Archaeology Magazine

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Ancient Jewish Manuscripts Recovered From a Silk Road Cave

Friday, January 04, 2013

JERUSALEM—The National Library of Israel has revealed 29 manuscripts written in Judeo-Arabic, or Arabic words in Hebrew script, and Judeo-Persian, or Persian words in Hebrew script, that were used by a Jewish community living on the edge of the ancient Persian empire. “We’ve had many historical sources on Jewish settlements in that area. This is the first time that we have a large collection of manuscripts that represents the culture of the Jews that lived there,” said Haggai Ben-Shammai, academic director of the Library. The 1,000-year-old documents are said to have come from caves in northeastern Afghanistan, in an area controlled by the Taliban. One of the manuscripts is attributed to Saadia Gaon, a rabbi known for translating Jewish texts into Arabic, and for running a rabbinic school in Babylon.