzungen geschaffen, bereits online gestellte Texte bei Bedarf – etwa bei Neufunden anpassender Fragmente – zu überarbeiten.

Die Datenbank „Koptische Ostraka online“ stellt somit nicht nur, wie bereits erwähnt, eine innovative Editionsplattform dar, sondern darüber hinaus ein „working tool“ für die weitergehende wissenschaftliche Auswertung des Materials. 

Die Datenbank trägt bewusst den Titel „Koptische Ostraka online“ und nicht etwa „Deir el-Bachit Ostraka online“ oder ähnliche Bezeichnungen, die unmittelbar Bezug nehmen auf die Klosteranlage, da sie von Beginn an nicht nur für die Edition des Deir el-Bachît Textkonvolutes konzipiert wurde. Vielmehr soll sie über den singulären Fundkontext hinaus als Editionsplattform für Ostraka aus dem thebanischen Raum zur Verfügung stehen.

Die Textfunde aus Deir el-Bachit sind im Speziellen auch für das CoptOT Projekt von Interesse. So zeugen die Texte von der Existenz von Psalterhandschriften im Kloster und ihrer regen Rezeption (nicht nur) im spirituellen Alltag der Mönche. 

Abbildung 3: Datenbankabfrage nach dem Schlagwort „Psalm“

Dank der Option der Datenbank auch nach Inhalten suchen zu können, lassen sich die betreffenden Texte aus dem bereits umfangreichen Textbestand leicht herausfiltern. So lässt sich ein aus mehreren Fragmenten – bezeichnenderweise nicht nur aus dem aktuellen Grabungsbefund, sondern auch aus zwei Museumsbeständen – zusammengefügtes Ostrakon anführen, dass eine Art „Bibliothekskatalog“ enthält. Dieser Katalog verzeichnet u. a. mehrere Psalterhandschriften auf Papyrus und Pergament. Und tatsächlich konnte aus dem Klosterareal bereits ein fragmentiertes Pergamentblatt mit Passagen aus Psalm 20 identifiziert werden. Im Besonderen hervorzuheben sind die über 50 bereits nachgewiesenen sogenannten „Psalmenostraka“, die durchaus Referenzmaterial für die textkritische Ausgabe des Psalters bieten können. 

Neues Buch von Theresa Kohl

Mit Stolz und Freude können wir bekanntgeben, dass die Magisterarbeit unseres Team Members, Theresa Kohl, ein Katalog der "Totendienerfiguren" (Uschebtis) des Römer- und Pelizäus-Museums gerade beim Verlag Gerstenberg als Buch, Band 54 der Reihe Hildesheimer Ägyptologische Beiträge erschienen ist.

Gratulation dazu, Theresa!

Sahidic Biblical Text Found Behind Qur'an Palimpsest

A few days ago, the Guardian featured an article about a Qur'an palimpsest whose underlying writing apparently contains portions of the Bible in Coptic. In the meantime, the manuscript was sold by Christie's auction house for GBP 596,750. According to the Guardian article,

"French scholar Dr Eléonore Cellard was looking for images of a palimpsest page sold a decade earlier by Christie’s when she came across the auction house’s latest catalogue, which included fragments from a manuscript of the Qur’an which Christie’s had dated to the eighth century AD, or the second century of Islam. Scrutinising the image, she noticed that, appearing faintly behind the Arabic script, were Coptic letters. She contacted Christie’s, and they managed to identify the Coptic text as coming from the Old Testament’s Book of Deuteronomy – part of the Torah and the Christian Old Testament."

I contacted Eléonore and she told me that, in fact, the Coptic text has tentatively been identified by two French Coptologists. Furthermore, it seems that UV photos of the palimpsest have been taken and they hope to identify soon more of the underlying Coptic text. I add here a few observations concerning the manuscript in question:

1) As our French colleagues adroitly remarked, it seems indeed likely that the Coptic "scriptio inferior" features some passages of Deuteronomy. However, members of our team have been able to decipher also portions of Isaiah in Sahidic. For example, Isaiah 40:26 can be more or less easily deciphered on one fragment. Therefore, it is still not entirely clear to me at this point whether the Coptic manuscript reused in order to accommodate the Qur'an is biblical or, rather, it contains an unidentified literary work that quotes from the Bible. The possibility that the palimpsest reuses more than one Sahidic biblical manuscript should not be excluded either.

2) According to Christie's specialist, Romain Pingannaud, the manuscript, "[i]t’s fascinating, particularly because it’s the only example where you have an Arabic text on top of a non-Arabic text." However, while it is true that such artefacts are rare, this is not the only Coptic manuscript effaced in order to accommodate an Islamic text. I attach here the photograph of a similar palimpsest, whose more recent Arabic text is Islamic, mentioning ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ the commander of the Muslim army that conquered Egypt in 641 CE and ʿAbdallāh ibn al-Zubayr. I lack competency in Islamic literature, but an American colleague helped me to identify the content: the text probably belongs to the Muslim historian al-Mada'ini (d. 839 CE). The story relates to the Umayyad governor al-Ḥajjāj ibn Yūsuf, who interrogates a Khārijite rebel. Notably, the underneath writing features Matthew 27:29-46 in the Fayyumic dialect of Coptic. This fragment was found, together with other Jewish, Christian, and Muslim manuscripts, at the beginning of the 20th century in the Treasury Dome of the Great Umayyad Mosque in Damascus.

