Recycled Fatimid State Documents from the Cairo Geniza

Recycled Fatimid State Documents from the Cairo Geniza

Paper by Marina Rustow

Given at the American University of Cairo, on March 4, 2017

Among the many unexpected finds the Cairo Geniza has yielded are hundreds—possibly thousands—of medieval documents of state in Arabic script, including decrees, rescripts, petitions, tax receipts and fiscal accounts from the Fatimid period. Most were reused for Hebrew-script texts, hence their survival in the discarded manuscript chamber of a medieval Egyptian synagogue.

They yield an unexpectedly detailed picture of the complexity and sophistication of medieval techniques of state administration. Perhaps paradoxically, their survival outside of an archive has allowed a better glimpse of medieval Egyptian practices of archiving and deacquisition. They also shed light on the proximity and palpability of state institutions to ordinary Fatimid subjects.

You can follow Marina Rustow on Twitter @mrustow 

Sign up to get a Weekly Email from

* indicates required

Sign up for our weekly email newsletter!