Egypt Exploration Fund [Hrsg.]
Archaeological report: comprising the work of the Egypt Exploration Fund and the progress of egyptology during the year ... — 1902-1903

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Egypt Explokation Fund.

a collection of Ptolemaic texts, for which the Fayum offered the best field,
and the necessity for pressing on excavations in that district, owing to the
rapid extension of the area of cultivation round and even over the ancient
sites, and the constant plundering by the natives, led us to postpone
further work at Oxyrhynchus until the Fayum was exhausted. The task
of excavating all the promising sites there accessible to us occupied us for
four years, from 1898 to 1902, during which time we succeeded in amassing
a collection of Ptolemaic papyri which is almost as large as the original
Oxyrhynchus find; and, fortunately, practically no digging took place at
Behnesa during our absence. It was, however, necessary to alter to some
extent the method of the excavations. In 1897, when we had a virgin
site over a mile in length to range over in a limited time, we naturally
selected those parts which produced the quickest and richest return for the
outlay, and did not attempt the long and somewhat expensive undertaking
of clearing away the higher mounds to great depths. On the present
occasion we resolved to confine ourselves to two of the larger mounds and
to clear these systematically down to the level at which the earth was too
much affected by damp from below for papyrus to be preserved. One of
these had been partly worked by us in 1897; but the other, owing to the
fact that it consisted mainly of cinders and that a much venerated
shekh's tomb had been built on the top, while there were numerous
mediaeval Arabic tombs along one side of it, had not previously been
touched. We were, however, able to overcome to a large extent the
difficulties caused by the presence of these Arabic tombs, and eventually
succeeded in digging out practically all that part in which papyri were to
be found, while the shekh's tomb having been repaired and painted is now
the handsomest in the Arabic cemetery. The good fortune which attended
us in 1897 did not desert us, for both mounds were strewn with literary
fragments from libraries of classical and theological writings, as well as
numerous documents. The bulk of the papyri from the mound with the
shekh's tomb belonged to the third century of the Christian era, with some
specimens of the second and fourth centuries. Latin papyri were not
uncommon. Near the foot of this mound was a lower stratum containing
papyri of the first century b.c. and early first century a.d., but as we
advanced further into the mound this stratum disappeared, while on the
eastern side a new fifth century layer introduced itself above the third
century strata. When we approached the crest of the mound our trenches
attained a depth of twenty-five feet, but the papyri from the lower levels
tended, as might be expected, to be in very bad condition. The other
mound was not nearly so high, and it was not necessary to dig deeper than
loading ...