Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Ark of the Covenant in Zimbabwe

The Ark of the Covenant--that fabled container of the most iconic of texts, the Ten Commandments--has had considerable impact on the folklore and practices of several African peoples. Now the BBC reports that a replica of the ark that is possibly 700 years old has been placed on display in Harare, Zimbabwe.

The "ngoma lungundu" belongs to the Lemba people - black Africans who claim Jewish ancestry. They say the vessel was built almost 700 years ago from the remains of the original Ark ...

Tudor Parfitt, who rediscovered the artefact three years ago, told the BBC he believed it was the oldest wooden object ever found in sub-Saharan Africa.

"On each corner there is the remnants of a wooden ring, and obviously at one point, it was carried by inserting poles through these two rings on either side," he said.

"Of course in the biblical account, that's precisely how the Ark of the Covenant was carried across the wilderness."

The BBC's Steve Vickers in Harare says the vessel was unveiled to great fanfare at the city's Museum of Human Science.

Lemba leaders from across Zimbabwe attended the ceremony, along with government ministers

This ceremony demonstrates once again the political as well as ethnic legitimacy that can be at stake in the preservation and display of iconic texts, or their reliquaries.

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