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Monks use hi-tech camera to read ancient manuscripts (Codex Syriacus)

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  • Thomas P
    BAHRAIN TRIBUNE, Thursday, June 30 MOUNT SINAI, Egypt: The world’s oldest monastery plans to use hi-tech cameras to shed new light on ancient Christian
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 30, 2005
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      BAHRAIN TRIBUNE, Thursday, June 30

      MOUNT SINAI, Egypt: The world’s oldest monastery plans to use hi-tech
      cameras to shed new light on ancient Christian texts preserved for
      centuries within its fortress walls in the Sinai Desert. Saint
      Catherine’s Monastery hopes the technology will allow a fuller
      understanding of some of the world’s earliest Christian texts,
      including pages from the Codex Sinaiticus â€" the oldest surviving bible
      in the world. The technique, known as hyperspectral imaging, will use
      a camera to photograph the parchments at different wavelengths of
      light, highlighting faded texts obscured by time and later
      overwritings. It should allow scholars to understand corrections made
      to pages of the Greek Codex Sinaiticus, written between 330 and 350
      and thought to be one of 50 copies of the scriptures commissioned by
      Roman Emperor Constantine.

      ...
      The monastery had kept the Codex Sinaiticus until the mid-19th
      century, when the bulk of it was taken to Russia by a German scholar
      and never returned. Russia sold those pages in 1933 to the British
      Library, where they are still kept. The monks thought they had lost
      the entire manuscript to Europe until 1975, when they discovered 12 of
      its pages and 15 fragments in a forgotten chamber, buried under a
      collapsed ceiling with thousands of other parchment leaves and fragments.

      ...

      The monastery plans to build a conservation workshop to treat the
      Codex and other works in its collection of 3,304 manuscripts and 1,700
      scrolls, which make up the biggest collection of early Christian texts
      outside the Vatican. It will also build a new library to house the
      collection, preserved by the monastery’s remote location, a dry desert
      climate and the care of the monks. “There is nothing else quite like
      this collection. It doesn’t compare,” Pickwoad said. Hyperspectral
      imaging will be used to read another of the monastery’s most
      significant manuscripts â€" the Codex Syriacus. The technology should
      allow scholars to read the faint remnants of a washed-out 5th-century
      text which lie underneath visible 8th-century writing. The underlying
      text in Syriac is a copy of a 2nd-century translation of the New
      Testament gospels. In the late 19th century, scholars applied
      chemicals to the manuscript which briefly made the underlying text
      visible but made the parchment more brittle. “It’s almost certain that
      the whole text has not been extracted yet,” Pickwoad said.
      â€" Reuters

      Links:
      http://www.bahraintribune.com/ArticleDetail.asp?CategoryId=7&ArticleId=73536

      Monks use hi-tech on ancient texts (Al Jazeera)
      http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/DF6F8401-B84D-4C16-8416-12B8D4F04C22.htm


      PS: Saint Catherine’s Monastery is a Greek Orthodox monastery.
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