Beta maṣāḥǝft: Manuscripts of Ethiopia and Eritrea

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A systematic study of the Christian manuscript tradition of Ethiopia and Eritrea

Project description
The long-term project of the Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Hamburg structures and analyses our knowledge of the Ethiopian written heritage. A complex virtual research environment shall link detailed descriptions of manuscripts from Ethiopia and Eritrea with information on the scribes and owners, literary works, their authors, and places of origin.
Historically speaking, Ethiopia and Eritrea belong both to the “Christian Orient” and to the African continent. The culture is shaped by both Christianity and Islam, present in the region since shortly after their inception, but also by Judaism and the many animistic religions. The area is unique in sub-Saharan Africa for its rich written heritage that goes back into the first millennium BCE. For the first time, a systematic overview of all known texts of Ethiopic literature and their creators shall emerge. The most important texts shall be edited and translated, generating wide public awareness of this important African cultural heritage. The computer assisted analysis of project data shall enable new approaches in codicology, political history, historical geography, language, and literary studies. A comprehensive bibliographic database shall emerge and be made freely available. Thanks to the modular development, scheduled to be completed by 2040, parts of the research environment with selected manuscript descriptions shall be made accessible and searchable on the Internet as early as 2017.

Cooperation partner
University of Hamburg, Hiob Ludolf Centre for Ethiopian Studies and Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures

Principal Investigator
Prof. Dr. Alessandro Bausi

The long-term project is funded within the framework of the Academies’ Programme, which is coordinated by the Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities.