Oldest Surviving Copy of Hebrew Bible Recognized as UNESCO World Treasure

“Oldest Surviving Copy of Hebrew Bible Recognized as UNESCO World Treasure”

Stoyan Zaimov via “Christian Post

Aleppo Codex

The Aleppo Codex, the oldest surviving copy of the Hebrew Bible that some experts believe all versions of the Old Testament stem from, has been recognized by UNESCO as an important world treasure.

I24News reported that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization added the millennium-old Codex earlier this week to its International Memory of the World Register, which honors some of the most important discoveries relating to human history.

Adolfo Roitman, the head curator of the Shrine of the Book Museum in Jerusalem, which holds the Codex, explained its significance, stating that all current versions of the Old Testament stem, “in one way or another, from this ancient manuscript.”

Dead Sea scrolls
Amir Ganor, director of the unit for the prevention of antiquities robbery in the Israeli Antiquities Authority, shows a document, thought to be an ancient text written on papyrus, at Jerusalem Magistrates Court May 6, 2009. According to the Israeli Antiquities Authority, the document is written in ancient Hebrew script, which is characteristic of the Second Temple period and the first and second centuries CE. This style of writing is primarily known from the Dead Sea scrolls and various inscriptions that occur on ossuaries and coffins. It was seized from two men suspected to be antiquities robbers in an elaborate undercover operation.

The Codex is believed to have been written somewhere around the year 930 in the town of Tiberias on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. It has been moved around through several different cities, and as many as 190 pages are missing from the surviving copy, though scholars disagree where and when they were lost.

It was smuggled out of Syria and arrived in Israel in 1958, before it was eventually moved to the Israel Museum in the mid-1980s.

It is also not clear who precisely owns the Codex, though filmmaker Avi Dabach, who is planning to make a documentary about the ancient manuscript, believes that it belongs to the Jewish community that fled Syria.

“In the 1960s the Aleppo-Jewish community sued the people who brought the Codex to Israel. … The Israeli Authorities decided to confiscate this item and then, from a position of strength, force on the community an arrangement,” Dabach has said.

Although the Aleppo Codex is considered the oldest copy of the Hebrew Old Testament, there are much older fragments of biblical manuscripts in existence, such as the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea scrolls. . . 



UNESCO welcomes UNSC resolution to protect cultural heritage in Syria, Iraq

“UNESCO welcomes UNSC resolution to protect cultural heritage in Syria, Iraq”

via “KUNA

PARIS, Feb 13 (KUNA) — The Director-General of the UNESCO Irina Bokova welcomed on Friday the adoption of a new UN Security Council Resolution 2199 that condemns the destruction of cultural heritage and adopts legally-binding measures to counter illicit trafficking of antiquities and cultural objects from Iraq and Syria.
“The adoption of resolution 2199 is a milestone for enhanced protection of cultural heritage in Iraq and Syria, extending to Syria the prohibition of trade of cultural objects already in place for Iraq since 2003,” Bokova said.
“It is also a clear recognition that the pillage, destruction and trafficking of cultural heritage are more than a cultural tragedy – this is also a security and political imperative to be taken into account in all peace efforts,” she added.
Bokova warned that the pillage of Iraq’s and Syria’s culture has reached an unprecedented scale in Iraq and Syria, adding that the revenues of such as fuel the conflicts by providing money for armed groups and terrorists.
“This resolution acknowledges that cultural heritage stands on the frontline of conflicts today, and it should be placed at the frontline of security and political response to the crisis”, she said.
She also welcomed the strong call to the responsibility of all parties in the conflict to protect cultural heritage. She commended also the overwhelming support by Security Council Members in favor of this resolution.
“The protection of the cultural heritage of Syria and Iraq has strategic implications – it is fundamental for the identity and social cohesion of all Iraqis and Syrians and it is a precondition for future reconciliation and recovery”.
Welcoming the explicit role attributed to UNESCO by the Security Council, Bokova reaffirmed the Organization’s commitment “to stand by Member States to ensure the full respect of the UNESCO 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property”.
“The destruction of the unique cultural heritage of Syria and Iraq is a loss for all humanity and it is our common responsibility to stand up for its protection,” she concluded.


