Draft of proposed Wikipedia "Papyrology" article


'''Papyrology''' is the study of ancient papyri and related materials on which was written literature, correspondence, legal archives, etc., from very ancient times through about the 9th century CE. [[Papyrus]] (from which we get the word "paper") was the most common writing material in the [[Egypt]]ian, [[Greece|Greek]] and [[Ancient Rome|Roman]] worlds, alongside leather (parchment). Papyrology involves the description, transcription, translation, contextualization, and interpretation of ancient written materials in a variety of languages, as well as the care and preservation of the papyrus originals. Papyrology has come to include the study of similar written materials (especially fragments) on other surfaces such as wood and wax, leather, cloth, and even ostraca (pottery). It does not include the closely related study (also called epigraphy), of ancient inscriptions engraved on stone, clay, metal, and also on some ostraca.

Papyrology as a recognized discipline dates from the mid 18th century, with the discovery of the carbonized Herculaneum papyri (see further below), but became more systematic in the late 1800s when large caches of well-preserved papyri, as well as countless fragments, were purchased through dealers or were discovered by [[archaeologist]]s in several locations in [[Egypt]], especially in  the Fayum area, such as [[Crocodilopolis]] (Arsinoe), Hibeh, and [[Oxyrhynchus]]. (See [[Oxyrhynchus Gospels]].) Centers of papyrology were established in most major Universities that had Egyptological interests, including [[Oxford]], London, Vienna, Berlin, [[Heidelberg]], Duke, [[Columbia]], [[Michigan]], and the [[University of California, Berkeley]]. Founders of papyrology include, among many others, the Viennese orientalist-Arabist [[Johann Karabacek]] and his later colleague [[Carl Wessely]], the Oxford archaeologists-classicists [[Bernard Grenfell]] and [[Arthur Hunt]], [[W. Schubart]] and Ulrich Wilcken in Berlin, the Russian [[Grigol Tsereteli|G.F. Tsereteli]], Arabist [[Franz Taschner]] and other distinguished scholars.{{Fact|date=February 2007}}

The Herculaneum Papyri comprise the only extensive library of texts to survive from the classical world. In 79 C.E., the eruption of Mount Vesuvius caused a pyroclastic flow (a mix of 400C [750F] gas, ash, and rock) which destroyed the lesser known town of Herculaneum,in the suburbs of modern Naples. In 1752, workers discovered in the Villa of the Papyri (probably owned by Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus) a large number (~1500) of what seemed to be sticks or bundles of charcoal, which finally were identified as rolls of ancient papyri[1]. Due to the carbonized state of these papryri, initial attempts at opening them often resulted in the rolls dissolving or disintegrating. Advances in recovery techniques later made it possible for them to be partially cut apart and unrolled, and digitally enhanced photographs, as well as infra-red and multiple-imaging photography, now allow scholars to decipher some of these texts even while keeping them preserved in the state in which they were found. The Philodemus Project, headed by directors David Blank (UCLA), Richard Janko (University College, London) and Dirk Obbink (Christ Church, Oxford), is one of the leading international efforts in papyrological studies within the Classical World. It aims not only to transcribe and translate these texts but to piece together an understanding of the movement of philosophy from Greece to Rome from the 4th Century B.C.E. to the 1st Century C.E.. The project is named after the Epicurean philosopher and poet, Philodemus (otherwise virtually unknown), whose Greek works on philosophy, rhetoric, and music comprise the majority of the texts found at the Herculaneum site. The first published translations include: On Poems I (edited and translated by Richard Janko), On Poems V (edited and translated by David Armstrong, James Porter, Jeffrey Fish, and Cecilia Mangoni), On Rhetoric I-II[2] (edited and translated by David Blank), and On Rhetoric III (edited and translated by Dirk Obbink and Juergen Hammerstaedt).

[from Sara's paragraph]

The collection of Egyptian (Hieroglyphic, Hieratic, Demotic, Coptic), Greek, Latin, and Arabic [[papyrus|papyri]] in Vienna called the '''Rainer papyri''' represents the first large purchase of manuscripts on papyrus, from the [[Fayum]] in [[Egypt]]. About 1880 [[Theodore Graf]], a well known antiquarian dealer in Cairo and Vienna, acquired over 10,000 papyri and some texts written on linen. Of those over 3000 are written in Arabic, to which Karabacek directed his attention. The papyri originated from Kôm Fâris (Krokodílon Pólis, or Arsinoe) and Ihnasiyyah al-Madinah ([[Herakleopolis Magna]]), the textile pages from Kôm al-Azâma. They were exported to Vienna in 1882, and presented the following year in a public exhibition that caused a sensation. The papyri were purchased by the Grand Duke Rainer and presented to the Kaiserliche Akademie der Wissenschaften in Vienna.{{Fact|date=February 2007}}

