Kaukasische Sprachen und Kulturen:
Grundlagen ihrer elektronischen Dokumentation
Alternative Ressourcen, Materialien, Anwendungen und zusätzliche Informationen

კავკასიური ენებისა და კულტურების ელექტრონული დოკუმენტირების საფუძვლები
ახალი რესურსები, მასალები და აპლიკაციები - ზოგადი ინფორმაციები

Fundamentals of an Electronic Documentation
of Caucasian Languages and Cultures
Alternative Ressources, Materials, Applications and Zipped Information

Georgische Akademie der Wissenschaften:
საქართველოს მეცნიერებათა აკადემია:
კ. კეკელიძის სახელობის ხელნაწერთა ინსტიტუტი
Georgian Academy of Sciences:
K. Kekelidze Institute of Manuscripts


Digitization of the Albanian palimpsest manuscripts from Mt. Sinai

Zaza Aleksidze

Preliminary Account on the Identification and Deciphering
of the Caucasian Albanian Manuscript
Discovered on the Mount Sinai

In 1996, two Georgian palimpsest manuscripts (N/Sin-13, N/Sin-50) with an Albanian text on their lower layer were found in the monastery of St. Catherine on Mt. Sinai. The Albanian text represents a lectionary, which is a basic part of the Holy liturgy. A lectionary is a collection of the liturgical lessons read throughout a year and it mainly consists of readings from the Old and New Testaments. The existing Albanian palimpsests represent lessons from the Gospels (chapters from Mathew, Luke and John), Catholic Epistles of the Holy Apostles (St. Peter’s, St. Jacob’s and St. John’s Epistles), Epistles of the Holy Apostle Paul (I and II Corinthians, Ephesians, I and II Thessalonians, I and II Timothy, Titus and Hebrews). One chapter might be attributed to the Old Testament (Maccabees?), and some other headlines are so badly washed away that the technical equipment at our disposable has not permitted to read them so far. The discovery of a complete lectionary in the Albanian language and script bears witness to the existence of a highly developed Christian Ecclesiastic writing in Caucasian Albania. The discovery of the Albanian lectionary at the same time proves that the information given in some sources concerning Albanian translations of the Books of the Prophets, Gospels, Acts of the Apostles and Epistles of the Apostles, is true. Obviously, only those people who have an entire Bible text in their native language can have a lectionary too. It is noteworthy that some lessons given in the Albanian lectionary are not found in ancient Armenian and Georgian Lectionaries. This may indicate that the Albanian lectionary was not translated from any other language but was composed independently on the basis of a Greek lectionary which has been lost itself.

The headlines of all the lessons contained are written in comparatively smaller graphemes as compared with those of the main text (the same tradition is met with in ancient Georgian and Armenian lectionaries). Almost every word of a headline begins with an uncial letter (similar to the tradition of the Armenian lectionaries as well). In many cases, the headlines comprise brief references on the reading of text; very infrequently also on Psalms, and quite often (when introducing a reading from Apostle Paul’s Epistles) on the necessity of conducting a “Halleluia”. In the left hand margin, we find a headline written in small letters without any uncial initial lettering, given next to the main headline. The lessons from the Gospels are usually followed by relatively extended liturgical commentaries as well as references to lessons from other New Testament books. Some very small-sized numbers are also present in the margins. Presumably, they represent the division of the New Testament introduced into Christian practice since the 4th century and known as Ammonios’ “Pericopes”.

The Albanian “Lectionary” covers only the Holy Church festival days. It bears no evidence to the calendar system; there is no mentioning of any Saints or ecclesiastic Fathers, no indication of liturgical processions to the holy places of Jerusalem and the stops at relevant churches. There are only very scanty hymnographical indications which means that it must be the oldest type of lectionary dating back to the end of the 4th and the beginning of 5th centuries. The Albanian Lectionary stands very close to the Georgian so-called “Khanmeti” Lectionary which is represented in very scanty fragments. The discovery of the Albanian “Lectionary” permits us to establish a new chronology of the existing ancient lectionaries of the Christian world: Greek (lost) > Georgian (“Khanmeti”) and Albanian – Armenian – Syrian – Great Georgian Lectionary.

The language of the Albanian Lectionary is undoubtedly very close to the Udi language in its lexics, phonetics and in grammatical forms, though it is still different from what we had grasped of it when analysing the epigraphical monuments. Nevertheless, the reconstruction of the ancient Albanian language becomes quite trustworthy now on the basis of a comparative study of the ancient Albanian text now available with modern Udi and with the south Daghestanian group of languages in general. The new discovery permits us to finally draw a clear picture of the old Albanian written language as the reconstructed liturgical language of the Albanian Ecclesiastical service.

Jost Gippert

Specimens of the digitization process

Colour photographs
Unprocessed image tab.1
Image with upper layer removed tab.1a
Ultraviolett photographs
Unprocessed image tab.2
Image recolourized tab.2a
Image with upper layer removed tab.2b
Image with lower script redrawn tab.2c
(All photographs recorded during a field trip to Mt. Sinai in December 2000.)

Further information on the present project:  
 ზაზა ალექსიძე, ალბანური მწერლობის ძეგლი სინას მთაზე და მისი მნიშვნელობა კავკასიოლოგიისათვის  
 Zaza Aleksidze, A Breakthrough in the Script of Caucasian Albany  
 Zaza Aleksidze, First Specimen (2.Cor. 11,25-27) 

 Zurück zur Startseite des Projekts  Back to the project homepage  პროექტის საწყისი გვერდი

 Zurück zur Startseite des Projekts  Back to the project homepage  პროექტის საწყისი გვერდი

Achtung: Dieser Text ist mit Unicode / UTF8 kodiert. Um die in ihm erscheinenden Sonderzeichen auf Bildschirm und Drucker sichtbar zu machen, muß ein Font installiert sein, der Unicode abdeckt wie z.B. der TITUS-Font Titus Cyberbit Unicode. Attention: This text is encoded using Unicode / UTF8. The special characters as contained in it can only be displayed and printed by installing a font that covers Unicode such as the TITUS font Titus Cyberbit Unicode.

Copyright Jost Gippert / Manana Tandashvili Frankfurt 1999-2002. No parts of this document may be republished in any form without prior permission by the copyright holder. 31.12.2002