Indeed, this is not the first time that manuscripts faced dramatic threats.
Hidden in trunks or buried in the mud walls of mosques, they survived the Moroccans invasion of Timbuktu in 1591. In their efforts to take control of the city's trans-Saharan gold trade, which gained Timbuktu a wealth unparalleled with anything seen in Africa, the Moroccans killed or deported most scholars and banned their texts.
Dating back to the late 12th century, the beginning of a 300-year golden age in which intellectual activity flourished, the ancient texts showcase an unknown aspect of Africa, depicting a country rich in kingdoms, literature, science and history.
Thousands of delicate pages, written in a variety of calligraphic styles and beautifully illustrated, incorporate the most varied subjects, such as architecture, astronomy, economics, geography, mathematics, poetry, music and even women's rights.
Most of the manuscripts were written in Arabic, but African languages, such as Songhai, Tamashek and Bambara, were also used. The oldest script dates from 1204.