Egypt Exploration Fund   [Hrsg.]
Archaeological report: comprising the work of the Egypt Exploration Fund and the progress of egyptology during the year ... — 1896-1897

Seite: 3
DOI Artikel: 10.11588/diglit.11503.2
DOI Seite: 10.11588/diglit.11503#0015
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http://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/archaeological_report1896_1897/0015
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OxYKIIYNCHUS AND ITS PAPYRI.

3

but of the walls themselves scarcely anything was left, except part of
the town wall enclosing the north-west of the site, the buildings having
been cleared away down to their foundations, or to within a few courses
of them. It was obvious from the outset that the remains of the Roman
city were Dot only much worse preserved than those of the Faiyum towns
which we had dug the year before, and in which most of the houses still
had their walls partly standing, but that, if papyri were to be found,
tbey must be looked for not in the shallow remains of houses, but
in the rubbish mounds. These, of course, might cover buildings, but
it was more probable that they would not; and there is a great
difference between digging houses which after being deserted had
simply fallen in and become covered with sand, and digging rubbish
mounds. In the former there is always the chance of finding valuable
things which have been left behind or concealed by the last occupants,
such as a hoard of coins or a collection of papyrus rolls buried in a pot ;
while in rubbish mounds, since the objects found must have been thrown
away deliberately, they were much less likely to be valuable, and were
quite certain to be in much worse condition. The result of our
excavations showed that I had been so far right in that the rubbish
mounds were nothing but rubbish mounds ; and the miscellaneous small
anticas which we found are of little interest, while the number of
papyri which are sufficiently well preserved to be of use was but trifling
compared to the mass which is hopelessly fragmentary or defaced.
Fortunately, however, the total find of papyri was so enormous that even
the small residue of valuable ones forms a collection not only larger than
any one site lias hitherto produced, but probably equal to any existing
collection of Greek papyri.

But before describing our excavations in the town I proceed to give
some account of the cemetery, to which wo devoted three weeks' work.
We wished in the first place to continue the search for the ancient
Egyptian cemetery of Oxyrhynchus which Professor Petrie had
commenced, and secondly to explore the Graeco-Roman cemetery which
he had found immediately to the west of the old town. Though the
great majority of papyri have hitherto been recovered from town
ruins, the finest literary Greek rolls have been found buried in their
owners' tombs; and, further, in a cemetery of the Ptolemaic period
there is always the chance of mummy-cases made of papyri, such
as Professor Petrie found at Gurob; for the practice of using up old
documents in this way was by no means confined to the Faiyum, but was
probably common all over Egypt, at any rate in the third century e c.

B 2
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