Libraries in the sand reveal Africa’s academic past

By | November 16, 2006

Libraries in the sand reveal Africas academic past

TIMBUKTU, Mali (Reuters) – Researchers in Timbuktu are fighting to preserve tens of thousands of ancient texts which they say prove Africa had a written history at least as old as the European Renaissance.

Private and public libraries in the fabled Saharan town in Mali have already collected 150,000 brittle manuscripts, some of them from the 13th century, and local historians believe many more lie buried under the sand.

The texts were stashed under mud homes and in desert caves by proud Malian families whose successive generations feared they would be stolen by Moroccan invaders, European explorers and then French colonialists.

Written in ornate calligraphy, some were used to teach astrology or mathematics, while others tell tales of social and business life in Timbuktu during its “Golden Age,” when it was a seat of learning in the 16th century.

“These manuscripts are about all the fields of human knowledge: law, the sciences, medicine,” said Galla Dicko, director of the Ahmed Baba Institute, a library housing 25,000 of the texts.

“Here is a political tract,” he said, pointing to a script in a glass cabinet, somewhat dog-eared and chewed by termites. “A letter on good governance, a warning to intellectuals not to be corrupted by the power of politicians.” – yahoo

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