A CHAPTER OF HISTORY SYRIACS TERRITORY, BATTLEFIELD AND RUINS
The following is the Chronicle by Joshua the Stylite entitiled A History Of The Time Of Affliction At Orhâi And Amid And Throughout All Mesopotamia. The Chronicle was written in the Syriac language between years 507 and 518 A.D.
About The Author
We we know of Joshue the Stylite is what he thought was fit to tell us. He makes use of the expression our city in reference to Edessa (Orhâi), a city in Mesopotamia, during the days of the Roman Empire ( Today Urfa, in Turkey.). He taught in a school. He tells us that he wrote the Chronicle at the request of Sergius, the abbot of a convent in the district of Edessa. Joshua is the earliest known Syriac historian.
The chronicle was discovered to the 18th Century by the famous orientalist Joseph Simon Assemani who lived in Rome. In the first section, the chronicle speaks about the military affairs and the diplomatic relationships between Roman and Persian empires.
In the year 297 A.D., the Romans defeated the king of Persia Narsaï and captured northern Mésopotamia and the city of Nisîbis. After the defeat and the death of the emperor Julian in Persia, which took place in the year 363, the Persians regained Nisîbis for one hundred and twenty years. In turn they became the tax collectors.
Facing the Huns together, the Romans and Persians concluded a diplomatic treaty. In the time of emperor Zenon ( 474-491), the Persians were unwilling to restore Nisîbis to its former masters. In 502, the new Roman emperor (or of the Greeks in the translation of W.Wright) Anastasius (491-518) did not send the customary sum of money to Kawad, the king of the Persians (488-497; 499-531) who said to him: Give me the money or accept war.
In a second section, before the outbreak of the war, Joshua tells us that a period of affliction occured in Edessa, and all of Mesopotamia: Locusts came upon the city of Edessa and districts around. The inhabitants were then afflicted by the pangs of hunger. Many of them died and the pestilence increased in the town.
The war covered the years 502-507 A.D. Kawad entered into the Roman territory in 502. The cosmic balance was broken, as was indicated in the great fire in the northern quarter of Edessa, blazing for the entire night, the earthquakes, and so on...
The narrative, in a third section, deals with the fall of Theodosiûpolis of Armenia (today Erzurum), and takes us later on to the siege of Amid, a city in Mesopotamia (nowadays Diyarbakir, in Turkey.) The Persians laid siege for three months :
Kawâd, the king of the Persians, came from the north on the fifth of the first Teshrî (October), on a Saturday, and encamped against the city of Amid, which is beside us in Mesopotamia, he and his whole army. (§ L)
By night and by day, Kawad fought against Amid and got possession of the walls in January 503. He laid waste the city and left there a garrison of three thousand men.
More than 80,000 Amidenes perished during the siege.
Then, in September, on Wednesday the 17th, Kawad marched from the river Euphrates and came to Edessa. But the Persian soldiers were afraid to make war against the city. They could not make themselves masters of Edessa, as they had done of other towns:
This whole host without number surrounded Edessa in one day, besides the pickets which it had left on the hills and rising grounds (to the west of the city). In fact the whole plain (to the E. and S.) was full of them. The gates of the city were all standing open, but the Persians were unable to enter it because of the blessing of Christ. On the contrary, fear fell upon them, and they remained at theirs posts, no one fighting with them, from morning till towards the ninth hour. (§ LX)
The failure of the Persians is attributed by Joshua to the promise given by Jesus Christ. According to the legend, before his death, our Lord said to the king of Edessa Abgâr (9-46 A.D.): Thy city shall be blessed, and no enemy shall ever make himself master of it (§ V)
Kawad struck his camp to depart and retreated in the direction of Harran. He armed the elephants which were with him and came again to fight with Edessa, but he could not capture the city.
He departed from the town and went on the river Euphrates.
