Jamila’s gravestone – update

This is the update to my previous post: “Redating and relocalising a tombstone from Wikipedia

After a few days from the first post about Jamila’s gravestone, I am really happy to say that I got some new information.
And I must admit that Wikipedia proved to be right, or at least ‘not completely wrong’.

Bibliothèque nationale de France

Following my first post on the gravestone, Jaime Saez Fernandez, librarian at the University of Seville (Universidad Pablo de Olavide), wrote me an e-mail saying that actually he saw the gravestone some days ago, while visiting a Greek vases exhibition at the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Of course the gravestone was not part of that exhibition. It was displayed in “a sort of little museum” inside the library, where there were also “other artefacts from several times and places”. He took a picture of the slab, and, more importantly, of its description label.

Description label of the stele, from BnF © Jaime Saez Ferdandes
Description label of the stele, from BnF © Jaime Saez Ferdandez

The object name

The name of the object given in the label is: “Stèle funéraire de Djémila”.
It is quite clear to me that the WikiCommon contributor(s) should have simply understood it the wrong way, interpreting de as indicating the place of origin, and not the ‘owner’ of the gravestone.

It is a misunderstanding, but this can demonstrate that probably the label is not 100% clear. Also, as the place of origin is not mentioned anywhere else in the short description, WikiCommon contributors may have found it plausible that the origin was indicated in the name of the object itself. Sorrowfully it was not the case.

The date

When it comes to the date, again, it is obvious that the WikiCommon file re-proposes what is actually written by the museum. The slab is dated by the museum 688/1308.
As I said in the previous post, the inscription dates the gravestone to 538 a.h..

Anyway, what I want to underline here is that the date conversion is wrong. 688 a.h. equals 1290 c.e. and 1308 c.e. equals 707 a.h..

Funerary_stele_CdM_Inv57-42 (1)
Gravestone found on WikiCommons (courtesy of WikiCommons)

Final consideration

Deep in my hearth, I knew WikiCommons wouldn’t have let me down. Despite my romantic vein, this label made me think.

Ok, it is not such a big issue: it is only a description label not clear enough.

But I think that when I visit a museum or an exhibition, I would like to have information about what is displayed. And I presume that what I read is as accurate as possible. I expect that the institution provides me with the right information. I rarely have the knowledge to question labels, and even when I am an expert in the field, I just read them, deeming the information correct, no doubt.

Anyway, all’s well that ends well.

Now that the mistake has been found, I hope the BnF would be happy to change the description of the object with a correct date (or at least with a consistent date conversion). Maybe the new label can also clearly state that Jamila is the name of the poor deceased, and give information about the (probable) geographical origin.

Post Scriptum
I clearly thank a lot Mr. Jaime Saez Fernandez for having shared the pictures he took at the BnF.


One Comment Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s