The Islamic State and the Cultural Destruction of Iraq

The Islamic State and the Cultural Destruction of Iraq

by Hadani Ditmars via “Middle East Eye

Iraq’s monuments have borne witness to and shared the hardships of the country’s long-suffering people

The latest in the surrealist horror show that the nightly news on Iraq has become offers a rich narrative – at least for a writer working on a political travelogue of ancient sites. Once again, the Mongol hordes are at the gates.

After destroying statues of a poet and a musician in Mosul, Islamic State (IS) now threatens to destroy the 2nd-century BC city of Hatra, and UNESCO has sounded the alarm about one of their world heritage sites at risk.

The Director-General of Unesco, Irina Bokova, said earlier this week, “I call on all actors to refrain from any form of destruction of cultural heritage, including religious sites. Their intentional destruction are war crimes and a blow against the Iraqi people’s identity and history.”

In one of many ironies, this well preserved example of a Parthian city that has survived centuries of imperial intrigue and invasions may fall victim to a group of angry- yet well organized and funded- young men, drunk on brutality, wired on ideology run amok, galvanized by decades of war and injustice

Hatra has more recently served as a film set for the 1973 production of the Exorcist, in which a priest discovers a talisman belonging to an ancient demon and brings it back to the US, where it possesses a young American girl.

While it’s not difficult to ascertain that the disastrous invasion of 2003 has unleashed more than it’s fair share of vindictive spirits of which IS is only one- Iraq’s ancient sites- as its people- have been long-suffering.

Iraq’s monuments bear witness to and share in the hardships of her people. After years of war and occupation, historic sites have been badly damaged and neglected. While the Taliban’s destruction of the Buddhas of Bamyan in Afghanistan was universally condemned, outrage about the destruction of Iraqi and indeed world heritage (not to mention the fate of Iraq’s people) has been somewhat restrained.

As Muwafaq al Taei  – who was an architect under Saddam but an unrepentant communist who was simultaneously lionized and spied upon by the ancien regime and then almost killed by US troops after the invasion – (and my erstwhile travel companion on my journey to Iraq’s ancient sites) always says, ‘you have to understand the past to make sense of the present.’

I was inspired to write my next book Ancient Heart when Muafaq took me on a tour of sacred sites in Baghdad, in the midst of sectarian war zones, garbage dumps and displaced people’s camps. It reminded me of the last scene in Planet of the Apes, when Charlton Heston sees the Statue of Liberty half-submerged on the beach.

As I write this I am looking at a map of ancient sites in Iraq. Most maps of Iraq in the popular imagination are divided into three neat sectarian sections, or filled with bullet point punctuations on the evening news.

I am convinced of the power of this map. If applied correctly, it may just transform people’s consciousness. I want people to see Iraq for what it is- whether American generals or IS commanders – to recognize the depth and soul of the land they invaded, not just as another terrorized place to be abandoned but as part of our world heritage.

My map shows Ur, the birthplace of the Prophet Abraham and the home of the Sumerian ziggurat.  Saddam stationed a military base nearby, as did the invading Americans who added a strategically placed Burger King. It was once a temple to the moon god Nanna, and many moons later, its adjoining town of Nasiriyah site of the Shiah uprising, encouraged by George Bush Senior and then brutally repressed by the regime, while the US stood by.


The Prehistoric Cave, Grotte Chauvet, in France now a World Heritage Site

 The Prehistoric Cave, Grotte Chauvet, in France now a World Heritage Site

by AFP via “Courier Mail”

Inside the heavily protected Chauvet cave in France.

IT IS a cave so closely guarded that only three people know the code to the half-tonne reinforced door that seals its entrance, where cameras keep watch 24 hours a day.

But we were given a rare chance to step through this gateway into prehistory and into the depths of the Grotte Chauvet in southern France — home to the earliest known figurative drawings and now a World Heritage site.

