New White Monastery Text Discovered!

Republished courtesy Orientalist Today

Lost Egyptian Text found in Ohio Attic

1 April 2014, Orientalist Today

Columbus natives Joe and Julia Needler were shocked to learn that the “souvenirs” they discovered a decade ago in their attic were actually Egyptian antiquities.  Among the treasures was a fragment of a valuable — and potentially controversial — manuscript in the Coptic language.  Ten years ago, Joe was cleaning out the house he inherited from his grandmother, and he stumbled when his foot broke through some rotten old floor boards.  Underneath the attic floor was trove of ancient treasures from Egypt.  “When I looked more closely, I saw  pieces of parchment with strange writing on them, a mummy’s finger, and some kind of animal’s paw.  The paw was kind of musty and matted, but it was on a leather string.  You know, like an amulet.”  He added, “At first I was kind of annoyed.  I mean, really hurt my leg when I fell in that hole.  It was a while before I really looked at what was down in there.”

Julia and Joe had no idea the value of their discovery.  “We just thought they were souvenirs.  You know, fakes you buy in the airport or a tourist trap,” said Julia.  “We all heard Grandma Maisy’s stories about going to Egypt and climbing the pyramids.  We thought these were just her keepsakes.”

But all the attention (some might say, noteriety) Coptic has received in the past two years made them rethink.  “We were thinking about saying something when that thing about Jesus’s Wife made all the news a while back. I think that was Egyptian, too.  But there was so much controversy.  We figured we were probably right the first time; these were just tourist kitsch,” said Joe.  When asked what made them change their mind and take their discovery public, Julia said, “Oh, it was that government study in Coptic.  We saw something on Twitter about the government funding a study of Egyptian.  In the Coptic language, they said.  And we thought, wow, maybe this whole Coptic thing is legit after all.”

The Needlers contacted Dr. Caroline T. Schroeder, the lead investigator on this new Coptic studies project. Although Dr. Schroeder was hesitant to declare the find official without further testing, she was cautiously excited.  “This discovery, if authentic, could change everything we know about early Christianity in Egypt!”

Unfortunately, not all of Grandma Maisy’s “souvenirs” survived intact. According to Joe Needler, “Well, you know, Grandma and Grandpa were serious scrapbookers.  And it looks like they were using these old Egyptian papers to decorate their scrapbooks.  I found bits of old pages up there in the attic with hearts, stars, and even ankhs cut out of them.”  His wife Julia also said, “I think I remember seeing your Grandma use some of those pages as a butter dish, too.  They were so pretty and decorative. Quite an eye-opener at her pot-lucks.”  When asked about the tragic loss that resulted from this repurposing of ancient manuscripts, Joe admitted, “Oh yeah, of course. I’m sure it made the scrapbooks real pretty, though.”

So what does this discovery mean for the increasingly prominent world of Coptic studies? According to Schroeder, “The script is a bit unusual, but I can make out some important words like, “Shenoute,” “my body,” “children,” and “tomb.”  It even looks like there is a little map drawn in the corner.”  When asked to explain the significance of these details, Dr. Schroeder said, “Well, Shenoute is one of the most famous figures in Christian Egypt’s history.  But his body has never been found.  He’s thought to have lived to be over 100 years old.  Of course, some people think this claim to be ridiculous.  Now, if we have a map to where his body was buried, well…we could solve a mystery that has plagued Coptic studies for centuries!”

Not everyone is convinced, however. Coincidentally, Schroeder’s first book was on Shenoute, and was entitled Monastic Bodies.  She is also currently working on a book about “children” in Egypt.  This confluence of events has caused some head-scratching.  When contacted for comment, noted Egyptian antiquities authority Ida N. T. Noh says, “It’s quite a coincidence that an ancient Egyptian manuscript of this magnitude was found here in Columbus. And with such hot button, key words on it.”  She even senses the whiff of a conspiracy. “You know, there is another famous Coptologist and expert on Shenoute here in town.  He has been conspicuously silent throughout all of this.”

Only scientific testing of the manuscript will tell us the truth of the matter.  The world will just have to wait while the Needlers decide what to do next.

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