After these events, in 504-505 A.D., the Romans (Greeks) took heart and encamped against Amid, to drive out the Persian garrison. The inhabitants were in trouble:
The Persians were afraid of them lest they should give up the city to the Greeks; and they bound all the men that were there and threw them into the amphitheatre and there they perished of hunger, and of endless bonds. But to the women, they gave part of their food, because they used them to satisfy their lust and because they had need of them to grind and bake for them. When, however, food became scarce, they neglected them, and left them without sustenance. For none of them received more than one handful of barley daily during this year; whilst of meat, or wine, or any other article of food, they had absolutely none at all. (§ LXXVI)
The women of Amid were in a great distress from famine. They had taken leave of theirs senses:
In narrating what the women of the place did, I may perhaps not be believed, by those who came after us, (but) at the present day there is no one of those who care to learn things that has not heard all that was done, even though he be at a great distance from us. Many women then met and conspired together, and used to go forth by stealth into the streets of the city in the evening or morning; and whomsoever they met, woman, or child or man, for whom they were a match, they used to carry him by force into a house and kill and eat him, either boiled or roasted. When this was betrayed by the smell of the roasting, and the think became known to the general (marzebân) who was there, (in command), he made an example of many of them and put them to death, and told the rest with threats that they should not do this again nor kill any one. He gave them leave however to eat those that were dead, and this they did openly, eating the flesh of dead men; and the rest of them, were picking up shoes and old soles and other nasty things from the streets and courtyards, and eating them. (§ LXXVII)
During the years A.D. 506-507, the end of the war was concluded by the Roman Magister Militum Celerius, a general sent by Anastasius. When he arrived at Edessa, he gave the governor two hundred dinârs to distribute in presents. The people of the city escorted him as he set forth with songs of praise, rejoicing in the peace that was made, and exulting in the immunity which they would henceforth enjoy from the distress in which they now were, and dancing for joy at the hope of the good things which they expected to arrive, and lauding God, who, in His goodness and mercy had cast peace over the two kingdoms ... (§ C)
It is not easy to forget the afflictions of the Assyrian people of northern Mesopotamia, thanks to the alert pen of Joshua the Stylite. His work is a document of prime importance for the historiography. Alas, afflictions go on nowadays for our people. The twentieth century would had also been hard and sorrowful for him.
Publishing and Translation
The Chronicle of Joshua the Stylite, a palimpseste, is preserved in the Vatican Library. This document keeps a priceless value. In 1882, it was published by William Wright, Cambridge, reprinted in Netherlands in 1968.
Dr. Ephrem-Isa Yousif was born in Iraq and has previously published articles in Zinda Magazine. Currently he is the Director of the publishing company "lHarmattan" in Paris. Dr. Yousif is a member of the Association of the Writers of French Language (A.D.E.L. F.) and a scientific counselor for the High Council of the French-speaking world.
TURKEY REPORTEDLY RESTRICTS TRAVEL TO IRAQ THROUGH KURDISH REGION
The following is the text of a report by the Assyrian Democratic Movement newspaper Bahra on 15 June.
(ZNDA: Dohuk) The Turkish authorities have imposed new travel regulations at Khabur border point between Turkey and Iraq, after banning traders, Turkish citizens and taxi drivers from entering Kurdistan without obtaining visas from the Iraqi embassy in Ankara.
This means that it will not be possible for the Turks to enter Iraq without a visa which would consequently limit Turkish trade with Kurdistan region. Every Turkish driver has also to pay the Iraqi embassy visa fees that exceeds the profit made in taking the goods to the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Hundreds of Turkish citizens, who have been travelling to the Kurdistan region without having Iraqi entry visas and with minimum entry procedures, such as a stamp to notify that the holder has passed through Khabur crossing and whose aim was to visit relative and families and for tourism, will not be able to make such an inexpensive journey. These Turkish citizens used to carry with them to the region clothes and Turkish commodities, and return with cheap Iraqi goods. Dohuk Governorate will be particularly affected by the new Turkish travel restrictions. They will bring to an end the business of many restaurants, hotels and health clinics which were frequently used by Turks looking for treatments and surgeries because of the cheap rates. The markets of other cities will also be affected by this new measure. The Turkish government has also banned taxis that pre-date 1991 and new vehicles fitted with big tanks [to cross the borders] in order to reduce the oil trade on the border. This Turkish procedure does not apply to lorry drivers who transport goods to the Kurdish region and return with diesel fuel, despite the ever-decreasing number of these lorries, as trade was down to a third compared to previous months.
WMU, BASHING COPTIC RELIGIOUS SYMBOLS PRELUDE TO ETHNIC CLEANSING
World Maronite Union (WMU)
The World Maronite Union (WMU), which represents the aspirations of eight million Maronites around the world, cannot but declare its solidarity with the Coptic Christian People of Egypt as they face a defamation campaign inside Egypt by both racist organizations and Government circles. The WMU stigmatizes the violent repression against the Coptic demonstrators last week, who marched in Cairo's streets to protest the bashing of religious symbols.