3) The fact that the palimpsest contains both Christian and Muslim texts does not necessary imply that it documents the cultural interactions between the two communities, as it is mentioned in the Guardian article. It may well be that the Coptic manuscript was discarded and recuperated from a garbage heap by a Muslim scribe. We have similar examples of Hebrew/Coptic palimpsest manuscripts found in the Cairo Genizah. While I believe that there have been mutual influences among Muslims and Christians, I think bilingual palimpsests in general do not necessarily prove direct cultural interactions between two communities. Since the provenance of the manuscript cannot be traced, we should refrain from speculating about the use of the two texts. 

This leads me to my last point: I am disappointed to see how little is said about the provenance of the manuscript. According to my sources, there is no provenance paper aside from an affidavit from the owner, who apparently bought it in London decades ago. Finally, I want to express my hope that the palimpsest has been purchased by a museum or other professional institution and it has not ended up in private hands. Unfortunately, the fuss around it definitely increased its price and probably made it unapproachable for most institutions.

(This blog is based on a Facebook post I made a few days ago.)

Projektvorstellung an der Universität Basel

Am 4.4. 2018 durfte ich das Vorhaben an einem Ort vorstellen, der eine lange und bedeutende Forschungstradition sowohl zum antiken Ägypten wie zum Alten Testament hat: der Universität Basel. Auf Einladung der Gastgeberinnen Sonja Ammann, Nesina Grütter und Hanna Jenni (Fachbereich Altes Testament und semitische Sprachwissenschaft) kamen mehr als 30 Zuhörerinnen und Zuhörer, vor allem Studierende und Dozierende der Ägyptologie und Theologie, aber auch ein interessiertes Publikum aus dem Basler Forum für Ägyptologie, das den Vortrag unterstützt hat.

Nach dem Vortrag in historischer Umgebung im Grossen Seminarraum der Theologischen Fakultät (BILD) gab es viele Fragen zu den Problemen der Edition der koptischen Bibel und der digitalen Forschungsumgebung des Vorhabens. Eine Frage möchte ich besonders herausgreifen, da sie einen noch wunden Punkt des Übergangs von analoger zu digitaler Forschung berührt und weiterer Diskussion bedarf: wie stellen wir sicher, daß die Beiträge der Mitarbeiterinnen und Mitarbeiter eines digitalen Großprojektes so deutlich gemacht werden, daß diese durch ihre Tätigkeit nicht in ihrer zukünftigen Laufbahn behindert werden?

PhD degree for Troy Griffitts

We are proud and happy to announce that our friend, colleague, and team member Troy Griffitts has been awarded the PhD degree in Biblical Studies and Digital Humanities of the University of Birmingham (UK):

Warm Congratulations, Troy! 

Forschungsaufenthalt an der Papyrussammlung der ÖNB

Vom 26. bis 29. März 2018 durfte ich erneut in der Papyrussammlung der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek forschen, wo ich vom Team herzlich empfangen und bestens betreut wurde.

In der Papyrussammlung werden 22 Typikon-Pergamentblätter aus dem Weißen Kloster (Oberägypten) aufbewahrt. Sie geben Beispiele diverser liturgischer Inhalte. Die meisten Blätter beinhalten die Perikopen-initien für die verschiedenen Feiertage des Kalenderjahres, wie z.B. Wien, ÖNB, P. Vindob. K 211, K 9718, K 9728 – 9729, K 9731 – 9733, K 9738 u.a. Wiederum andere stellen die Anfänge von Psalmenversen als Hymnen der Liturgie dar, wie z.B. Wien, ÖNB, P. Vindob. K 9725 – 9727, K 9734, 9736. Solche Blätter wie z.B. Wien, ÖNB, P. Vindob. G 39789, K 9735, K 9737, K 9739 bieten den vollständigen Text der Trisagia mit Erweiterung für die koptische Liturgie. Das Wiener Blatt K 9175 gibt die Auflistung der Psalmpassagen mit dem Stichwort ⲉⲛⲧⲟⲗⲏ „Gebot“ an, welche während der Fastenzeit vorzutragen waren.

Einige dieser Blätter konnte ich mit meinen Transkriptionen kollationieren und dabei habe ich einige wichtige Verbesserungen vorgenommen, die nur bei dem Vergleich mit dem Original erkennbar werden. Die Methode der Autopsie ist besonders wichtig für die Arbeit mit Handschriften. Die Typikon-Blätter, die ich bei diesem Forschungsaufenthalt untersucht habe, werden demnächst in der ÖNB digitalisiert. Dem digitalen Fotografieren geht jedoch noch die Konser-vierung der Pergamentblätter voran. Dabei wird alles, was keinen historischen Wert hat, wie z.B. doppelt geschriebene oder geklebte Signaturen von den Blättern entfernen, siehe z.B. das Foto des oberen Blattteiles von K 9733r.

Mein Forschungsaufenthalt in Wien wurde vom DFG-Projekt „Die Hymnen in der koptischen Liturgie des Weißen Klosters in Oberägypten“ am Seminar für Ägyptologie und Koptologie an der Georg-August-Universität Göttingen gefördert. Dabei wurde sowohl das Fotoarchiv in Göttingen mit Fotos wertvoller liturgischer Fragmente erweitert als auch die Arbeit an den Typika aus dem Weißen Kloster maßgeblich vorangebracht.



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