August 2, 2010.
The Garima Gospels in Ethiopia are believed to be the oldest illustrated Christian manuscripts. Scholars previously dated the manuscripts to around 1100 A.D, but recent carbon dating has placed the documents to somewhere between 330 and 650 A.D.
Monastic tradition says that the monk Abba Garima copied the Gospels in one day after founding the Garima Monastery in northern Ethiopia, near Adwa.
The two manuscripts comprise 670 pages in total, with 28 illustrated pages. Those illustrated pages include four Evangelist portraits and a picture of the Temple of Solomon. The manuscripts are written in the language Ge'ez, and have never left Ethiopia.
Few experts have examined the Gospels, as the goat-skin surface is so brittle it crumbles upon examination. One French expert in Ethiopian art was allowed to take two small samples for testing. Those tests combined with more stylistic analysis suggest the artifacts are from around 600 A.D.
A museum is being set up with the hope of further protecting the Gospels while allowing more visitors to view them.