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Strengthening research capacity in the papyrus collection of the Oslo University Library (2012-2017) (completed)

This project produced scholarly editions of the unpublished texts in The Papyrus Collection of the Oslo University Library

Neck of a papyrus. Photo.

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 was a project in the field of papyrology. It seeked to consolidate, strengthen and specialise research capacity and related activities, centred around the still unpublished papyrus texts from the collection of the Oslo University Library.

The project continues the NFR-funded project "Editing Papyrus Texts from the Collection of the Oslo University Library".

About the Papyrus Collection

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.


The aim of the project was to reinstate the series "Papyri Osloenses", the first three volumes which appeared between 1925 and 1936 edited by Samson Eitrem and Leiv Amundsen.

The editors deciphered and translated the texts and assessed 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 threw light on ongoing scholarly debates in papyrology and related fields like classical philology, ancient history, history of language, history of science and history of ideas.

We also carried out research on aspects of the ancient language, literature and society which papyri in general and the Oslo papyri in particular contribute to illuminate. 


The texts of the early Christian worship and devotion

Papyri are among the most important sources of the earliest history of Christianity. This project focused on a less studied, but important group of Christian papyri, the liturgical pieces.

The project explored these papyri within their social context. Their primary and secondary uses, the division between ‘magical’ and liturgical texts, and between private and communal prayer was discussed. It also tried to find the liturgical context for the pieces, and their ‘Sitz im Leben’.

The aim of the project was to envision tendencies of usage by elaborating on the most interesting and telling pieces in detail. A better general understanding of these texts can shed a new light on the place of worship within the late antique Egyptian society.


Agnes Mihálykó Tothne, Anastasia Maravela, Cornelia Römer and Karl Olav Sandnes.

Editions of unpublished papyri

This project edited and contextualised papyri from the collection of the Oslo University Library and made the results available for the international research community.

In accordance with international standards the editions included:

  • an introduction placing the material in a historical, linguistic and cultural context together with a physical and palaeographical description of the document
  • a transcription and translation of the original text
  • a line-by-line commentary on different aspects of its language and contents.


Agnes Mihálykó Tothne, Anastasia Maravela, Jens Mangerud and Joanne Vera Stolk.

Papyri and Greek linguistic history

The Greek documentary papyri from Egypt are a valuable source of linguistic information for the Greek language between Classical and Medieval times. As yet, however, research into the semantics and syntax of the language of Roman and Byzantine papyri has remained scarce.

This project studied linguistically interesting texts from the Oslo collection and combined these data with linguistic research into the digitally accessible corpus of already published papyri worldwide.

The project worked towards a diachronic account of the changes in the case system in papyrological Greek, especially seeking an explanation for the frequent interchange between the dative and the genitive and the dative and the accusative with pronouns in the papyri. 


Anastasia Maravela and Joanne Vera Stolk.



The project arranged regular seminars in papyrology, sessions in group reading Coptic, guest lectures and a summer course in papyrology in 2018.   

Editing Papyri from the Collection of the University of Oslo Library (2012-2017)

Time and place: Sep. 4 – 6, 2017, Library for Humanities and Social Sciences, Georg Sverdrups.

Review and lectures on the project.


Published Aug. 24, 2020 10:10 AM - Last modified Jan. 26, 2021 2:54 PM