The WMU strongly condemns Police brutality against the Christian demonstrators, and the collaboration between the security forces and armed pro-Government and fundamentalist civilians who attacked the demonstrators. The Copts of Egypt, not only are oppressed by law and Government, but are submitted to religious persecution.
The Maronites around the world, who have witnessed the increasing oppression of their brethren in Lebanon for the past decades, join their brothers and sisters of the Christians in Egypt as they are submitted to similar persecution and discrimination. This demonstrates one more time that the fate of Middle East Christians is one, and that they must unite their efforts to expose the injustices that are striking the Christian peoples of the Middle East from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon to Egypt and Sudan.
We must stand together!
Courtesy of St. Petersburg Times (June 24), by John Fleming
(ZNDA: St. Petersburg) Five string quartets - four being performed for the first time - wound up the Tampa Bay Composers' Forum season last Friday at the Palladium Theater in Florida. In an impressive display of the vitality in new music at the grassroots, the program ranged from a quartet by a college student to one by a professor emeritus, with styles from jazz to abstract to William Daniels Assyrian song and dance.
The ensemble that played it all was superbly versatile. Violinists Eugene Bazhanov and Kim Padgett, violist Virginia Huchton and cellist Theresa Villani brought out the individual character in each of the unfamiliar works, and they didn't take an intermission.
The most ambitious work of the evening was Donald M. Wilson's Stabile IV, inspired by the 1960s, more specifically an Alexander Calder sculpture from that time. Wilson, professor emeritus of music at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, said his piece was "not nice," meaning it was not melodic, being mainly concerned with sound textures that included slithery, high-pitched effects along with wordless vocalizing that resembled breathing exercises. The analogy with modern art was apt. The undergraduate composer was Kendall Burnham, an Eckerd College student, whose quartet was built around long, mournful melodic lines. Economy was not its strong suit, as only the middle movement exhibited much unity of form. Still, an excess of ideas comes with the territory for a young composer, and this was a promising premiere. St. Petersburg musician and composer Joseph Ierna was inspired years ago by a performance by jazz pianist Horace Silver to improvise a theme that ultimately ended up in Ierna's first string quartet, Spanish Themes, which opened the program Friday. It featured a bouncy first violin part reminiscent of swing fiddlers Joe Venuti and Stephan Grapelli and a melancholy cello solo. Vernon Taranto Jr., who teaches at St. Petersburg Junior College, took a miniaturist approach with Trois petites bagatelles, less than five minutes of music marked by brilliance of sound and whimsical technique, as when the players used pencils instead of bows to open the second movement.
A fascinating quartet ended the program, one that melded the atonal art music of pianist and composer Peter Blauvelt, a Madeira Beach resident, and the folk music of Assyrian composer and poet William Daniel (1903-1988). Blauvelt's On Assyrian Plains incorporated Daniel's songs into a three-movement work that bracketed a delicate adagio between toe-tapping rhythms. An affecting exchange between first violin and cello could be heard as a reflection of the tragic history of Assyrians in the Middle East.
MESOPOTAMIAN SEAL SOLD FOR $ 424,000 AT AN AUCTION
Courtesy of the Wall Street Journal (June 22); by Robert J. Hughes
(ZNDA: New York) Ancient Mesopotamia didn't survive in a big way -- unlike Egypt, its culture left behind few enormous sculptures and no pyramids. But the little things, such as clay tablets and cylinder seals, lasted. A cylinder seal was sold for a record $424,000 last week at Christie's International in New York, during the auction house's antiquities sales. Cylinder seals, about an inch or two long, were inscribed and used to mark personal property and to make legally binding documents. Imagine that our civilization crumbled and all that was left were seals used by notary publics, but that the seals were finely crafted like miniature sculptures -- that is what has come down to us from ancient Persia.
This seal depicts a king being fanned by a servant, as the king blesses a stag standing on its hind legs. Because so little writing or documents from the time exist, the seals are valuable to archaeologists because they provide clues to the region's society. They feature religious motifs, representations of divine figures, mythological figures, rulers and scribes. They were rolled onto wet clay, to indicate receipt of goods or services. The seal, from northwest Iran, was bought by a European dealer, probably for an institution, said G. Max Bernheimer, international specialist head for Antiquities at Christie's.
