"A Greek List of Medicines? (PPennMuseum E16238)"

A class project (Spring 2009 UPenn Papyrology course) edited by Kevin Funderburk

Single page, nearly intact; 23.3 cm high x 14.5 cm wide, written with the fibers [--] / the other side [||]  is blank; 4-6th century

- the Museum card says "Not Greek but Coptic, according to Dr. A. E. Samuel of Yale, 24 June 1961" (probably misidentifying the Greek cursive MI [e.g. line 2] as Coptic shai);

- "list of commodities & weights";


- c 4-6th ce [do paleographical analysis, check abbreviations; the G with a dot = OU)GKI/AI = measurement of weight (uncia)] check SB 3.6086 among others XR(usou) LI(tra) GR(ammata)

The hand is cursive with many ligatures and some uncial forms; note especially B (open base), D (rounded base), H (very large and symmetrical), K (tilted V plus a lower foot), L (right slash with left foot), M (small cursive, often ligatured), N (somtimes high right vertical), R (straight vertical, sometimes open top), U (often deep V), X (straight strokes)


- for identification of the substances, perhaps see Dendle, Peter and Touwaide, Alain, eds. Health and Healing from the Medieval Garden (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2008) [Pp. xiii, 256. $95. ISBN 978-1-84383-363-5; reviewed here by Ülle Sillasoo].  Also Anthony R. Torkelson, The cross name index to medicinal plants (Boca Raton FL: CRC Press, 1996) [" International in scope, this is a three-volume set, providing over 4,000 scientific names, cross-indexed to more than 28,000 common names of medicinal plants.  The first volume is organized alphabetically by scientific name, whereas the other two volumes are a cross index by common name" (1995 edition; a 4th volume was added in 1996, on Plants in Indian Medicine).

-Ben Truesdale calls our attention also to Aetius, a medical author of the 6th century (see TLG). Arthur Jones reminds us also of Pliny the Elder and the Latin tradition. We also need to check Coptic materials.

-also valuable is Patrick E. McGovern, Armen Mirzoian and Gretchen R. Hall, "Ancient Egyptian Herbal Wines," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 106.18 (05my2009) 7361-7366: e.g.

"A thorough search of the chemical literature [using SciFinder Scholar of the Chemical Abstract Services, American Chemical Society; Dr. Duke's Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases (http://www.ars-grin.gov/duke/) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service; the chemical database of the Amber Research Laboratory of Vassar College (http://cima.ng-london.org.uk/arl/); and other bioinformatics tools (22)] enabled several groups of probable ancient compounds to be distinguished in the Abydos and Gebel Adda samples."

"Until now, textual sources, in particular a series of medical papyri, have provided the primary evidence for the ancient Egyptian materia medica, which was renowned in the ancient world (11, 12, 31). The majority of the papyri belong to the New Kingdom, including the longest one, the 108-page Ebers papyrus, dated to ca. 1550 B.C. Several papyri have been dated as early as the mid-12th Dynasty, ca. 1850 B.C., and the Egyptian word for “physician” (swnw), which involved diagnosing disease and often included treatment with herbal remedies, occurs as early as Dynasty 3, ca. 2650 B.C. (12). A later tradition, which is not independently supported, states that Djer, the second pharaoh of Dynasty 1, was also a swnw (12); this is an intriguing possibility that may relate to the chemical findings from tomb U-j, because Djer ruled shortly after Scorpion I, ca. 3100 B.C., and his tomb at Abydos is close to U-j."

