Most ancient Timbuktu papers safe

Thu, Jan 31, 2013, 00:00

The majority of Timbuktu’s ancient manuscripts appear to be safe and unharmed after the city’s 10-month occupation by Islamist rebel fighters, experts said yesterday, rejecting some media reports of their widespread destruction.

They said the bulk of the texts had been hidden safely before the city’s liberation by French forces on Sunday.

Brittle, written in ornate calligraphy and ranging from scholarly treatises to invoices, the texts represent a compendium of human knowledge on everything from law, sciences and medicine to history and politics. Some experts compare them in importance to the Dead Sea scrolls.

A day after French and Malian troops retook Timbuktu, a Unesco World Heritage site and ancient seat of Islamic learning, from Islamist insurgent occupiers, the city’s mayor reported that rebels had set fire to a major manuscript library.

But South African and Malian experts said that while up to 2,000 manuscripts might have been lost at the Ahmed Baba Institute, most of some 300,000 texts were believed to be safe. – (Reuters)