Archive | March 2012

The Buried Book: The Surprising Impact of the Folded, Spindled, and Mutilated

A panel discussion presented by the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies, University of Minnesota

Thursday, April 5th, 10:00 am – 3:30 pm, Maroon & Gold Room in the McNamara Alumni Center, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus

How was the discovery of buried books surprised the experts and altered our views of key aspects of our classical and biblical heritage? On Thursday April 5, scholars working on reading and writing in the ancient world from a variety of perspectives will gather at the University of Minnesota to discuss the lasting impact of modern discoveries of literature once buried on purpose or by natural disaster on our modern understanding of Greek literature, the Bible, ancient philosophy, and the role of readers in the Roman World.

Our panel discussion will feature both local and visiting scholars. Alex Jassen, an expert in Judaism in the Second Temple period, will discuss how the discoveries at Qumran upended our understanding of Jewish Scriptures in his talk The Dead Sea Scrolls: The Bible and Its Reception. Marco Perale, a specialist in Greek poetry as illuminated by modern manuscript deliveries, will discuss Greek Literature without the Oxyrhynchus Papyri. Dirk Obbink, a renowned expert in Hellenistic verse and philosophy, and Director of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri project at Oxford University, will address the Villa of the Papyri found at Heculaneum, with its book rolls carbonized by the eruption of Mr. Vesuvius, in his talk The Herculaneum Library: From Literature to Archive.

The panel discussion will be moderated by Philip Sellew, a New Testament scholar with expertise in Greek and Coptic literary and historical studies. Ample time is planned for dialogue among the speakers as well as questions and comments from the audience. All interested parties are welcome – students from the U or other colleges, faculty colleagues, or members of the general public. There is no charge for attendance.



The symposium will have both morning and afternoon sessions with a break for lunch. Participants are welcome to attend either or both halves of the conference as their schedules permit. There are a variety of restaurants and cafés nearby for lunch.

10 am – Welcome

10:15 – Introduction by Philip Sellew (Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies, University of Minnesota)

11:00The Dead Sea Scrolls: The Bible and Its Reception, presented by Alex Jassen (Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies, University of Minnesota)

11:45-12:45 – Lunch Break

1:00Greek Literature without the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, presented by Marco Perale (Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies, University of Minnesota)

1:45The Herculaneum Library: From Literature to Archive, presentation by Dirk Obbink (Faculty of Classics, University of Oxford)

2:30-3:30 – General Discussion


For schedule details and more information, please check our department website at or telephone 612-625-5353.

We hope to see you there!


At the dawn of the discipline

Papyrology is a new discipline. The first Greek papyrus from Egypt known in Europe was the so-called Charta Borgiana, a list of canal-workers for the year 193 AD in the site of Tebtynis. The papyrus, which is now housed at the National Museum in Naples, came from a wood sycamore box containing 50 papyri of unknown provenance. It was bought by an anonymous italian merchant in Giza in 1777, and donated to the Italian cardinal Stefano Borgia (from whom it takes its name).

It was not, however, until the XIX century that a few collections of papyri in Europe were formed. The core of the Collection in Turin (Museo Egizio, Egyptian Museum) was acquired in 1824 by Charles Felix of Sardinia (1765-1831), king of the reign of Piedmont-Sardinia, from the antiquarian Bernardino Drovetti (1776-1852), who was appointed by Napoleon as French consul to Egypt. It was a time when diplomats and military men were often also collectors of antiquities. Among them was Jean d’Anastasi (1780-1857), a merchant from Damascus, who became the consular representative of Sweden in Alexandria not long after Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt (1798-1801). After he came back to Europe in 1828, his collection was purchased by various libraries in Europe: the British Museum in London; the Bibliothèque Nationale and the Louvre in Paris; The Staatliche Museen in Berlin; and the Rijksmuseum in Leiden.

In 1863 the French archaeologist Auguste Mariette (1821-1881), the Director of the Conservation Service in Egypt, founded the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, later ravaged by a flood and rebuilt in 1897. The Papyrussammlung in Vienna originated in 1883 and was based on the finds made between 1877 and 1880 in the area of Fayyum by Josef von Karabacek, an art-historian and Professor of History of the Orient at the University of Vienna. The papyri were later purchased by the Archduke Joseph Rainer of Austria, who gave the name to the collection and the publication series called Corpus Papyrorum Raineri. The publication of these new acquisitions, which marks the beginning of Papyrology as a science, did not systematically start before the last two decades of the XIX century. The first volume of the Corpus Papyrorum Raineri was published in 1895 by C. Wessely, who had already been assigned the publication of a set of Leipzig papyri in 1885. The first volume of the Greek Papyri in the British Museum, by F.G. Kenyon came out in 1893, followed by the inaugural volume of the Aegyptische Urkunden aus den Königlichen (later Staatlichen) Museen zu Berlin, published in 1895. The era of Oxyrhynchus was about to arrive.

Rulers and ‘not-papyri’

In the scanning process some background material was often extracted along with the papyrus image. We are aware of this issue and we are gradually removing that material from the website, but you too can help in this process. Many of you have already contributed to the odd-one-out by marking rulers and ‘not-papyri’ with the pound character (#) in Talk. However, the easiest and most effective way for you to report the presence of irrelevant objects is to click on the ‘issue’ button, located in Transcribe on the bottom right corner of the keypad. Thank you for your collaboration!

The Match Button

The Match Button allows you to find correspondences to words in other published texts.

It encompasses two search engines, one for literary texts (“Matched Documents”) and one for documentary papyri (“Matched Letters”).

The Match button will give you an idea of the possible occurrences of a word in texts of comparable content. Match is not meant to be a research tool. It is particularly effective in cases of short sequences of letters and can help you identify words, but may not always yield exact textual correspondences.