"The prescriptions in the papyri, numbering more than 1,000, present a detailed picture of the ancient Egyptian pharmacopeia, even if more than 80% of some 160 hieroglyphic plant names defy translation. Many vegetables and fruits, including garlic, onion, celery, Cyperus grass tubers, watermelon, fig, moringa, persea, and zizyphus, for example, figure prominently as ingredients in the formulations; however, by far the most numerous are alcoholic beverages (wine and beer), tree resins (e.g., terebinth, pine, frankincense, myrrh, fir), and herbs of all kinds (e.g., bryony, coriander, cumin, mandrake, dill, aloe, wormwood). These plants and their exudates are described as being macerated; mixed together; steeped as a decoction or infusion in wine or vinegar, beer, honey, milk, oil, and/or water; strained; and administered for specific ailments (e.g., laxatives, emollients, expectorants, anthelmintics, analgesics, diuretics, aphrodisiacs). Many of the ingredients are still part of the herbal medical tradition of modern Egypt."

"The other herbal additive possibilities for the Abydos wine—balm, senna, germander, mint, sage, savory, and thyme—are yet to be certainly identified by their Egyptian names, although more intensive linguistic study promises their elucidation. For example, quite possibly, ‘k3y in a recipe for kyphi (11), a well-known temple fumigant and beverage additive, is to be translated as “mint.” According to inscriptions in the late first millennium B.C. temples at Edfu and Philae, kyphi was prepared by grinding and sieving equal amounts of sweet flag (Acorus calamus), aromatic rush (Andropogon schoenanthus), terebinth resin, cassia, mint, and possibly aspalathus. This powder was then combined with separately prepared concoctions of wine with juniper berries, Cyperus and other plants, raisins and wine, and frankincense and honey. The addition of finely ground myrrh completed the recipe."


- RAK initial transcription --



03. - AIXW [=?EXW] UNOU [=?OINOU] DIDIPLA (  space) KE (  space  ) #B (space)[


05.   ] U  (sp) K[.]RHOFULLOU (sp) ^A (space) ?AU[  -- see Aetius KARUOFULLON

06.  ] (space) AULOU             (αὐλός =  grain product? various meanings) -- see XULOU in Aetius

07.  ] (space) KASIAS            (κασια = cassia, an unguent?) -- see Aetius ["cinnamon"]

08.  ] (space) ASFALAQOU  (ἀσπάλαθος   = oil-yielding shrub -- see Aetius)

09.  ] (space) KOUKI              (κοῦκι = palm fiber) -- see KOKKOS in Aetius? ["wolfberry" "Boxthorn"?]

10.  ] (space) SOUBORBHR  (or SAUB- unidentified) -- see BORBOR.. in Aetius?

11.  ] (space) SALKAN          (σαλκᾶ = a fragrant oil) -- see Aetius

12.  ] (space) AMOUMON…. (αμωμον = Indian spice plant -- see PMich 1812 ? and Aetius)

13.  ] (space) MASSUB…OU   (or masour...hou? unidentified) -- see DUSOURIA in Aetius?

14.  ] (space) MASTIXHS .     (μαστιχη = mastic, a cosmetic from pine tree) -- see Aetius

15.  ] (space) . . Q.AM?ON          (?? WMON, ANON, AMON) -- no clue

16.  ] (space) QUMIAMATOS  (θυμιαματα = incenses) -- see Aetius

17.  ] (space) STURAKOS      (στυραξ = styrax, a gum producing bush) --see Aetius

18.  ] (space) [blank line]

19.  ] (space) EIS XIRAS TOU METALOU [ ? for chapping caused by work ?] -- see Aetius METALLON

29.  ] (space) ????? (space) ^A (space) ?X. .

21.  ] (space) (space) ###? (space) #G (space) ? . .

22.  ] (space) . . . I[L|X]W [=?EXW]. . . (space) ## [obstructed by removable layer]

23.  ] (space) L.PON [=?LOIPON] AIXIS [=?EXEIS] (space) ### (space) ## [name? see above, line 4]

24.  ] (space)   (space) (symbol)




Since these are all Greek commodities, I'd call the document Greek (even if the context may be a Coptic/Greek monastery)! Check similar lists, e.g. POxy 54 (Chicago Hask. 2060), PCollYoutie 2.86 = P.Mich.inv. 1812 (michigan.apis.1534), P.Mich.inv. 6217 (michigan.apis.2703).