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The Research Unit for Ancient and Medieval Greek Documents gives new life to ancient manuscripts that have been neglected because of their state of preservation.


    Interpreting ancient texts


The Research Unit for Ancient and Mediaeval Greek Documents, Archives and Libraries consists of three major projects: the Project for Saving and Publishing Greek Papyri, the Jabal Harun/Monastery of Aaron Archaeological Project and the Project for Saving the Library of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria.

The purpose of the first project is to save, conserve, and publish, as well as to interpret new texts of ancient manuscripts. The focus has been on the texts that have been undeservedly neglected, since they were considered too difficult and the study too time-consuming because of their contents or because of their state of preservation: the recycled vast papyri of mummy cartonnages and the carbonised papyri. In bringing this kind of material to attention of scholars, conservation methods and methodological issues are essential.

The focus of interest of the Jabal Harun Project is the Mountain of the Prophet Aaron in Petra, Jordan. According to Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions, the mountain is considered the place of burial of Moses’ brother Aaron. The origins of the project are to be found in the involvement of Finnish experts with the 6th-century carbonised Petra Papyri. One of them mentions “the House of our Lord the Saint High-Priest Aaron” outside the city of Petra. The abandonment of the mountain by the Christians must have happened not later than the mid-14th century when the Muslim shrine was constructed on its summit. Of main interest to the project, however, is the extensive ruined architectural complex located about 70 m below on a wide plateau. The project is designed to uncover, preserve and publish archaeological remains of the ruined monastic complex. The project aims for a full understanding of the topography of the mountain, and the history of human settlements on the mountain and in its immediate surroundings, as well as their relations to the city of Petra.

The Library of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria is all that remains of the Church Library, which originated with the foundation of the Church of Alexandria by Saint Mark. The third and last project aims at the codicological research and inventory of the manuscripts and the rare editions of the Library, as well as their conservation and digital image recording. The Library contains about 530 mostly Greek manuscripts, of which the oldest, according to present knowledge, dates from AD 952. The Patriarchal Archives have been kept in the Library along with other unpublished unique sources of the history of the Church in Egypt. These treasures are housed within the buildings of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa in Alexandria. The manuscripts and the rare editions need immediate attention and conservation. The most urgent measures for repair and renovation of the buildings have already started.

Further information:
Professor Jaakko Frösén Department of Classical Philology,
P.O. Box 4 FIN-00014 University of Helsinki
Tel: +358 9 19122160,
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