Oxyrhynchos [Sarah's paragraph]

Oxyrhynchus, an Egyptian city located approximately 300 km south of the Mediterranean coast, came to flourish in the Dynastic period under Hellenistic and Roman rulers.  Around the turn of the 20th Century, two excavators, Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt, on graduate scholarship from Oxford and financed by the Egypt Exploration Society of London came across what seemed to be a typical garbage dump.  Instead, they had unearthed a plethora of Greek and Roman literary texts believed to have been lost.  Their work began in 1897, was temporarily halted upon the death of Grenfell in 1920, and concluded in 1934.  In that span, the following texts were discovered: the poems of Pindar, fragments of Sappho and Alcaeus, along with larger pieces of Alcman, Ibycus, and Corinna.  There were also extensive remains of the Hypsipyle of Euripides, a large portion of the plays of Menander (Misoumenos, Dis Exapaton, Epitrepontes, Karchedonios, and Kolax), and a large part of the Ichneutae of Sophocles. Also found were the oldest and most complete diagrams from Euclid's Elements. Another important find was the historical work known as the Hellenica Oxyrhynchia, whose author is unknown but may be Ephorus or Cratippus. A life of Euripides by Satyrus the Peripatetic was also unearthed, while an epitome of some of the lost books of Livy was the most important Latin literary find.  Several Christian texts were also preserved among the refuse, including: fragments of early non-canonical Gospels, the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John, Romans 1, the First Epistle of John the Apocalypse of Baruch, the Gospel according to the Hebrews, The Shepherd of Hermas, and a fragment of Irenaeus.  There are many parts of other canonical books as well as many early Christian hymns, prayers, and letters also found among them. Parts of the Gospel of Thomas, also known as the Sayings of Jesus, also appear on fragments.  Research on many of the smaller, un-deciphered papyrus pieces continues at universities around the world, most notably Oxford.





Ancient documents traditionally have been classified by papyrologists as either literary or documentary.Literary texts consist of poetry and narratives copied (often professionally) for "public" distribution, such as Homer, Aeschlepus, Thucydides, and Jewish and Christian scriptures. As noted above, a large number of literary papri were found at Herculaneum (a list of published editions is available at http://www.herculaneum.ox.ac.uk/editions.html.) Court records, wills, correspondence, bills of sale or rent, receipts, leases, or lists of products are examples of documentary works -- "documentary" is also usually extended to completely private notes and school exercises. Published collections of documentary papyrii include the Corpus papyrorum Judaicarum edited by Victor A. Tcherikover, in collaboration with Alexander Fuks. (Cambridge, Published for the Magnes Press, Hebrew University [by] Harvard University Press, 1957-1964); and The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, edited with translations and notes by Bernard P. Grenfell and Arthur S. Hunt, et al. (London, Egypt Exploration Fund, 1898 and ongoing). Archives, such as the Xenon papyri, are collections of documents related to a particular person or family and his or her affairs. "Semi-literary" or "paraliterary" texts include such materials as "magical" papyri, some liturgical compositions, study tools, and other works prepared with some care for specific audiences (see the Leuven online site noted below).

[from Virginia's paragraph]


Additional resources on Graeco-Roman papyrus fragments found throughout the Classical World can also be viewed from the Duke Data Bank of Documentary Papyri and the Perseus Papyrological Resources.








  • Capasso, Mario (ed.). Hermae: Scholars and Scholarship in Papyrology. Biblioteca degli "Studi di Egittologia e di Papirologia" (Pisa: Giardini editori e stampatori, 2006).
  • E. G. Turner, Greek Papyri: An Introduction (2nd ed,; Oxford, 1980 [1968]) with its companion volume, Greek Manuscripts of the Ancient World (2nd ed.; London, 1987); see also his The Papyrologist at Work, GRBS Monograph 6, 1973.
  • P.W. Pestman, The New Papyrological Primer (2nd ed; Leiden, 1994).
  • Roger S. Bagnall, Reading Papyri, Writing Ancient History. London and New York: Routledge, 1995 (see also this review)
  • Edward Maunde Thompson, An Introduction to Greek and Latin Palaeography. Oxford: Clarendon, 1912  [expansion of the Handbook (1893), with various reprints -- e.g. Oxbow] (see this old review)
  • Traianos Gagos provides an extensive topical bibliography (to 1996) for papyrological research.
Selected Electronic Resources: