Sunday 17 February 2019

The 'Golden Brownies' Turkish Fake Manuscripts

There has been a whole series of codices and scrolls turning up in Turkey in police seizures from 'smugglers' that are being proclaimed as Syrian loot. They are characterised by being
1) nonsense texts and garish pictures loosely imitating Muslim, Jewish and Christian manuscripts
2) Often written using gold ink (or gold leaf?)
3) rough tatty edges
4) crumbly dark brown or brown-orange leather (I bet it's acid-treated). Sometimes written on heavily stained 'papyrus' (or is it banana leaves?)
5) pages - usually 20-30 - roughly bound with thongs of lightish or greyish leather 
They seem all to have turned up in recent years (mostly post 2016). When they first appeared, Sam Hardy and I considered they were fakes, a verdict that many have accepted, though Turkish policemen and eager journalists writing about crime in the Middle East do not seem yet to have got the message, and possibly buyers too, as the more recent ones are getting sloppier.

Where are they from? I pulled out the most accessible information and quickly plotted them, the codices are being seized in south west Anatolia, codices and ('torah' and other) scrolls in Northwest Anatolia while only two have in fact come from nearer Syria (Adana province - here and here). they seem part of the same series as the rest. A group of six came from Usak and another four recently seized at Denizli - is this perhaps near the centre of their production? But the map does tend to suggest that these items are not 'surfacing' on the Syrian-Turkish border.

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