Our team, our goals

Hi everybody. My name is Marco Perale, I am a Research Associate in Papyrology at the University of Minnesota, and part of the Ancient Lives Project. As some of you may already know (by going through my tedious posts in the Talk section of the Ancient Lives website), I supervise transcriptions and comments made by online users. From today onwards, my colleagues and I will take care of this blog, keeping you posted and updated. Ancient Lives is a project coordinated by Dirk Obbink, University Lecturer in Papyrology at the University of Oxford, with the aid of James Brusuelas and Paul Ellis, Research Associates in Papyrology at Oxford. Our American research group is composed of three Classicists from the University of Minnesota, Nita Krevans, Philip Sellew and myself, and a team of local astrophysicists, led by Lucy Fortson. A collaboration with three members of the Zooniverse project, Chris Lintott, Arfon Smith and Michael Parrish will lead to the implementation of a software, enabling us to test the information that you have submitted (by simply clicking on the letters on the screen), and eventually make use of a provisional transcription for each single papyrus.

Now, let me thank you for your overwhelmingly positive feedback. Since the very first day the website was launched, more than 4.7 million of letters have been clicked. Users from all over the world willing to help us, both amateurs and professional scholars, have left hundreds of comments, which have revealed a useful source of information on the material uploaded online. This material may later be identified as new fragments of known, partially known or not yet preserved Ancient texts. New fragments from lost compositions may increase, even revolutionise our knowledge of Ancient Literature, or contribute to the reconstruction of works only readable in fragmentary form. At the end of the XIX century the city of Oxyrhynchus has proven to be a treasure trove of both documentary and literary texts. Today, with your help, there is potential for further discoveries.

Here is some additional information on Grenfell and Hunt excavations campaigns, complementing James’ last post. There were six excavation seasons, financed by the Egypt Exploration Fund (now Society), which started in the winter of 1896/7 and ended in early March 1907. The finds were first collected in baskets, then stored in hundreds of boxes and brought to Oxford. Their discoveries proved to be sensational from the very beginning of the excavation, when Grenfell and Hunt found the Logia Iesou papyrus, containing ‘The Saying of Jesus’, now known to come from the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas. Although the majority of the literary papyri were found in 1906, several previously lost Greek literary texts had already been published by Grenfell and Hunt themselves in the Oxyrhynchus Papyri series between 1898 and 1904. These texts, discovered in the first (20.12.1896-15.4.1897) and second (26.2.1903-9.4.1903) seasons, included a complete new poem by Sappho (P.Oxy. I 7), fragments from the Girl with the Shaven Head (P.Oxy. II 211) and the Fawner (P.Oxy. III 409) both by Menander, as well as new poems of Pindar (P.Oxy. III 408, IV 659) and Callimachus (P.Oxy. IV 661). As for documentary texts, Oxyrhynchus yielded an enormous quantity of material, illuminating the life, both private and public, of people in Egypt under the Ptolemies, and in the Roman and Late Antique era. Such texts range from private letters and shopping lists, to tax returns, wills and government circulars.

Stay tuned for more information on our project and the Ancient Lives website!

About The Zooniverse

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One response to “Our team, our goals”

  1. AnthonyP says :

    Hi Marco,
    I have only just found the ‘write-up’ of your background and could not otherwise discover your role in the project before. I am not ‘facebook’ literate yet and don’t use it myself. When trying to read the whole of your text after looking at the main page for the project I clicked the large ‘F’ symbol at the bottom which says send to facebook! I hope this has not created a duplication of your entry?

    Otherwise it’s useful to know a contact for reference on ‘technical’ points for the project, is it OK to direct to you any time or is the preference to keep going through the user ‘boards’ mainly?

    As one who likes to categorsie and sort where possible I see this as much as the rest of the transcription work as a useful thing to do. Is it possible for the team to define some categories for collections/definitions that would be helpful to refine the work you do eventually rather than all the users maybe making up a multiplicity of their own categories categories?

    All the very best,


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