On Wednesday 13 May the Society hosted a fascinating lecture by Joost Hagen, a doctoral student at Leiden University in The Netherlands, on ‘A dossier of one Arabic and four Coptic letters found at Qasr Ibrim (AD 758-60)’.
L-R: Jenny Cromwell, Joost Hagen, Daniela Rosenow, Stephan Witetschek and Konstantin Klein after Joost Hagen’s lecture at the Society
This group of five letters from the eighth century AD were excavated by the Egypt Exploration Society at Qasr Ibrim in 1972. One, from the Abbasid governor of Muslim Egypt to the Christian king of Makuria and Nobadia, is written in Arabic and has been published and commented on several times; the others, written in Coptic, have only been discussed briefly. The speaker’s doctoral research has led to a reassessment of the purpose of the Coptic letters and the question of their writer and addressee. The complete dossier sheds light on the political, economic and religious contacts between Christian Nubia and Muslim Egypt, and the problems both had with the nomadic tribe called the Blemmyes or Beja.
Mr Hagen has been preparing the publication of Coptic manuscripts discovered by the Society at Qasr Ibrim, and has recently made a most interesting discovery, indentifying some fragments as having come from the Second book of Enoch, a pseudepigraphic of the Old Testament. This is the first time an example of a non-Slavonic manuscript of this intriguing text has been found. The fragments, found in 1972, are four in number, and probably represent the remnants of four consecutive leaves of a parchment codex.
For most Coptic texts, a translation from a Greek original is taken for granted and the existence of this Coptic version might well confirm the possibility that an original Greek version of the Book of the Secrets of Enoch existed in Egypt, probably at Alexandria. Mr Hagen will be presenting his findings at the 2009 Enoch Seminar in Naples (http://www.enochseminar.org/#app=844&4d97-selectedIndex=0).
The medal presented to the Society by NCAM of Sudan
The Society’s work at Ibrim began as part of the British contribution to the UNESCO campaign in Lower Nubia during the 1960s. A conference to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the appeal to save the monuments was held in Aswan in March 2009. As a gesture of thanks the Society was awarded a medal by the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums (NCAM) of Sudan, and this is now kept at the London offices.