Ethiopia: Fate of Ancient Ethiopian Heritages Abroad

Ethiopia: Perspectives On Fate of Ancient Ethiopian Heritages Abroad

Addis Ababa — One fascinating thing about the story of James Bruce, the 18th century Scottish traveler and travel writer, was that he studied the Ge’ez language in Europe, Spain, before he even came to Ethiopia. Though his main mission in coming to East African was seemingly to find the origin of the Nile River, Bruce spent a lot of time in Abyssinian [Ethiopian] court and studying the people and their culture.

Eventually, (if it was not his mission to come to Ethiopia at the first place), he came to understand the value of the Old Testament Book of Enoch, which is [still] part of the Orthodox Tewahedo biblical canon.

Obviously, witnessing such a prominent Book, Bruce procured three copies and took them to Europe.

The irony is that the biblical Book of Enoch was lost for centuries in the occidental. Perhaps, there is possibility that Bruce already knew this mysterious Book was found in Ethiopia and hence part of his missions was to procure it. Later on, this ancient manuscript was translated and made available in English to the western world and the international community.

This mysterious book is of paramount importance to anyone who is interested in the general history of the bible, particularly considering the fact that it is quoted by the New Testament Book of Jude. Besides, this Book, which is relevant to contemporary Christianity and yet bizarrely abandoned by Western Christianity, Bruce also took other collection of codex manuscripts from Ethiopia, though their exact number is not known.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, Ethiopia is the only country with the most ancient tradition of written culture. It seemed strange for westerners that this African country hold such valuable manuscripts. And it should not be surprising if there is much interest in ancient Ge’ez manuscripts, the official language of middle age Ethiopia.

In fact, there is nothing wrong with the fact that this accumulated knowledge made available to the international community. But it is the looting and illegal trafficking of these valuable manuscripts and other cultural heritages which is against morality and rights of their rightful owners.

Though it is difficult to get exact figures, various sources indicate that the numerous monastic libraries across the country hold some 200,000 to 500,000 ancient Ge’ez codex manuscripts. Moreover, thousands have already been lost and smuggled out of the country. The fact that Bruce managed to study Ge’ez before he came to Ethiopia reveal that Ethiopian manuscripts had already been trafficked to Europe, one way or another.

 

 

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