JEWISH, CHALDEAN YOUTHS WORK TOGETHER
(ZNDA: Detroit) A group of 30 youths ages 16-20 from Temple Israel worked alongside 30 teens from the Chaldean community last week on a community rebuilding project in northwest Detroit. The program, called J.A.C.O.B. (Jewish And Chaldean Opportunity Builders), was the first project to link Temple Israel and Chaldean Americans reaching and Encouraging. The cleanup was coordinated by Motor City Blight Busters, Inc.
Courtesy of The Des Moines Register (June 26)
(ZNDA: Des Moines) Charles Lavaughn "CL" Smith, 85, of the 8100 block of Rocklyn Drive in Urbandale, Iowa died of a stroke Sunday at home. He will be buried at Resthaven Cemetery in West Des Moines.
Mr. Smith was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, and had lived in the Des Moines area since 1950. He was a retired Drake professor and had formerly taught at Rocky Mountain College. He was a Navy veteran of World War II and a member of First Baptist Church, Oriental Research Society, Scholars Oriental Research, Oriental Society, and the Association of Biblical Instructors. He was a U.S. Naval chaplain, a Protestant chaplain for the Des Moines Police Department, a former chief timer for the Drake Relays and had received recognition for service to the Drake community. He was a two-time recipient of the Drake Liberal Arts Humanities Award and had authored a Greek-Aramaic glossary of the Gospel of Mark of the New Testament.
He is survived by his wife, Mary; a daughter, Mary Carol of Urbandale; a son, Charles II of Rhododendron, Ore.; and three grandchildren.
2001 ASSYRIAN YOUTH EXCELLENCE CONTEST
The Assyrian Youth Exellence Contest is an event held annually at the AANF national conventions. It is open to Assyrian young men and women between 18-24 years of age who attend a university, or college, or have earned their high school diploma. They must also have one parent who is Assyrian, and must be able to speak Assyrian. Besides the prizes for winners that range from $500.00 to $1500.00, the candidates all receive consolation prizes, and a free ticket to the event luncheon plus other incentives. For further info. and to get an application packet please contact Dr. Arianne Ishaya at firstname.lastname@example.org
A ONE-DAY SEMINAR FOR ASSYRIAN WOMEN
"For Such A Time Like This" (Esther 4:14)
Saturday July 14, 2001
Florence Eshagh-Sarkis will be the guest speaker at this seminar and
will focus on the Book of Esther and its practical
Donation: $15.00 (includes lunch, tea, coffee, and snacks)
For tickets please contact:
(Absolutely No Children)
A LITTLE SLOW
I'm not as clever as I think I am. It's finally beginning to dawn on me why people are vehemently Christian in preference to being Assyrian...why their religious identity is so much dearer to them than any Assyrian ethnic heritage or identity. For several centuries we ourselves knew nothing of Ashurbanipal, the splendors of Nineveh, even the stories in the Bible such as Noah we thought were Hebrew and not ours. During that time we were defined and sharply outlined by our religion, not our Assyrian heritage.
We thought of "Assyrian Heritage" as what we did in our village life as Christians. We had no other culture besides the one centered around the church. Since we were singled out by people as Christians and especially since we were killed off for that...naturally we rallied around the cross as the symbol of our entire being because everyone ELSE made it so. When someone is willing to kill you over something...that thing either becomes hateful to you, or it becomes the very reason for your existence. Especially should you lose family members for that reason...you are not likely to turn your back on what got them killed, as if to say they died for nothing.
Since we had only our religion to distinguish us from the "dirty Moslems", any thought of renouncing it meant becoming like them, something no self-respecting Christian would do. Having no choice, no other identity, we clung to being Christian even harder and hence the love affair with murder victims, who in our eyes became willing martyrs. Actually they were the exact opposite of martyrs for there was no choice given them...they were killed for being Christian...for being the only thing they knew how to be.
Living in Moslem countries such as Iraq or Turkey and being a minority meant there was no identity outside of the Church. To abandon that was to abandon what our people thought of as an Assyrian identity. There was no Assyrian identity to speak of...no one knew what that meant. They became one and the same thing by default. If you left your village, or your religion, you went right out into Moslem arms and since Moslems ruled the country you would become Moslem...which meant you could no longer be "Assyrian"...because to be Assyrian you had to be Christian, according to us.
For me now to say that Christianity presents a problem if we wish to thrive and grow as Asyrians..not Christians any more ( we never "thrived" as Christians, just barely survived)...scares people out of their wits because I seem to be saying they have to let go of the one thing which sustained them all those centuries, the thing their loved ones were killed for and they, run out of the country and lost their possessions over. I can understand their panic.
