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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Egypt Exploration Fund.

rather curious anomalies. One of these composite mounds had in one
part of it early first-century a.d. papyri quite close to the surface ;
a few yards distant, but in the same mound, papyri five or six
centuries later were found at a much greater depth.

The papyri tended to run in layers rather than to be scattered through
several feet of rubbish, and as a rule were associated with the particular
kind of rubbish composed largely of pieces of straw and twigs which the
natives call afsh. It was not infrequent to find large quantities of
papyri together, especially in three mounds, where the mass was so
great that these finds most probably represent part of the local archives
thrown away at different periods. It was the custom in Egypt to
store up carefully in the government record offices at each town official
documents of every kind dealing with the administration and taxation
of the country ; and to these archives even private individuals used to
send letters, contracts, &c, which they wished to keep. After a time,
when the records were no longer wanted, a clearance became necessary,
and many of the old papyrus rolls were put in baskets or on wicker trays
and thrown away as rubbish. In the first of these " archive " mounds,
of which the papyri belonged to the end of the first and beginning of
the second century, we sometimes found not only the contents of a basket
all together, but baskets themselves full of papyri. Unfortunately, it
was the practice to tear most of the rolls to pieces first, and of the rest
many had naturally been broken or crushed in being thrown away, or
had been subsequently spoiled by damp, so that the amount discovered
which is likely to be of use, though large in itself, bears but a small
proportion to what the whole amount might have been. In the second
find of archives the papyri belonged to the latter part of the third or
early part of the fourth century, and several of them are large
official documents which are likely to be of more than usual interest.
The third and by far the greatest find, that of the Byzantine archives,
took place on March 18th and 19th, and was, I suppose, a "record" in
point of quantity. On the first of these two days we came upon a
mound which had a thick layer consisting almost entirely of papyrus
rolls. There was room for six pairs of men and boys to be working
simultaneously at this storehouse, and the difficulty was to find enough
baskets in all Behneseh to contain the papyri. At the end of the day's
work no less than thirty-six good-sized baskets were brought in from
this place, several of them stuffed with fine rolls three to ten feet long,
including some of the largest Greek rolls I have ever seen. As the
baskets were required for the next day's work, Mr. Hunt and I started
loading ...