Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Oxyrhynchus papyri get more media attention

ATLAS OBSCURA: Oxyrhynchus, Ancient Egypt's Most Literate Trash Heap. An ancient Egyptian landfill of plays, gospels, and mash notes gives new meaning to trashy writing. (Romie Stott). "Trashy writing." Get it, get it? The article tries a little too hard to sound hip, but it gives a good overview of the history of the excavation of the site and the importance of the enormous cache of ancient papyri it produced.
It's basically the closest thing we have to discovering the Library of Alexandria in a landfill. Academics familiar with it throw around terms like "unparalleled importance" and "holy grail" and aren't trying to be hyperbolic. It contained a lot of other ancient literature that would otherwise be totally lost–most famously a Sophocles comedy and the poetry of Sappho–not to mention extensive details about everyday life in Egypt, Greece, and Rome. It also held the biggest cache of early Christian manuscripts ever discovered.
The good work by that army of amateur papyrologists in the Ancient Lives Project is bringing this important collection of manuscripts quite a lot of welcome attention.

Background on the project and on the Oxyrhynchus papyri in general is here and here and oh so many links.