Princeton Geniza Lab

A Princeton University Research Center

News and Events

JTS Magic Grant Project

Addressing the Rambam: JTS ENA 4020.56

Amir Ashur and Ben Outhwaite



Historian Marina Rustow has immersed herself in a unique cache of documents known as the Cairo Geniza, which were hidden for centuries in an Egyptian synagogue. This collection, which comprises more than 400,000 fragments of legal documents, letters and literary materials, came to the attention of dealers and collectors in the 1890s and now reside in about 60 library and private collections around the world.

Since 1985, the Department of Near Eastern Studies has been the home of the Princeton Geniza Lab — a collaborative space devoted to making the documents accessible to the scholarly world and the general public. Rustow, the Khedouri A. Zilkha Professor of Jewish Civilization in the Near East and a professor of Near Eastern studies and history,  heads the lab, which hosts a searchable database of Geniza texts transcribed from the originals.

This article was originally published in the University’s annual research magazine Discovery: Research at Princeton.

Link to story:


Book Announcement

The Lost Archive: Traces of a Caliphate in a Cairo Synagogue by Marina Rustow

A compelling look at the Fatimid caliphate’s robust culture of documentation


Past Events

The Arabic Manuscripts at St. Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai – Ronny Vollandt

Tuesday, December 10, 2019, 6:00-7:30pm, Jones Hall Room, 220

The library of the St. Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai, is one of oldest libraries in constant use. Protected by Justinianic walls, it preserves one of the world’s most significant manuscript collections in Greek and Syriac, but also Arabic. The Arabic collection reflects the role of Melkite communities in Palestine and Sinai in the production of early Arabic texts, including Arabic translations of the Bible and liturgical and hagiographic works.

This presentation will survey the history of Arabic books at St. Catherine’s and of the people who produced them. It will also tell the story of how those books became objects of desire for European manuscript hunters. Finally, it will consider this cache as a source for the study of the Arabic book and how it developed from late antique models of book-making.


The Princeton Geniza Lab Transcribe-a-thon

November 12, 2019, Jones Hall 202

Princeton Geniza Lab will be hosting a Transcribe-a-thon! Now is the chance to work with others to unlock the secrets of one of the greatest archives of the middle ages. Hidden for centuries in an attic in Cairo, over 350,000 fragments of pre-modern and medieval Jewish texts—from everyday receipts to biblical works—have yet to be fully deciphered. This is your opportunity to participate in the recovery of unknown chapters of the history and culture of medieval Jews, Muslims and others who lived on the southeastern shores of the Mediterranean.

In the first step of the project, volunteers sort fragments into Hebrew or Arabic script. In the second step, volunteers transcribe easy-to-read Hebrew and Arabic fragments. No prior knowledge/experience or foreign language proficiency is required.

Co-sponsored by Penn Libraries, Zooniverse and Scribes of the Cairo Geniza.


The Diplomatics of Ancient and Medieval Documents: Putting the Afghan Geniza Into Diplomatic Context

Freie University, Berlin
May 23, 2019

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________Documents and Institutions across Eurasia in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages
Second Annual Workshop hosted by the Princeton Geniza Lab – recurring

May 7–8, 2018, Jones Hall 202

RADHA PANDEY: Papermaking by Hand in India
Date: 6:00 PM, Tuesday April 24, 2018
Location: Jones Hall Room 100, Princeton University
Description: Radha Pandey is a papermaker and letterpress printer. Her expertise includes traditional textile hand-printing in India, Western and Asian paper-making techniques, and stop-motion animations in paper. She earned an MFA in Book Arts from the University of Iowa Center for the Book. Her artist’s books are held in 37 public collections including the Library of Congress and Yale University.


Documents and Institutions of the Late Ancient and Medieval Worlds

February 20-21, 2017

A Workshop: Documents were ubiquitous tools of power in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, used by rulers, their subjects, scribes and courts of law to make, sustain and contest claims. They are consequently among historians’s best tools for understanding how courts of law and state bureaucracies worked, and point of access into the broader social orders. This workshop will investigate the formal features of premodern documents as evidence of scribal practices and institutions. How can we use diplomatics to read documents as evidence of power, institutions, and social processes? Can we deploy a very old set of methods on even older documents to yield a new kind of history?

Clifford Ando- University of Chicago
Roger Bagnall- Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University
Adam Kosto- Columbia University
Geoffrey Koziol- University of California, Berkeley
Eve Krakowski- Princeton University
Tamer el-Leithy- Johns Hopkins University
Arietta Papaconstantinou- University of Reading
Craig Perry- University of Cincinnati
Marina Rustow- Princeton University



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