Had the situation been reversed, had we known exactly what it was to have an Assyrian culture and identity all those centuries and not bothered with religion...had we been killed and tormented for daring to honor Ashur and sing the praises of Nineveh and Dur Sharrukin, and Isthar...had renouncing our purely Assyrian identity meant falling into Moslem arms and having to leave our villages...and were I to show up now saying that the Assyrian identity was a "problem" that we had better put aside and pick up the Christian faith instead...people would be just as upset and cling to their Assyrian heritage fiercely because it would be their very soul and identity. They would stubbornly refuse to even think about letting it go... criticizing it in any way, or admitting any "problem" or danger in it.
Real Assyrian history, the details, (sketchy as they are because not even what is available has been deciphered yet), is something we were as ignorant of as the next person. There were "tales" and legends of course, but the full scope and grandeur came as a shock to everyone. The ins and outs of Christianity, the very hairs on the head of god, had been known for centuries. By contrast we haven't been that comfortable thinking of those ancient pagans as our true descendants. We feel more at home with the Fathers of the Church and the God Of Israel for we know them better, are used to their ways...especially what they expect of us, if we are to get that ultimate reward for all the suffering we endured for the sake of Christ...the prolongation of this existence FOREVER! No wonder people bark and snarl so! To them it seems I am asking that they renounce the only definition of "Assyrian" they've ever known... and give up the promise of immortality on top of it.
There is no way around this religion issue. We can't just ignore it and work on our heritage...we HAVE no heritage yet, outside of this religious one. It would take a mind extremely well balanced indeed to understand that these religions... Hebrew, Christian and Moslem, have been killing us off, AS ASSYRIANS, for centuries now. Christianity saved a" Christian minority", even as it crippled us as Assyrians so that today we are confronted with the awful precedent of a small ethnic entity standing idly by, or worse, aiding and abetting their co-religionists in the their own destruction.
Judaism and Islam have been destructive for obvious reasons and in clear-cut ways. But the Christian religion, as we have defined it, has done the greater damage in the final analysis... which is being made painfully clear to us this century. All the hostility of the other two, put together with the fact that the Western Christian world knows nothing of us... (in part because our Christian faith and experience have taught us to maintain a low profile).. has resulted in our being attacked now by all three and not with the weapons of three centuries ago,...but with the advanced firepower of the most lethal kind ever known. In addition, after centuries of abuse and a fatal acceptance of what we were told was the will of god, our spirit has been crushed, our willingness to fight and work for our survival has been replaced by a fatal resignation to a god who can't protect us here but instead prepares a room in his house for us" up there", for which we have to die first. At no time in our history have all three religions bent their forces against us...and with the entire world backing them up no less! Never has it been more imperative that we embrace our ethnic identity than now. Our religion will be safe no matter what happens to Iraq or the Near East. Blow the entire country up and there will still be this Christian religion. But what will not survive is any idea that we are Assyrian in ethnicity and heritage. We'll make the jump from being unhappy Turkish or Syrian citizens forced to hide their religion and never feeling a part of the mainstream, to happy "Americans", free to practice their precious religion. and for the first time welcomed into a mainstream...but our children will become American in ethnic identification for finally they can feel "part" of a country because it is a Christian country. What we will have skipped is any chance to identify as Assyrians in any country. We don't even yet know what that is. What makes this all so difficult is that in order to survive as Assyrians, we will have to ease back on what we believe has kept us Assyrian all those centuries. It didn't. It kept us a Christian minority...no one had any idea what a purely Assyrian identity was...we still don't. The only way we can do it is for those of us who are Christian to realize that the religion is safe...we don't need all these peculiar strains, each with its own storefront "church". Let the religion fend for itself, it has many defenders here and they're numerous enough and murderous enough to "save" it. Let us instead join hands with those who were never interested in any of these religions and begin to develop ways of preserving any shred of an Assyrian identity and make a living heritage of it...let's take advantage of the interest others will show in our ethnic identity, where we can't expect them to get excited over one more brand of Christianity. The movers and shakers in this world...the powerful Western nations we live in are not interested in religion...we wont impress them with that. But we have a unique something no one else has...and oddly enough, we just might save those portions of Christianity our people value..
