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Timbuktu scrolls torched, destroying a valuable piece of world history, igniting further conflict

Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013

Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 14:01

I read earlier this week about a library of ancient historic manuscripts in Timbuktu that were torched by Islamist insurgents as they fled from French-led troops. In the Guardian article, Saharan town mayor is quoted as saying that the loss was a “devastating blow to world heritage.” 

This sort of event reminds me of how history seems to repeat itself – and how valuable insights into history are often lost among the flurry of violence in revolutions and wars across the centuries. Last night I was reading for a class that is examining the social implications of the media on American history, and I wonder how many other valuable manuscripts or pieces of tangible history were lost at the cost of fighting.

There are other examples of history lost - such as the mysterious discovery in the late 1990s of one of the Dead Sea Scrolls that had been missing – but I think this is one of the saddest losses. 

The manuscripts detailed Malian history and helped to debunk the widely held belief that African history exists only in oral form.

“The manuscripts gave you such a fantastic feeling of the history of this continent,” Essop Pahad, chairman of the Timbuktu manuscripts project for the South African government said. “They made you proud to be African.” 

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