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HomeWritten Culture of Christian Egypt: Coptic Manuscripts from the University of Michigan Collection
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Written Culture of Christian Egypt: Coptic Manuscripts from the University of Michigan Collection
Curated by Alin Suciu and Frank Feder (Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities), with the collaboration of Pablo Alvarez (Special Collections Research Center)
Exhibit Contents
Introduction
The dry climate of the Egyptian desert offers an ideal environment for the preservation of ancient artifacts. As the sands of Egypt have preserved numerous Coptic manuscripts, the transmission of the literary heritage of Egyptian Christians can be documented fairly well from its beginning in the 4th century until its decline in the 12th and 13th centuries, when it was completely superseded by Arab culture. 
With the exception of two codices written on parchment, Mich. Ms. 166 and 167, the artifacts on display are all fragments of various sizes that were once part of different codices (bound books) with their leaves made of papyrus or parchment (animal skin). Aside from two bilingual fragments, written in Coptic and Greek, the rest of the manuscripts in this exhibit are written in the Coptic language, which represents the last stage of the Egyptian language, and whose alphabet was mostly adapted from the Greek alphabet in the 2nd century BCE. In brief, different Coptic dialects (Akhmimic, Lycopolitan, Mesokemic, Fayyumic, Sahidic, and Bohairic) were used by these early Christian communities not only for ordinary worship but also for the written transmission of the Bible and other religious works. This laborious task of the early difussion of Christian texts is well exemplified by one of the highlights of our display: The works of Shenoute of Atripe (ca. 347-466). The extant manuscript fragments with works by Shenoute  held at the University of Michigan were all copied at the White Monastery, which was located just outside the town of Atripe (now the city of Sohag, Egypt).
Coptic Dialects
In the long extension of the Nile Valley, approximately 1000 km (621 miles) from north to south, the existence of..
Fayyumic Dialect
The Fayyumic dialect is a language variety of Coptic in the Fayyum Oasis, west of the Nile valley. Its classical..
Mesokemic Dialect
Also called "Middle Egyptian" Coptic, the Mesokemic dialect is a language variety of Coptic which covered probably the region from..
Bohairic Dialect
This language variety of Coptic was used in Northern Egypt, particularly in the area of the Delta. Unfortunately, there are..
Sahidic Dialect
The Sahidic dialect was the classical language for administration and literature of Christian Egypt and it was universally used in..
Bilingualism in Egypt
After the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great in 332 BCE, Egypt developed into a largely bilingual country. Under..
Manuscripts Copied in Touton
The Coptic town of Touton (ancient Tebtunis) was situated in the southern part of the Fayyum oasis. During the 9th..
Works of Shenoute of Atripe
Shenoute of Atripe (ca. 347-466) was the third archimandrite of the so-called White Monastery, located on Upper Egypt north of..
Palimpsests
In the ancient world, writing material was expensive and often hard to find. Therefore, ancient scribes sometimes scraped older parchment..
Opening Exhibit Lectures by Frank Feder & Alin Suciu
Dr. Frank Feder from the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities will discuss the reconstruction of the Coptic Bible. The..
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