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Ethiopia is one of the countries with the most ancient Christian history, and the only country in Africa where Christianity became official religion as early as in the 4th century A.D. It is also the only country in the region where the history has been documented in written sources: manuscripts in possession of ca. 600 monasteries and 20,000 churches, some of which date back to early Middle Ages, have been estimated to number up to ca. 200,000. Only a minor part of these archives have so far received scholarly evaluation, only less than one tenth of manuscripts have been microfilmed or digitalized, and only those that have come in possession of European libraries have been duly catalogued and are well protected. A great part of this unique heritage is on the verge of extinction, and urgent action needs to be taken to save it from complete disappearance. A thorough research into the texts will grant insight into the mentality of this African region and provide parallels to the ways other African regions without ancient written tradition may have developed, as well as to the ways Christianity spread in medieval Europe: in monastic Ethiopia some features now lost in the civilized world may still be observed. The project will unite scholars working in the fields of philology, codicology, digital philology, religious studies, anthropology, art history, and book preservation, who will secure the most important pieces of historical written evidence and carry out first-hand in-depth research into the witnesses. Local history and oral traditions collected during field research will allow a comprehensive and complete evaluation of the sources. Focus on historiographic and legal documents will allow a detailed reconstruction of local history of selected regions.

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