SOAS University of London

New publication: Catalogue of Syriac Texts in the Berlin Turfan Collection

4 November 2014

Erica C D Hunter and Mark Dickens, Catalogue of Syriac Texts in the Berlin Turfan Collection (Stuttgart, Steiner Verlag: 2014)  catalogues and identifies 519 Syriac fragments that were found at Turfan by the German Turfan Expeditions between 1904 and 1907. The Syriac fragments housed in several institutions in Berlin, viz: Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz [Orientabteilung]; Turfanforschung [Berlin-Brandenburg Akademie der Wissenschaften], Museum für Asiatische Kunst, Dahlem.

The majority came from the Church of the East monastery site of Bulayïq, on the outskirts of Turfan, but small quantities were also found at other sites in the oasis. The fragments embrace a broad range of genres, all indicative of a monastic community. Most can be classified as being either liturgical or biblical, the former including many texts from the Ḥudrā, the latter incorporating bilingual lectionaries with alternating Syriac-Sogdian text.A small number of Syriac prayer-amulets have also been identified.

In the absence of entire manuscripts and with no extant colophon data, particular attention has been paid to the description of each fragment as a single codicological unit. In addition to identifying the contents, the entries record physical details, palaeographic and orthographic information, proper names and supplies sample texts. The fragments are thought to date from the medieval period, with C14 analysis confirming a dating in the 9th/10th centuries.