Sudan: the Merowe High Dam project and archaeology

We all remember how the building of the Aswan High Dam drowned the archaeology of much of lower Nubia.  I learned today from Egyptology News that in 2007 Sudan started a project to build its own High Dam at the fourth cataract.  This is known as the Merowe High Dam project.  Nine archaeological missions are at work, under the title of the “Merowe Dam Archaeological Salvage Project”.  Among the international groups is one from the British Museum.  They have already “uncovered thousands of sites dating from the Middle Paleolithic era (150,000 years ago) to the very recent past.”

This is dreadful news for Nubian studies.  Nearly all our knowledge of Old Nubian patristic texts comes from archaeological discoveries.  All the building in this region was in mud-brick; so it will all be destroyed.  Fortunately the pyramids of Meroe are below the new dam.

I’d be grateful for any other concrete information on the finds, particularly the literary finds.


Graf’s Geschichte not to be available in English

One of the great problems with Arabic Christian literature is the lack of any guide to it in English.  The standard text is Graf’s Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur, published 50 years ago.

I worked out what a commercial translation of a volume would cost, and enquired through a friend whether the Vatican would permit me to translate it.  Today I’ve heard back that they will not.  The pretext is that they are updating it; but no details were given.

At this time, I was unenthusiastic about commencing such an expensive project.  But it is very disappointing all the same.  I have no confidence that any ‘update’ will be forthcoming any time soon, if at all.  The need for an English guide, however, will remain.

I do hate a dog-in-the-manger.  It would have cost them nothing to agree.


Reprinting out-of-print books

I’ve created a little site on lulu called Books on Antiquity, where you can buy reprints of old out-of-copyright texts that I have scanned and uploaded.  So far I’ve only reprinted one book, Delagarde’s Coptic gospel catena, as an experiment.  But I expect to do more.


The silencing of Michel van Rijn

There are people out there who love secrecy.  The manuscript of the gospel of Judas and three other texts were traded around the art world for 20 years, suffering considerable damage in the process.  Dutch art-dealer Michel van Rijn exposed much of this, and indeed many other evil deeds in the art world.  Unsurprisingly those he exposed want his site off-line.

Some years ago his first site was the target of an injunction by James Ferrell of Ferrellgas.  I’ve corresponded with the latter, and found him a pleasant and helpful man.  The injunction seems to suggest that the action was taken mainly because material on van Rijn’s site was compromising a suit by Ferrell against the notorious Bruce Ferrini, the man who did more damage to those four manuscripts than any other single source.

Someone also persuaded Google to remove all reference to his site.  He moved to, which also never appeared in Google. 

I recently noticed that the site had vanished.  It seems that it vanished in October 2006, after death threats to his children.

We are all the poorer for this.  It’s understandable, but why haven’t the police stepped in? I hope that we will see you again, old inkslinger.


Jon Lendering in Damascus editor Jona Lendering is apparently in Damascus.  Even so, US reaction has been perhaps a little over-the-top.

But seriously, this is good news.  Let’s hope he brings back a haul of useful photographs.  Indeed a daily journal which includes his travel arrangements would be of considerable use.  Similar things to similarly obscure regions from 20-30 years ago are now historical documents.

Syria is somewhere that I have always wanted to go.  Unfortunately the time to go is April or September, which are the times when I am usually looking for freelance work, as this tends to be available at set times related to the financial year.  But if there is no work this spring, as seems possible, perhaps now is the time to go?


Translating Hippolytus – a new blog

Tom Schmidt has written to say that he has started a blog, Chronicon, to publicise his work in translating previously untranslated works by Hippolytus.  At the moment he’s working on the Chronicle by Hippolytus, which is very good news indeed!


More on Libanius; and translating from French

Adrian Murdoch commented on my last post (and gave the origin of the translation of Oratio XI).  But he drew my attention to the existence of French Budé translations of his works: vols. 1, 2 and 4 of Orations (i.e. Oration 1; Orations 2-10; and Oration 59); a selection to public men of his day.  There seems to be a  volume of moral Orations somewhere, according to Copac.

Quite a lot of people know French; certainly quite a few more than know enough Greek to take a volume of Libanius to bed for some relaxing reading.  I would imagine that most specialists would read the French first, and then delve into the Greek.  Of course if they are Germans, they may not know French either; English is the second language of choice, thanks to the USA and the Beatles.

This raises a question.  Why are we all mentally translating and retranslating these French translations into English?  Wouldn’t there be merit in drawing up rough translations of the translations into English, and stuffing them online?  It would make texts more widely accessible; with luck, it would provoke a proper English translation of the original.

I recognise that no academic could publish such a thing.  Indeed they really form part of ‘research notes.’  But we don’t need to publish them; just put them on the web.  Is there a downside?


Antioch online and Libanius

I’ve just discovered a blog about ancient Antioch.  The current article is about a panegyric on Antioch by Libanius.

Libanius was a voluminous writer.  His letters and orations fill volumes.  Yet few have ever been translated into any modern language.  A few that were have made their way onto my collection of the Fathers.  A good selection now appears in the Loeb.  Yet… how little that is, and how little of all that little is online!

Pleasingly an English translation of the lengthy Oration 11 on Antioch is linked to from the page.  I wonder what its copyright status is?