Jidou Ag Taya, an employee of Bamako’s Ahmed Baba Institute makes boxes to protect manuscripts at the Ahmed Baba Institute in Bamako, January 28, 2015. AFP/Sebastien Rieussec
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A cultural treasure of sub-Saharan Islam, hundreds of thousands of priceless parchments sit on metal shelves in Mali's capital as archivists painstakingly classify and digitise them.The insurgent fighters had already destroyed many of the city's centuries-old shrines, the iconic legacy of Timbuktu's golden age of intellectual and spiritual development.The head or the files department, Drissa Traore, checks a manuscript on January 28, 2015 at the Ahmed Baba Institute in Bamako. Islamist fighters had considered the texts and the shrines – which helped earn the city UNESCO world heritage status – to be idolatrous. Lazarus Eloundou, the head of UNESCO in Mali, estimates that at least 370,000 manuscripts were smuggled out of Timbuktu and the surrounding area.Still largely unexplored, the collection's wealth of knowledge contains manuscripts dating back 800 years.
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