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The University of Southampton
The Parkes Institute

The Cairo Genizah: The greatest medieval archive? Seminar

18 February 2014
Lecture C Avenue Campus University of Southampton SO17 1BF

For more information regarding this seminar, please email .

Event details

Part of the Parkes Institute Seminar series

The Cairo Genizah was recently described by Simon Schama as ‘the single most complete archive of a society anywhere in the whole medieval world'. Described elsewhere as a ‘rubbish heap' and, more recently, ‘sacred trash', the discovery, a hundred years ago, of its hundreds of thousands of medieval paper and parchment fragments revolutionised the study of medieval Judaism. A genizah is a holy storeroom, a place to safely store sacred texts that can no longer be used. The cosmopolitan Jews of Egypt, however, deposited not only their sacred texts but examples of most everything that they wrote down -  their legal documents (relating to marriage, death and divorce, business, conflict and crisis) and also their ephemera - notes, recipes, shopping lists - leading the Genizah Collection to be described as a ‘window on the medieval world'. But to what extent does this treasure trove of texts represent the society which discarded it? Does it paint a picture of, in the historian Goitein's words, ‘A Mediterranean Society', from whom we can extrapolate the everyday experience of those living around ‘The Great Sea', or is it an accidental archive that paints a picture peculiar in place, time and people?

All welcome.

The chair for is seminar will be Dr Helen Spurling .

Speaker information

Dr Ben Outhwaite , University of Cambridge. Head of the Genizah Research Unit

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