The only trouble with all this is that our Christian Assyrians are used to defeat, they are used to being held down, discriminated against, and humiliated. Worst of all, they have been taught that they honor their religion and god MOST when being crucified for him and like him...that their heaven, their reward for all this misery will only come to them if they die meekly and go up there. Where Islam taught its adherents that those dying in battle defending their religion ,here on earth, would get a fast pass to Paradise...our Christianity taught us that those who did not fight, but had their throats slit like sacrificial offerings would get that fast pass. That is the problem with Christianity, here in the West. We are free here to practice our religion, and in our relief at that we believe we, and therefore what we have been used to thinking of as an Assyrian Heritage, will be safe. The contrary is true...we will indeed survive as Christians...and though free for the first time to define, enhance and promote our Assyrian heritage, we will finally let it slip from our fingers in the mistaken belief that a religion we share with millions of others here in the West, will preserve us as Assyrians, because we are finally safe as Christians.
We need a new "will" to fight and work for an Identity that is NOT religious, and we've never learned how to fight for anything, except against each other. This forceful and determined will, is foreign to our experience as Christians. It was all we knew as Assyrians.
As awful as it sounds to say it, I am afraid many of us are willing to accept the deaths of hundreds even thousands of Assyrians in Iraq, in exchange for the much larger percentage of Moslems killed. This horrific equation is the price we feel we must pay to avenge centuries of abuse at Moslem hands and, just perhaps, as a precursor to being "given" a portion of our ancient homeland back again.
For those who survived the trip, the oasis of Dunhuang east of the desert
must have been a fine sight indeed.
Eleven years ago, excavating a meditation cave in the northern part of Dunhuang's Mogao Grotto complex, archaeologist Peng Jinzhang made an exhilarating discovery: Four beautifully preserved pages of white-linen paper filled with a script that he could not identify.
Scholars at Beijing University helped him solve the mystery. The language was Syriac, and the pages from the Psalms in the Old Testament.
The find confirms Marco Polo's observation that Christians did indeed live, pray and die in Dunhuang's Mogao Grottoes - one of Buddhism's most hallowed sanctuaries and an unparalleled repository for the cultures and creeds that funnelled into the Silk Road on China's doorstep eight centuries ago.
The Syriac Bible find, announced recently, is only one of several illuminating discoveries made by Mr Peng and his team during their six-year excavation of the northern part of the Mogao Grottoes - a complex of some 750 caves carved out of the sandstone cliffside along the Daquan River 25 km south-east of Dunhuang in China's Gansu province.
Among the 243 excavated caves - the monks' living quarters, meditation and burial chambers - the team found movable wooden type for the Uighur language, rare documents written in obscure languages, Persian silver coins and countless other artefacts.
'Our work confirms that the Mogao Grottoes were an integrated complex, where monks lived as well as prayed and studied,' says Mr Wang Jianjun, a member of Mr Peng's team.
Today, the Mogao Grottoes are the mainstay of Dunhuang's economy, attracting thousands of visitors to this remote outpost at the western end of the Great Wall each year, as well as being the locus for an esoteric, thriving field of scholarship.
In 1987, the Mogao Grottoes were declared a World Heritage site by Unesco.
For the past decade, an international team of experts, led by the Dunhuang Research Academy in cooperation with Osaka University, the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, the Getty Conservation Institute and other organisations, has been hard at work trying to save the caves' paintings with the same passion, creativity and attention to detail as the monks and pilgrims who created them.
A 5-km windbreak fence has reduced the amount of sand blown over the cliff face by 60 per cent. Iron doors have been installed in all the caves to reduce dust and humidity.
To strengthen the caves, scientists are measuring the cracks, and plan to pin and stabilise them.
Other work focuses on documenting the paintings, analysing the colour
pigments and developing new materials and techniques to preserve them.
Nearby, a member of the team from Osaka University is measuring the underlying rock's moisture content, while an international group of experts is focused on thermography tests, which identify detachments in the plaster through the measurement of minute differences in temperature.
Says Dr Neville Agnew, a conservation scientist from the Getty Conservation Institute: 'These paintings deserve the same kind of attention and preservation as a Rembrandt or a da Vinci. And they are much more threatened than paintings on canvas.'
Humidity, together with salt leaching from the underlying rock, is the main culprit in the deterioration and flaking of the murals.
The thousands of tourists who make their way out to Mogao every year, while bringing much needed cash to the region, also pose a threat by their very presence.
Because of the deleterious effect of too many visitors on the murals, a standard tour of the Mogao Grottoes is now restricted to brief visits to a few, unlit caves.