For tens of thousands of years, time stopped in the cave nestled deep in a limestone cliff that hangs over the lush, meandering Ardeche River, until it was discovered in 1994 by a group of cave experts.


Incredible prehistoric paintings can be seen on the rock walls.

Incredible prehistoric paintings can be seen on the rock walls.

 To reach the site, which is closed to the public, the lucky few allowed access must hike up a path that our Cro-Magnon ancestors once used, not far from a natural stone bridge that straddles an abandoned part of the river.

Some 36,000 years ago — the age of the cave paintings — tall Scots pines lorded over the cliff in a climate equivalent to that of present-day southern Norway.

After arriving at the entrance in sweltering heat, descending into the Palaeolithic den brings a sharp drop in temperature and almost 100 per cent humidity.


Curators take a rare look at the cave paintings.

Curators take a rare look at the cave paintings. 

Marie Bardisa, the curator of the site, types in the code to the fortified door and it slowly swings open.

Visitors must put on white overalls and special shoes to avoid polluting the environment, as well as a helmet and harness.

“The idea is to keep the cave in the same state of containment as when it was discovered,” Bardisa says.

“We watch over the atmospheric balance, we monitor the potential proliferation of algae, mushrooms or bacteria.”


Horses etched with charcoal into the cave walls.

Horses etched with charcoal into the cave walls. 

Miraculously preserved

Now begins the travel through time. After crawling through a narrow tunnel, visitors reach man-made stairs. At the bottom, the silent, cool cave opens up.

Nearly everything has been left as it was when Jean-Marie Chauvet, Christian Hillaire and Eliette Brunel stumbled across the grotto on December 18, 1994.


Paintings of hands made by blowing red ochre pigment.

Paintings of hands made by blowing red ochre pigment. 

Crystals on huge limestone formations sparkle in the lamp light. Bones coated with clay and calcite litter the cave, proving that bears lived here before and after humans passed through. The skull of an Alpine ibex, a species of wild goat, smiles through immaculate teeth.

Visitors are not allowed to walk freely through the site but must stick to a tiny walkway that makes movement difficult.


Animal paintings found on the cave walls.

Animal paintings found on the cave walls.

 Paintings of hands — made using a technique of blowing red ochre pigment onto the wall around the hand — appear out of the dark as a guide shines a powerful lamp onto the wall.

Further away, an image of a red bear with a spotty face stands over the only known drawing of a panther among all cave paintings from the Palaeolithic era.

“Chauvet alone houses 75 per cent of big cats and 60 per cent of rhinoceroses” known to have been drawn during the period, says Charles Chauveau, the site’s deputy curator.


Royal Remains Burial Site to Be Entered on Russia’s Cultural Heritage List

“Royal Remains Burial Site to Be Entered on Russia’s Cultural Heritage List “

by “Russia Behind the Times

A resolution passed on Tuesday by the Sverdlovsk regional government, enters the place outside Yekaterinburg, where the remains of the family of Russia’s last tsar Nicholas II were found, on the national cultural heritage list, the regional government’s press service reported.

“The resolution enters the place on Staraya Koptyakovskaya Road, where the royal remains were found, on the national register of cultural heritage sites, where it will be defined and saved for future generations,” the press service said in a statement. Spokesperson for the regional property ministry Galina Utkina told Interfax that a letter requesting that this site be entered on the national register of state protected cultural monuments, will be sent to the Culture Ministry. After the site is entered on the register, all actions at the place where the royal remains were found will be banned unless approved by the regional property ministry, she said. “But further research will be allowed, if a plan is negotiated with us, so we will know who is doing what at the site,” Utkina said. The remains of Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna, the grand duchesses Tatiana, Olga and Anastasia, and their servants were found on Staraya Koptyakovskaya Road near Yekaterinburg in the late 1970s. In July 1998, the remains were buried in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. The remains of Grand Duchess Maria and Crown Prince Alexei were found at the same site in 2007.