Libraries of African Civilization Rediscovered!

Spread the love

Libraries of African Civilization

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.”

Bookshelves on the wall behind him contain a volume on maths and a guide to Andalusian music as well as love stories and correspondence between traders plying the trans-Saharan caravan routes.

Timbuktu’s leading families have only recently started to give up what they see as ancestral heirlooms. They are being persuaded by local officials that the manuscripts should be part of the community’s shared culture.

“It is through these writings that we can really know our place in history,” said Abdramane Ben Essayouti, Imam of Timbuktu’s oldest mosque, Djingarei-ber, built from mud bricks and wood in 1325.


Experts believe the 150,000 texts collected so far are just a fraction of what lies hidden under centuries of dust behind the ornate wooden doors of Timbuktu’s mud-brick homes.

“This is just 10 percent of what we have. We think we have more than a million buried here,” said Ali Ould Sidi, a government official responsible for managing the town’s World Heritage Sites.

Some academics say the texts will force the West to accept Africa has an intellectual history as old as its own. Others draw comparisons with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

But as the fame of the manuscripts spreads, conservationists fear those that have survived centuries of termites and extreme heat will be sold to tourists at extortionate prices or illegally trafficked out of the country.


Spread the love

16 thoughts on “Libraries of African Civilization Rediscovered!”

  1. I think the discovery of these African texts is very exciting because we can now can an insite on some of the early developments of Africa and how some things came to be what it is today.

  2. The title of this article is very important to its content simply because it tells the reader, right away, that there is documetation concerning Africa’s written history that has been there from a very long time. I feel that the researchers who have rediscovered these important documents should protect what they have found. Even if they have to take legal action to do so. Africa’s history has been mishandled often (as in the case of the Hottentot Venus), and although this is a newsbreaking development it is important that the documents be safely reserved in a proper atmosphere (like a school or museum). Nonetheless, I am glad to have the opportunity to know that these documents exist.

  3. i think its remarkable to learn that there are proves that Africa has a written history. Based on my point of view, this would change everything we’ve learned about Africa in general because we would be able to learn directly from the course instead of the Western point of view. i think it is important for this document or finding to be reserved/maintained in a suitable atmosphere so every generation could see and thoroughly understand African culture in general.

  4. It is good to know that evidence is now around to legitimize Africa as a historic contributor of academics. Now to see if the west will accept this fact, or even report the existence of this fact.

  5. Written history, why it important to show that is African had libraries? This shows that “people” stole ideas, shows that Africans are smart. The article makes me ponder on how history was copied, stolen. Revised and authoritized trying to make “others” (Africans) inferior. Re-written history exists, which is a big fat lie.

  6. I think it is interesting how much can be preserved and learned from written history. Their written history is important because as stated above it will make them accept Africa as having their own “intellectual history”.

  7. For references as to how west African astronomy may have been used for navigation by west Africans on the the Atlantic see “West Africa & the sea in Antiquity”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *