Lost languages discovered in one of the world’s oldest libraries

17 March 2019
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At the foot of Mount Sinai, the mountain atop which God is said to have given Moses the Ten Commandments, lies St. Catherine’s Monastery, one of the world’s oldest continuously running libraries. St. Catherine’s is home to some of the world’s oldest and most valuable books and manuscripts, and the monks that watch over them.

These texts are largely manuscripts and are filled with mostly Greek and Latin. However, recently scientists have uncovered new languages in the manuscripts — and some that haven’t been used since the Dark Ages.

The only catch — the languages can’t be seen with the naked eye.

When the texts were originally written, the monks only wrote in ancient languages. However, the parchment they were written on at the time was valuable, and often subject to reuse.

Texts deemed less important were scrubbed clean from the parchment, which was then reused for more important information, often written in other more universal or modern languages. These texts with multiple layers of writing are known as palimpsests.

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