Dating sanaa manuscripts

Next to him sit other scholars, all of them gathered in one of Southern Arabia’s bigger cities, Sanaa, in 1214.Ḥusayn is prepared to listen to an audition, that is, the reading aloud of a text.But first it is time to learn how our manuscript – let’s call it ‘Glaser 51’ – was copied by a Yemeni scribe...Ḥusayn b.ʿAwāḍ b.ʿAlī, a Yemeni scholar, sits with one leg folded under him and a sheet of paper on his knee.The two surviving leaves were separated in the original codex by a number of missing folios containing the intervening verses of surahs 18 and 19.

They determined the radiocarbon date of the parchment to be 1465±21 years BP (before 1950), which corresponds with 95.4% confidence to the calendar years CE 568–645 when calibrated.

Mustafa Shah, Senior Lecturer in Islamic Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, has suggested that the grammatical marks and verse separators in the Birmingham leaves are inconsistent with the proposed early radiocarbon dates.

Jamal bin Huwareib, managing director of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation, has proposed that, were the radiocarbon dates to be confirmed, the Birmingham/Paris Qur'an might be identified with the text known to have been assembled by the first Caliph Abu Bakr, between 632 and 634 CE.

More than 50,000 manuscripts make up Yemen’s written heritage. The overwhelming majority still await (re)discovery, offering the possibility of rare and surprising insight into Islamic intellectual history.

This exhibition tells the history of these manuscripts, from the scribes who created them to the modern-day scholars who study them.

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