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Ancient Libraries of the Middle East

The Ancient Library of Pergamum

by Hiba Al-Quraishi, age 14

The ancient library of Pergamum, located in what is now Turkey, was built in the third century B.C. by members of the Attalid dynasty. The library, constructed by a small kingdom that lasted only 150 years, is now one of the most famous libraries in antiquity.

Following the destruction of Alexander the Great’s empire, Lysimachus, a general in Alexander the Great’s army, founded the Monarchy of Pergamum or Attalid kingdom during the Hellenistic period. This kingdom was situated in what is now Turkey, in the western portion of Asia Minor.

Around 130 BC, the Roman Republic acquired the Kingdom of Pergamum. Even though this kingdom only existed for roughly 150 years, they managed to construct one of the greatest libraries ever seen in antiquity and for centuries. The large library of Pergamum remained a significant hub of study. [Read More]

How a Library Made Baghdad the World's Most Important Center of Learning

by Mariama Bah, age 15

When hearing about grand libraries, one might think of the Library of Alexandria or the Library of Congress. However a different library was established in the 9th century as one of the world’s greatest centers of science and learning.

The House of Wisdom was founded in the city of Baghdad, Iraq during the Islamic Golden Age, which lasted from the 8th to the 14th century. The Islamic Golden Age was an important period in Islamic history characterized by a series of rapid scientific, cultural, and economic advancements.

Although the House of Wisdom was visited by scholars from all around the Middle East, it was owned by the Abbasid Dynasty, which ruled over the Islamic Empire. Details on the library’s founding are debated. Many believe it was started by Abu Ja’far al-Mansur, who collected books on the sciences. What started as one hall became an educational capital. [read more]

Historians Study in Planet Earth’s Oldest Library

by Shahad Al Quraishi, age 15

The Royal Library of Ashurbanipal, also referred to by many as the first library in the world, is considered one of the most important creations in human history. The library, which is located in present-day Iraq near Mosul, was created and built by the sixth Neo-Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal.

The Royal Library contains about 30,000 clay tablets written in a script called cuneiform. The texts ranged in topics such as literature to administrative records. It also contained texts in ancient languages, mostly Akkadian and Sumerian.

Ashurbanipal was not supposed to succeed his father as king until his brother died in 672 BC making him the new heir. Before he was named king, he had the freedom to relish in scholarly pursuits. Because of this, Ashurbanipal decided to create The Royal Library. [Read More]

Researchers Discover Secrets Within Ancient Library

by Ashley Mercado, age 13

We are still finding long-lost languages thanks to discoveries of researchers at ancient libraries. One of the world’s oldest libraries, Saint Catherine’s Monastery, is still in use today. Here, thousands of ancient texts were found.

All these palimpsests are documents with multiple layers of writing, were found at Saint Catherine’s Monastery in northeastern Egypt. Saint Catherine’s Monastery is significant due to its isolation during the rise of Islam popularity in the 7th century. This led to Christian sites disappearing in the Sinai Desert. When the monastery supplies ran scarce, Monks started reusing older parchments. There are 130 manuscripts with multiple layers of writing, making them palimpsests.

Researchers photographed the palimpsests multiple times using different colors of light. Following, they analyzed for tiny bumps and depressions on the surface of the pages. The information found was put into a computer's algorithm, which the computer used to uncover older text from the original palimpsests. [Read More]

Remarkable Ancient Texts Preserved in Remote Libraries Deep in the Sahara Desert

by Zainab Yahiaoui, age 14

An ancient and remote village in the middle of the Sahara Desert is home to many sacred texts from libraries that were built more than 1,000 years ago. Now the world’s greatest desert threatens to engulf the history and the libraries of this remarkable place.

The village of Chinguetti was a stopping off point for pilgrims on their way to Mecca. These travelers would stop in Chinguetti to study religion, astronomy, mathematics, and law. All these topics were included in the texts and kept in the libraries at Chinguetti. People could read and study at the libraries as part of their pilgrimage to Mecca.

Until the 1950’s there were still about 30 family-owned libraries open to tourists and travelers. Today, that number has dwindled to only five as tourists lost interest and the desert closed in. And the sand and dry air of the Sahara is taking a toll on the ancient texts. [Read More]

How an Ancient Civilization Thrived and then Collapsed

by Emily Rodriguez, age 13

A mysterious ancient civilization on the island of Malta collapsed within two generations, despite surviving for more than a millennium.

The ancient civilization was known as the Temple Culture, it arose around 6,000 years ago on Malta and other islands in the Mediterranean sea. Groups of scientists analyzed pollen and DNA from skulls and bones that were buried deep in the Earth to find an explanation for the quick collapse. According to a tree ring analysis, the whole region was exposed to horrible climates. This analysis and other research makes up an ongoing investigation into why the civilization collapsed.

Upwards of several thousand people lived on Malta. These people built a strong and successful civilization through collaboration. The people built sacred sites, one of them being Ggantija Temple complex. Their buildings are known as some of the first free-standing buildings. The temples held the people together. Historians assumed the temples honored a mother goddess. However, recents findings led historians to believe the people focused on their worship, feasting, and rituals insteads of on a deity (god or goddess, in ancient Greek). Despite their affective lifestyle, after around 1,500 years, the civilization and its people were gone. [Read More]

Ancient Public Library Discovered in Germany — by Desteny Alvarez, age 14

The oldest public library in Germany, built almost 2,000 years ago, was discovered in the middle of Cologne, Germany, a small 2,000-year-old city on the Rhine River. Cologne is one of Germany’s oldest cities was founded by the Romans in 50 AD under the name Colonia. [Read More]