Categories: ArchaeologyHistory

700,000 Ancient African Books Have Survived In Mali’s Timbuktu University

Not until recently did most commentators on African literary history believe that African societies had any form of writing tradition. Since the rediscovery of ancient manuscript collections, with some dating back to at least the 8th century AD, this perception has gradually lost popularity.

Just about 250,000 old manuscripts from the libraries of Timbuktu still survive in present-day Ethiopia. Also, thousands of documents from the medieval Sudanese empire of Makuria, written in at least eight different languages were dug out at the southern Egyptian site of Qasr Ibrim. Thousands of more old manuscripts have equally survived in the West African cities of Chinguetti, Walata, Oudane, Kano, and Agadez.

A piece of the Mali and Timbuktu Manuscripts

Upon the real and present dangers posed by fires, insects, and plundering, some one million manuscripts have since survived from the northern edges of Guinea and Ghana to the shores of the Mediterranean. National Geographic even estimates that 700,000 manuscripts have survived in the city of Timbuktu alone.

The Manuscripts in Timbuktu

More than 60 libraries in Timbuktu are still owned and managed by local families and institutions, some of which are collections that survived the turbulence through the region, as well as the ravages from nature. A veritable example is the Ahmed Baba Institute, which was established in 1979, and named after the famous 16th/17th-century scholar, considered the greatest in Africa.

Today, the institute has just about 30,000 manuscripts, which are constantly being studied, cataloged, and preserved, however, at the time of the French colonial administration of Timbuktu (1894-1959), many of the manuscripts were seized and set alight by the invading colonialists. As a result, many families there still refuse to grant access to researchers, fearing a repeat of the French treatment. Other manuscripts were lost due to climatic effects, such as drought, which led to many people burying them and fleeing.

Timbuktu Manuscripts

Among the manuscripts that have survived are the following:

  • Key texts of Islam, including Korans, collections of hadiths  (actions or sayings of the prophet), Sufi texts and devotional texts
  • Works of the Maliki school of Islamic law
  • Texts representative of the ‘Islamic sciences’, including grammar, mathematics, and astronomy
  • Original works from the region, including contracts, commentaries, historical chronicles, poetry, and marginal notes and jottings, which have proved to be a surprisingly fertile source of historical data.
Manuscripts Saved From Invasion By Al Qaeda

Most of the manuscripts themselves are of special importance to the owners for some reason. For instance, many who hitherto claimed royalty have been discovered to be from the servile class on account of evidence from the manuscripts.

Other manuscripts have revealed the atrocious dealings of one family against another that might have happened a very long time ago, but still bearing significance to this day. Such as disputed land and property ownership.

These beg the question as to why these manuscripts are of utmost importance to this day. During colonial times, many of those in possession of the manuscripts hid them or even had them buried.

Scholar Reading A Manuscript

Furthermore, French was forcefully imposed as the language of the region and instruction, meaning many owners lost their ability to read and interpret the manuscripts in languages in which they were originally written in.

Finally, not until 1985 that much life has been breathed into the intellectual life of this region, meaning it might take a long while to fully get a grasp of the full extent and import of the discovered manuscripts.

Please SHARE this To Support Our Work Of Mental Emancipation Of Our People Through History And Facts

Liberty Writers Africa

Our mission is to raise the collective consciousness of Africans all over the world. And also giving an account of our uniqueness, we hope to reintroduce Africa to the rest of the world. At the core of our vision, is to liberate the African mind - to make Africans discover their voice through literature.

Recent Posts

Moremi Ajasoro: Legendary Yoruba Queen Who Saved Her People

The lives of many African legends past are often not remembered in the history books,…

2 days ago

How The British Joined Nigerian Jihadists To Kill Over 3 Million Biafrans In 1967-1970 (Brief History)


6 days ago

The Amazing Igbo Pyramids Of West Africa – An Evidence Of Ancient Igbo Connection With Ancient Nubia

Although having existed, arguably, for thousands of years, the first sighting of the fascinating pyramids…

2 weeks ago

William Ansah Sessarakoo: The Slaver’s Son Who Became Enslaved On His Way To Study In Europe

There is a saying that “no one knows tomorrow”. Another is that “that which men…

2 weeks ago

African Sibyls: Ancient African Female Oracles Whose Prophesies Were Stolen By The Roman Church

When we tell the history of the world, somehow we forget to tell that of…

2 weeks ago

Haitian Revolution: A Clear Proof That Blacks Can Fight Back And Defeat European Oppressive Powers

The Haitian Revolution has often been referred to as the largest and most successful slave…

3 weeks ago