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The Mystery at Chùrchuro: Conspiracy or Incompetence in Twelfth-Century Sicily?

Jeremy Johns and Alex Metcalfe
Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
Vol. 62, No. 2 (1999), pp. 226-259
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3107488
Page Count: 38
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The Mystery at Chùrchuro: Conspiracy or Incompetence in Twelfth-Century Sicily?
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Abstract

The subject of this article is a mystery within the Arabic administration of Norman Sicily. In 1149, the dīwān al-taḥqīq al-maʿmūr, the chief supervisory office of the Arabic administration of the Norman kings, granted five households of Muslim villeins and the estate of Raḥl al-Wazzān to the Greek monastery of San Nicolò di Chùrchuro, near Palermo. Five years later, at the request of the monks, the dīwān issued what purports to be an exact copy of the donation of 1149, which grants the same five households of villeins, but a completely different estate, Raḥl Ibn Sahl. Recent scholarship has declared the 'copy' of 1154 to be a forgery, perpetrated within the dīwān. By means of a new, critical edition of the two documents, and of other relevant primary sources, the authors conclude that the mystery is the result not of a conspiracy to defraud the royal dīwān, but rather of administrative incompetence. This conclusion is less important for itself than for what it reveals about the Norman dīwān, and the reception of its products by recipients whose native language was not Arabic.

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