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

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oxyehynchus and its papyri.


of prosperity during the Roman period, the houses and rubbish mounds
of the Ptolemaic period seem to have been either swept away altogether,
or to be below the level at which the soil is dry enough for papyrus to
be preserved.

Dismissing some hundred thousands of practically useless fragments,
and confining ourselves only to those papyri which are likely to be of real
value, our estimate is as follows. By far the greatest part of the
Oxyrhynchus collection is written in Qreclt. There are about 300 literary
pieces, either classical or theological, ranging from ten lines to as many
columns in length, mostly belonging to the first three centuries a.d., but
including some fragments of vellum manuscripts of the Byzantine period.
Out of the 300 pieces about half are pretty certainly Homeric. The
remainder covers almost the whole field of Greek literature, including
fragments of epic, lyric, elegiac, tragic and comic poets, orators,
historians, writers of romances, philosophers, and parts of treatises on
metre, geometry, medicine, grammar, &c, together with fragments of
early Christian writings of various kinds. The non-literary documents
number about_2000, and are spread fairly evenly over the first seven
centuries a.d. They present an immense variety of contents. Pro-
clamations, wills, leases, contracts, official and private correspondence,
petitions, loans, public and private accounts, prayers, horoscopes, magical
formulae, receipts, orders for payment, taxing and census lists and returns,
accounts of judicial proceedings: in short, specimens of almost every-
thing that was committed to writing with regard to civil and military
administration, trade, taxation, and private affairs, from an imperial edict
to the private memoranda of a fellah, are found in the collection.

There is a sprinkling of Latin papyri, perhaps about thirty, some
of which are literary; and there are some pieces of vellum manu-
scripts. We have identified a fragment of the first book of Virgil's

Of Hieratic and Demotic we noticed hardly anything ; not more than
two or three papyri are likely to be of use.

The proportion of Coptic papyri is, considering the large quantity of
Byzantine documents found, remarkably small. In the great find of the
Byzantine archives we did not notice a single Coptic roll, and the mounds
in which the Arabic papyri were found produced as much Greek as
Coptic, while the later Arabic mounds produced almost exclusively
Arabic paper. Probably not more than forty or fifty documents are
likely to be of value, together with some fragments of theological manu-
scripts on papyrus and vellum. It seems clear that Coptic was not much

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