Strengthening research capacity in the papyrus collection of the Oslo University Library (2012-2017)
This project aims at producing scholarly editions of the unpublished texts in The Papyrus Collection of the Oslo University Library. The editors will decipher and translate the texts and will assess their content, context and contribution to modern scholarly debates about literature, language and society in the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine Egypt. By publishing new primary sources the research work will throw light on ongoing scholarly debates in papyrology and related fields (classical philology, ancient history, history of language, history of science, history of ideas etc.)
Last lines and closing valediction of the private letter P.Oslo inv. 488v (forthcoming in P.Oslo IV). © Courtesy of the Oslo University Library
About the project
This is a project in the field of papyrology. It seeks to consolidate, strengthen and specialise research capacity and related activities, centred around the still unpublished papyrus texts from the collection of the Oslo University Library. It continues the NFR-funded project Editing Papyrus Texts from the Collection of the Oslo University Library.
Starting from the second half of the 19th century a continuous trail of ancient texts on papyrus, parchment, potsherds, wooden- and wax-tablets, and linen has emerged, from the sands and dry soil of Egypt. Whether uncovered in an ancient site or bought from private individuals, often antiquities dealers, texts on papyrus have made their way to papyrus collections in Egypt itself and the world over.
Between 1910 and 1936 and mainly through the efforts of the classical scholars and papyrologists Samson Eitrem and Leiv Amundsen the Oslo University Library has acquired a papyrus collection compirising ca. 2300 fragmentary texts. The vast majority are in Greek. The collection also includes a modest number of texts in Egyptian (Hieroglyphic, Demotic and Coptic), Latin and Arabic. These texts are primary sources from antiquity and witness in various ways the life and culture of Egypt between its conquest by Alexander the Great (332 BCE) and its submission to the Arabs, i.e. during a period when the country was first under Greek, then under Roman (3o BCE-) and finally under Arab rule (CE 641-). Texts on papyrus vary in type: fragments of works of the classical Greek literature (Homer, Herodotus, Euripides etc.) have been found along with Old and New Testament fragments, texts for use at school, magical recipes and amulets, medical treatises, manuals and prescriptions, and last but not least documents of everyday life: letters, petitions, administrative reports, census returns, accounts and receipts, horoscopes, marriage and divorce deeds, notifications of death and much more.
Editorial work on unpublished papyrus fragments from the papyrus collection of the Oslo University Library is at the core of our research. The aim is to reinstate the series Papyri Osloenses, the first three volumes of which appeared between 1925 and 1936 (edited by Samson Eitrem and Leiv Amundsen).
We are also carrying out research on aspects of the ancient language, literature and society which papyri in general and the Oslo papyri in particular contribute to illuminate:
- Greek linguistic history
- Early Christian worship and devotion
- Greek medical papyri and medical language