A.—OXYRHYNCHUS AND ITS PAPYRI.
I had for some time felb that one of the most promising sites in Egypt
for finding Greek manuscripts was the city of Oxyrhynchus, the modern
Behneseh, situated on the edge of the western desert 120 miles south
of Cairo. Being the capital of the Nome, it must have been the abode of
many rich persons who could afford to possess a library of literary texts.
Though the ruins of the old town were known to be fairly extensive,
and it was probable that most of them were of the Graeco-Roman
period, neither town nor cemetery appeared to have been plundered
for antiquities in recent times. Above all, Oxyrhynchus seemed to be a
site where fragments of Christian literature might be expected of an
earlier date than the fourth century, to which our oldest manuscripts of the
New Testament belong; for the place was renowned in the fourth and
fifth centuries on account of the number of its churches and monasteries,
and the rapid spread of Christianity about Oxyrhynchus, as soon as the
new religion was officially recognized, implied that it had already
taken a strong hold during the preceding centuries of persecution.
The wished-for opportunity for digging at Oxyrhynchus offered itself
last autumn, when leave was obtained for Professor Flinders Petrie and
myself to excavate anywhere in the strip of desert, ninety miles long,
between the Faiyiim and Minyeh. Behneseh was chosen for our head-
quarters, and work was begun there early in December by Professor
Petrie, who, after making a preliminary survey of the site, and digging
for a week, found that both the town and tombs belonged to the .Roman
period. So when I arrived on December 20th, accompanied by my
colleague Mr. A. S. Hunt, Professor Petrie at once handed over the
excavations at Behneseh to us, and himself left to explore the edge of
the desert within the limits of the concession, ultimately settling down
at the early Egyptian cemetery of Deshasheh, forty miles to the north,
with what success is related by himself elsewhere.
The ruins of Oxyrhynchus are eight miles west from Beni-Mazar, a