While the conservation work being done at the Mogao Grottoes is one of China's most successful international collaborations in this field, the dispersal of its manuscripts around the globe, and their restitution to China, remains a controversial issue.
Says Dr Rong Xinjiang, a Dunhuang expert at Beijing University: 'From a moral point of view, the artefacts should be returned. The Chinese government should, at the appropriate time, through the appropriate legal and diplomatic channels, try to retrieve the artefacts.'
At the same, however, the diaspora of Cave 17's treasure around the world has turned Dunhuang studies into a global endeavour, with scholars from many countries labouring hours on end to decipher its manuscripts.
Written in rare, dead languages ranging from Tangut to Runic Turkic, they deal with a gamut of concerns: Historical records, Buddhist Sutras, Taoist tracts, medical treatises, herbal pharmacopoeias, calendars, astronomical charts, literature, poetry, folk songs, real estate deals and even the model for an apology from a drunken guest to his host.
Prompted by the desire to see all Dunhuang artefacts in one place, the International Dunhuang Project (IDP) was launched in 1993 at the behest of the British Library, and the treasures from its Hidden Library are now being made available at the project's website idp.bl.uk
In a separate endeavour, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is spending some US$3 million (S$5.46 million) to reunite a selection of the treasures from Mogao, scattered around the globe, from the National Library in Taiwan to the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, in cyberspace.
Says Dr Susan Whitfield, who heads the IDP: 'The database makes the physical
location of the manuscripts redundant.'
FOUNDED in the 4th century, the Buddhist cave temples at Mogao flourished for 1,000 years as a haven for Buddhism, scholarship, meditation, and artistic creativity.
The caves were abandoned as the Chinese withdrew their garrisons in 1372 and the maritime route proved more reliable than the Silk Road.
In 1900, the Taoist priest Wang Yuanlu stumbled upon the famous Hidden Library, where some 50,000 documents, including the Diamond Sutra, the earliest-dated printed book known, had lain untouched for a millennium.
In 1907, the British-Hungarian archaeologist Sir Aurel Stein arrived in Dunhuang, and, having paid Wang four silver pieces, carted off thousands of manuscripts, silk scroll paintings and woodslips, which are now housed in the British Museum, the British Library and the National Museum in New Delhi.
French, American, Japanese and Russian explorers followed, and by the 1930s, what remained at Mogao were some 2,000 Buddhist sculptures and the caves' stupendous murals, which depict Sutras, legends, customs, trade and daily life during a span of 800 years.
ASSYRIAN VILLAGES PROJECT
All Assyrians originate from villages located in their Middle Eastern homeland, in and around the region of Beth Nahrin. Some Assyrians in the United States trace their ancestry to those who immigrated prior to World War I, others came as refugees from the genocide of 1914 1923, and still later arrivals came in the aftermath of unrest in their homeland as late as the period of the Gulf War (1991) and the disruptions brought about in Iraq, Turkey and Iran. Few Assyrians remain in the villages which once were inhabited by dozens of families whose churches, cemeteries, vineyards, orchards and homes remain but a faint and fast fading memory.
The importance of these village ties is attested in the number of village associations that continue to survive in the immigrant community: Taka Ardishay association in New Britain, Connecticut, the Gulpashan association in Chicago, the Muyshawa association in Turlock, the informal association of families of Jilu ancestry in Chicago, and the concentration of people from Harput in Worcester who have worked together, and the (Amid) Diyarbakir families in New York/New Jersey who were so critical to the formation of the Assyrian American National Federation.
The knowledge of village histories forms a critical part of the Assyrian cultural capital. Knowledge of the manner of village life, the material culture, the changes and accomplishments of the 19th and 20th centuries, the history of institutions, the effects of genocide, the biographies of important men and women, and the lore of the preceding generations form a substantial heritage of the Assyrian ethnic group. Yet all this is being lost rapidly as passing generations who grew up in these villages are dying. Within families, to a greater or lesser degree, handed down history, lore and legend continue to survive but these may be lost without concentrated effort.
Awareness of this need among Assyrians in Europe has produced a book TURABDIN, and a video. The latter provides much information about each village and will probably be screened at the 2001 Convention. Please come to the convention prepared to have your old pictures scanned into a computer file about your village and to sit and talk to an Assyrian intern about your village or villages. Look for the locations and times of the interviews for the Assyrian Villages Project in the convention program.
