Race to Digitize Ancient Manuscripts

Wall St. Journal writes,

Improved technology is allowing researchers to scan ancient texts that were once unreadable — blackened in fires or by chemical erosion, painted over or simply too fragile to unroll. Now, scholars are studying these works with X-ray fluorescence, multispectral imaging used by NASA to photograph Mars and CAT scans used by medical technicians.

One of the most ambitious digital preservation projects is being led, fittingly, by a Benedictine monk. Father Columba Stewart, executive director of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at St. John’s Abbey and University in Minnesota, cites his monastic order’s long tradition of copying texts to ensure their survival as inspiration.

His mission: digitizing some 30,000 endangered manuscripts within the Eastern Christian traditions, a canon that includes liturgical texts, Biblical commentaries and historical accounts in half a dozen languages, including Arabic, Coptic and Syriac, the written form of Aramaic. Rev. Stewart has expanded the library’s work to 23 sites, including collections in Syria, Lebanon and Turkey, up from two in 2003. He has overseen the digital preservation of some 16,500 manuscripts, some of which date to the 10th and 11th centuries. Some works photographed by the monastery have since turned up on the black market or eBay, he says.

Read full story here.

Rejoicing Around the Web

Linking the rejoicing (For a change the good news is winning…):

An Ed Morrisey favorite Roll Away the Stone

Happy Catholic says Joyful, Joyful with art and attitude

In Egypt, the rejoicing takes a turn that is a reminder of the Four Last Things , Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell, with the unearthing of “some of the most beautiful” ancient painted linen-wrapped mummies still brightly colored after some 2900 or so years. Reminded me of Fr. Corapi saying, “At the end….. at the very end.. everyone will be in either Heaven or Hell!”

Between now and Mercy Sunday we can make a real difference. Pray, pray,pray!

Holy Thursday – Pope Benedict XVI

In this day of “turning the Bible on its head by such influential entities as National Geographic Society and Newsweek, it is good to remember what actual scholars who care about Truth have taught us.  Pope Benedict XVI reacting to a misleading 3rd century coptic text on display by the National Geographic Society in 2006, as covered by Cindy Wooden of Catholic New Service, corrected:

Judas was a greedy liar who put his desire for money ahead of his relationship with Jesus and his love for God, Pope Benedict XVI said…

But during his April 13 (2006) homily at the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Pope Benedict said Judas is the clearest example Christians have of someone who refuses God’s saving love.

For Judas, the pope said, “only power and success are real; love does not count.”

“And he is greedy: Money is more important than communion with Jesus, more important than God and his love. He also becomes a liar, a double-crosser who breaks with the truth,” Pope Benedict said.

Purposefully ignoring the truth, he said, Judas “hardens, becoming incapable of conversion … and throws away his destroyed life.”

The next day, the pope’s preacher also weighed in against the recent wave of “pseudohistorical literature” gaining popularity as well as the soon-to-be-released film, “The Da Vinci Code.”

In his April 14 [2006] homily during the Good Friday liturgy of the Lord’s Passion, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa said that millions of people today were being “crassly manipulated by the media,” which is more interested in touting the newest fad or insight rather than the truth and, as a consequence, turning a pretty penny for it.

“There is much talk about Judas’ betrayal without realizing that it is being repeated” today, he said during his homily given before the pope and hundreds of people in St. Peter’s Basilica.

“Christ is being sold again,” he said, but this time “to publishers and booksellers” for billions of dollars.

People seem to be always itching for something new, and there are those who take advantage of that by carrying out or promoting “the clever rewriting of ancient legends,” he said.

The fantasies and speculation will only “flare up with the imminent release of a certain film,” the Capuchin friar said, in reference to the movie “The Da Vinci Code,” based on the novel by Dan Brown.

The preacher of the papal household said he felt it was his duty to address the current swirl of controversy surrounding the many interpretations of the life and death of Jesus because “we cannot allow the silence of believers to be mistaken for embarrassment” nor allow the media to manipulate the truth about Christ’s life, his death on the cross and his resurrection.”

Zenit.org reports Fr. Cantalamessa’s closing remark:

The “fantasies” mentioned have an explanation, concluded the Pontifical Household preacher: “We are in the age of the media and the media are more interested in novelty than in truth.”

Words of St. Paul:

“The time is sure to come when people will not accept sound teaching, but their ears will be itching for anything new and they will collect themselves a whole series of teachers according to their own tastes; and then they will shut their ears to the truth and will turn to myths.”

New Discovery – Older than the Hills

Look what the Anchoress unearthed. It’s a fascinating look back into time with the recently (1994) unearthing of Gobekle Tepe in Turkey/Urfa,craddle of Armenian civilization.  Just thinking of people 11,000 years ago expending so much effort in an age without machines to worship or appease their gods, makes me wonder at how dismissive our age has become.

Amid all the archeological information on the Smithsonian site, this comment also caught my attention, reminding me that the societal tensions of yesteryear are deeply ingrained in fallen humankind and with us today, tied closely to our ethnicity and cultural undergirdings:

“It is sad that the article talks about the ‘site in Turkey’. 6000 years ago there was no Turkey. 600 years ago there was no Turkey. This site is ARMENIAN. Just another example of how history is being rewritten! It’s a shame. At least the Western scientific world should be more specific to acknowledge the fact that Urfa was the craddle of the Armenian civilization. Too sad, that’s all.” Posted by Gregov


And this:

Turkey? do you really think that mongols who destroyed some of the worlds oldest heritages have a history as old as this? It’s very sad, this site is Armenian and you must address it properley to people and nation who contributed many many things to humankind’s civilization. if you search in what today call’s it self Turkey, you may find that it has nothing on its own, all of the wonderfull sites belong to Armenians, Greeks, Asurians, Urartu’s and etc. I hope they will correct the title no one can stole other nations heritage and culture this easily as Turks are trying to do . . ” Posted by George

The ecological twists of the story also make me uncomfortable.

“There were herds of game, rivers of fish, and flocks of wildfowl; lush green meadows were ringed by woods and wild orchards. About 10,000 years ago, the Kurdish desert was a ‘paradisiacal place’, as Schmidt puts it. So what destroyed the environment? The answer is Man.

As we began farming, we changed the landscape and the climate. When the trees were chopped down, the soil leached away; all that ploughing and reaping left the land eroded and bare. What was once an agreeable oasis became a land of stress, toil and diminishing returns.

And so, paradise was lost.”

I can see Al Gore hyjacking this as the beginning of global warming.