Dozens of Sinai manuscripts put online

© RIA Novosti / Oleg Elastokinematic in fotoracconti of St. Catherine, which has existed since the 6th century BC, Archival photoDozens of Sinai manuscripts put online© RIA Novosti / Oleg Elastokinematic the image Bank

An international group of scientists completed a five-year project to digitize palimpsests — ancient manuscripts from the library of the monastery of St. Catherine at Sinai, they will all be posted on the Internet.

The completion of the project was devoted to a press conference at the Greek foreign Ministry with participation of Deputy foreign Minister Yannis Amanatidis, the official representative of the foreign Ministry Alexandros Gennimatas and curator of the project from the Fund of mount Sinai (Mount Sinai Foundation) Nikolaos Fyssas.

The palimpsests are ancient manuscripts written on parchment in the place erased the old text, or on top of it. This was done because of the high cost of the material. Now with the help of modern technology able to recover the erased texts.

The Greek foreign Ministry is organizing from 27 to 29 November an exhibition of palimpsests and the international conference «Another voice from the wilderness: palimpsests — manuscripts of the Monastery of Sinai, new technologies, reading, open texts are unknown, and future research prospects», held under the auspices of Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and with the support of foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, said Amanatidis.

«St. Catherine’s monastery is an international spiritual center. It is the largest manuscript library is the second in the world. Christians live in the middle East for thousands of years. The Sinaia monastery can say that binds the peoples of the Middle East and Greece,» said Amanatidis.

Greek Orthodox St. Catherine monastery is the oldest continuously operating Christian monastery, it was founded in Sinai (now Egypt) during the VI century by Emperor Justinian on the mountain, where, according to the Bible, God appeared to Moses and gave the Ten commandments.

The monastery is included in UNESCO world cultural heritage list of UNESCO. The monastery library has the richest collection of Greek manuscripts and one of the richest collections of manuscripts in other languages – Arabic, Syriac, Georgian, and Slavonic. Because Sinai was not involved in the controversy of iconoclasm, the monastery has preserved unique icons from the VI century and the following centuries, managed to preserve the continuity of artistic styles, and the Sinai collection is used to document works of Byzantine art.


«The lost ancient texts have been restored, digitized, and they published the Sinai monastery in the framework of international cooperation», — said the curator of the project Fyssas.

According to him, access to the Sinai collection is difficult due to the remote location of the monastery, but now scientists and the public can get acquainted with the unique ancient manuscripts of the library of the monastery.

«Priceless treasures, representing academic, and religious interest, hidden under later work, now came to the fore,» said Fyssas.

For the reading of the erased or unreadable texts used by spectral photography.

«Survey of the manuscripts held in different light, the light waves in the spectrum from ultraviolet to visible and infrared. RAW photos can be combined with other treatment methods, to create photos that highlight and accentuate the different layers of erased text», — said the scientist.

«Soon through the web page for scientists will be available to 74 of the manuscript with written texts from V to XII century. Scanned texts account for 6.8 thousand pages and was written in 10 different languages. Until now, scientists have identified about 285 texts on palimpsests of the monastery,» — said Fyssas.

«This is a classic Greek mythological and medical texts, previously unknown, is a newly studied classical scientific texts, preserved only in Syriac translation, it’s religious works on the «lost» languages, ancient Christian poem written in the image of Homer with reference to the characters of the old Testament, this ancient biblical texts, as well as detailed illustrations of medicinal plants, description of buildings, people. All this and more was revealed for the first time in centuries with a program of digitization of the Sinai palimpsests», said Fyssas.

He reported that only the library of the monastery has about 100 palimpsests, mostly books on parchment. Thus, the investigated three-quarters of these manuscripts.

The program is implemented through the Foundation, Arcadia by Peter Baldwin and Lisbet Rausing, the library of the University of California (UCLA) — one of the leading research libraries in the world — and Los Angeles the library of ancient manuscripts (Early Manuscripts Electronic Library EMEL), with the support of the Egyptian archaeological service.

«This five-year collaboration is the largest of its kind,» said Fyssas.