The first five villages selected are those in which the five past presidents of the AANF have their origins. The other villages are those selected to give fair geographic spread. If you want your village to be documented, please let us know. But please remember that each village documentation will cost approximately $1000, a good bargain when one considers the addition to our historical sources. The first five villages to be documented at the 2001 Convention are selected in honor of service given by the recent presidents of the AANF and are as follows:
Gavilan of Urmi - The village of Mr. Ator Golani, present president of
Assyrian Star Magazine
* * * * *
Best wishes to Mr. Andrew Bet-Shlimon, Editor in Chief, and his staff at the Assyrian Star!
The city of Ashur (Assur) is besieged by a combined Babylonian and Median army. Three years later Nineveh also falls to the Babylonian and Median forces. The last Assyrian royalty, Prince Uballit II, escapes to the city of Harran in Syria. He calls for help from Egypt and the Pharaoh sends an army to assist the Assyrian prince. But every time the Egyptian army advances, they are stopped by the kings of Israel and Babylon. The Pharaoh never reaches Harran and in 586 Jerusalem itself is captured by the Babylonians.
Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, Stern
This was the first time the Church of England makes contact with the Church of the East. Rev. Henry Leeves, an agent of the British & Foreign Bible Society in Constantinople from 1821 to 1827, meets with an Assyrian bishop, mar Shevris, who tells him about the large number of East Syrian Christians living under the Patriarchate of Mar Shimmun.
The Church of the East and the Church of England, Coakley
JULY 1, 1915
Due to the war raging in Europe and the Middle East, the Church of England ends the 30-year Canterbury Mission to northern Mesopotamia and Urmia in an official declaration by Bishop Randall Davidson in London.
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BRITISH MUSEUM LECTURE SERIES
Conference Under one sky: "Astronomy and Mathematics in the ancient Near East- Babylonian and Egyptian astronomy and its mathematical background"
Contact Department of the Ancient Near East
XLVIIe RENCONTRE ASSYRIOLOGIQUE INTERNATIONALE
International Congress of Assyriology and Near Eastern
Registration Form: click here
ONE-DAY SEMINAR FOR ASSYRIAN WOMEN
"For Such A Time Like This" (Esther 4:14)
10:00 AM- 4:00 PM
Donation: $15.00 (includes lunch, tea, coffee, and snacks)
For tickets please contact:
(Absolutely No Children)
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF HISTORY
" Between the Tigris and the Euphrates: Mesopotamia"
About 300 artworks on loan from Le Louvre in Paris celebrate the great civilization of Mesopotamia. The show spans different periods, from the emergence of the first villages of the Fertile Crescent during the neolithic period to the encounter with the Greeks and Alexander the Great.
For more information: (2) 2361-0270
A festival celebrating the descent of the god Tammuz to the Underworld and the end of spring in Bet-Nahrain. It is customary to sprinkle water on friends and family members, wishing for Tammuz' safe return to his beloved Ishtar.
A day to commemorate the Assyrian martyrs throughout history.
August 28 - Sept 3
ASSYRIAN AMERICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION
A PERFORMANCE OF SUMERIAN STORIES
The Zi-Pang Trio
November 8 thru
March 17, 2002
AGATHA CHRISTI & THE ORIENT
Revealing Agatha Christie the archaeologist and how her discoveries in the Near East influenced her detective writing.
The hitherto unknown interests and talents of the great crime writer are told through archaeological finds from the sites on which she worked with her husband Max Mallowan at Ur, Nineveh and Nimrud. Important objects from these sites in the Museum's collections are combined with archives, photographs, and films made by Agatha Christie herself.
Personal memorabilia and souvenirs of travel in a more leisurely age are only some of the exhibits which range from first editions of those novels inspired by her other life to a sleeping compartment from the Orient Express, from a lethal 1930s hypodermic syringe to a priceless first millennium ivory of a man being mauled to death
Admissions £7, Concessions £3.50
West Wing Exhibition Gallery Room 28
MIDDLE EAST STUDIES ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE
Middle East Studies Association of North America Panel
Hyatt Regency Hotel, San Francisco
Dr. Arian Ishaya - Urmia to Baquba: From the Cradle
of Water to Wilderness
THE NIMROD CONFERENCE
Sponsored by the British School of Archaeology in Iraq
Cost To Be Determined
Contact Dept of Ancient Near East 020 7323 8315
Coincides with Ancient Near East week at the British Museum:
FIRST UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO's CSSS SYMPOSIUM
Sponsored by Canadian Society for Syriac Studies (CSSS)
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