How to identify a papyrus fragment

Dear Ancient Lives web users,

we have come to the end of an exciting week. Your comments and transcriptions (at whatever  stage of completeness)  have drawn  our attention to papyri later identified as unpublished texts. Newly identified texts fall into the following three major categories: new papyri transmitting known literary compositions; additional fragments belonging to already published literary papyri; previously unknown literary texts. As for documentary texts, we could identify, among others, half a dozen previously unknown private Greek letters. All these texts will be thoroughly analyzed by our teams of experts, who will verify the preliminary information collected. To us, this is like starting a new archaeological season, which can potentially bring to light yet unexplored aspects of the Graeco-Roman civilization.

As you may know,  you too can actively contribute to the process of textual identification, while testing your papyrological skills. Go to, and choose which papyrus you would like to start with.  Try to single out any consecutive letters forming an intelligible Greek word,  then click on each of them using the onscreen keyboard. Bear in mind that most ancient documents have no separation of words, so a sequence of letters can hide multiple possibilities. Double checking the letters preceding and following that word will help you exclude misleading combinations (and save you significant frustration. For example, the Greek adverb  mega, “greatly”, may turn out to be the combination of a beginning and an ending syllable belonging to two separate words: e-me and ga-r “me, in fact”). Finally, remember to save the information you are working on, by clicking on “save now” on the top right corner of the panel (the system will do it for you after 20 seconds of inactivity).

You can now proceed  to browse through the occurrences  of that specific word in the databases provided by the website, a database of the Ancient Greek literature and a substantial collection of documentary text editions. The “Match” button will indicate which passages (if any) match the sequence of letters that you have indicated. As pointed out by some of you, this command is particularly effective in cases of short sequences of letters, but may not always give you the desired results, so please take a moment to make sure that your choice entirely overlaps the text you are transcribing. If it does, go to the Oxyrhynchus Papyri website ( and search the papyrus by entering the name of the author of that particular text (for example “Aeschylus”) or the papyrus editorial title (“Commentary to Alcaeus”). You will be given a list of Oxyrhynchus Papyri potentially matching your exemplar. Once you have found it, you can post a comment in the “Talk” section, informing the community of your successful identification.

I hope I have been of some help. For further information please contact  James Brusuelas (Recipient’s name “Jbrusuel”) or myself  (“Perale”) through the Ancient Lives website ( We thank you again for your help and support.


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