Professor Stone and the Discovery of Armenian Manuscripts in the Sinai Desert

Professor Stone and the Discovery of Armenian ManuscriptsScientist Michael Edward Stone, who founded and for many years headed the Department of Armenology in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, gave an interview to the ScholArm on his activities and discoveries in the field of Armenology.

Stone is an author of 40 books and over 400 articles, most of which are on subjects related to Armenians.

“I began to study Armenian in the course of writing my doctoral dissertation. Then, my love for Armenian people and their creative spirit started to form in me. I learned to appreciate Armenian music and art thanks to my wife, who is an expert in the field of Armenian culture,” Stone said.

He told that there are a lot of biblical stories written in Armenian which were not included in the Bible but have been preserved through oral transmission nonetheless. Stone noted that he published many such materials, and with the assistance of the Institute-Museum of Ancient Manuscripts Matenadaran in Yerevan, he published a collection of such texts recently.

Stone was also engaged in the translation of medieval Armenian poetry, including the works of Arakel Syunetsi, of whom he spoke with exceptional admiration.

The Israeli scholar is also interested in the Armenian chronicles and during several excavations, he discovered a number of them in the Sinai Desert.

“In the 1970s and 1980s, we discovered extremely ancient Armenian manuscripts on Mount Sinai and in its environs. They were made in 430-440, at a time when, in all likelihood, Mesrop Mashtots was still alive,” he said.

In one of his books, those ancient Armenian manuscripts were reflected. Those are personal names in Armenian dating back at 447, which were discovered during the excavations on Mount Sinai and in Nazareth.

According to the professor, there is no such ancient material even in the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia.

Stone also participated in archeological excavations in Armenia in the vicinity of the village of Yeghegis, Vayots Dzor province. Here, scientists discovered a13th-century Jewish cemetery with inscriptions on tombstones in Hebrew and Aramaic. This shows that in the 13th century, a Jewish community resided in Armenia. According to Stone, the moved to Armenia from Iran.

Now, Stone and philologist Aram Topchyan are working on a book about the history of the Jews of Armenia.

At the same time, Stone noted the importance and the need of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 and provision of compensation, since this is an important issue for all mankind. “The Hebrew University in Jerusalem officially commemorates the victims of the Armenian Genocide,” he added.

Currently, Michael Stone is retired but continues to teach grabar (Classical Armenian) at the university. Modern Armenian is taught by his former student.

Specialists in Armenian language from abroad are often invited to the university with lectures, for example, a Professor of Oxford University Theo van Lint. The number of students in the department of Armenology at the university is currently 30.

Dr. Stone visits Armenia every year to continue working at the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts Matenadaran.


Jewish Professor Michael Stone on Armenia history, culture and unique archaeological discoveries

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