Can Computers Break Codes of Cairo Genizah?

Seek To Piece Together 200,000 Manuscript Scraps

By Hand and Machine: Lucy Cheng works to preserve fragments from the Cairo genizah at Cambridge University in Britain.
Cambridge University Library
By Hand and Machine: Lucy Cheng works to preserve fragments from the Cairo genizah at Cambridge University in Britain.

By JTA

Published May 27, 2013.
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The Friedberg Genizah Project will use a high performance computer network at Tel Aviv University to break the codes of the Cairo Genizah.

The project, announced on Sunday, will match up pieces of over 200,000 ancient manuscripts discovered more than 100 years ago in the Cairo Genizah.

Most of the fragments of pages, documents and books recovered from the genizah and spread to universities and museums throughout the world have been digitally photographed and enhanced through the project.

The site was uncovered in 1895, a sealed loft inside the ancient Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo which functioned between the 8th century and 17th century. The vast collection of manuscripts found inside the crypt date back as far as 1,000-years ago and represent a remarkable millennium-long continuum of religious and regional history. The find comprised the largest and most diverse collection of medieval manuscripts ever found.

The Friedberg Genizah Project established Genazim in 2006, to advance the Cairo Genizah’s slow-moving documentation process. The database is accessible to both scientists and laypeople. The Friedberg Genizah Project was established in 2007 with a multi-million dollar grant by Canadian hedge-fund mogul, Dr. Albert Friedberg

The latest project involves more than 100 linked computers at Tel Aviv University that will analyze millions of pairings in an effort that will take about five weeks.


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