File this one under “historic loss.”
Among the casualties in Mali’s internal conflict is a library containing thousands of historic manuscripts from as far back as the year 1204. The manuscripts had for survived through the centuries, hidden and preserved by Timbuktu residents through both peaceful and difficult times.
The vast majority of the texts were written in Arabic. A few were in African languages, such as Songhai, Tamashek and Bambara. There was even one in Hebrew. They covered a diverse range of topics including astronomy, poetry, music, medicine and women’s rights. The oldest dated from 1204.
Seydou Traoré, who has worked at the Ahmed Baba Institute since 2003, and fled shortly before the rebels arrived, said only a fraction of the manuscripts had been digitised. “They cover geography, history and religion. We had one in Turkish. We don’t know what it said.”
He said the manuscripts were important because they exploded the myth that “black Africa” had only an oral history. “You just need to look at the manuscripts to realise how wrong this is.”
Timbuktu’s mayor called it “a devastating blow.” And it really is. We’ll never get that human history back.