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[Upcoming]Philological Practices among the Zoroastrians The Care of the Avestan Texts

Zoroastrian rituals are still performed in an Old Iranian language, Avestan. Their composition began in the second millennium BCE and was concluded by the middle of the 1st. Existing texts of Avesta were written down likely around the 6th century by people speaking Middle Persian, a South-Western Iranian language with a completely different phonological and morphological system. A series of tools were developed for the care and oral preservation of these texts. They partly resemble the ones we find in India for the transmission of the Vedic texts, including techniques for the memorization of the texts (with emphasis in the correct recitation), also for their analysis (e.g. resolution of the synalephas, repetition of the preverbs in tmesis, etc.) and understanding. The invention of the Avestan script (likely around the 6th century) was turning point in the history of the transmission of the Avestan. The number of letters of the Avestan script (at least 54) reveals that the main interest was to create a script that can reproduce the correct recitation of the Avestan texts including very specific phonetic nuances without phonological relevance. The invention of the Avestan script did not put an end to the traditional oral transmission that have survived until modern times, but inaugurated an own scribal tradition (inheriting many traces form the Aramaic one). The oldest extant manuscript go back to the late 13th century and most copies were produced in the 17th century.

[Upcoming]Phantom Texts: Philology, Cultural Translation, and the End of Cuneiform

[Upcoming]The Syriac Scholarly Tradition

[Upcoming]The Origins of Japanese Philology

[Upcoming]Arabic Philology in Cosmopolitan Context


The International Center for the Study of Ancient Text Cultures, hosted at Renmin University of China, develops new perspectives and research opportunities for the study of all aspects of ancient textuality both in China and globally.