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Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean — 11.1999(2000)

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Vliet, Jacques van der: Preliminary remarks on the Coptic texts from seasons 1998 and 1999
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Jacques van der Vliet

The texts, which have come to light in site
D, where excavations have now been
brought to a provisional close, are charac-
terized by their great variety.1} As for lin-
guistic diversity, Arabic and, in a smaller
degree, Greek are represented, next to
Coptic. The Coptic texts, in their turn, are
written in several different dialects,
including Sahidic, Fayumic and Bohairic,
as well as the particular brand of Sahidic
with strong Fayumic coloring that appears
to be predominant in the region during the
later centuries of the first millennium and
in the beginning of the second.
Also their variety in general nature is
remarkable, which shows that the textual
finds from site D can hardly be considered
a coherent ensemble. At best, they repre-
sent the much disturbed debris of the
monastery library and archives. Indeed,
much of the material seems to have been
recycled, perhaps — as has been suggested —
in the process of book production.2)
Several of the Coptic texts from site D
appear to be dated, including a fragmen-
tary colophon from the 1998 season, writ-
ten in AM 680, i.e., AD 963-64
(N.98032, a Sahidic ms. on paper). Other
dates are AD 876-77 (N.93077, another

colophon) and 992 (N.93010, a receipt).
Paleographical criteria, too, suggest a sta-
tistic peak in and around the 10th century.
Obviously, the deposit as it was discovered
must be dated some time later.
During the 1998 and 1999 seasons, over
25 Coptic texts were found, most of them
very fragmentary. Unlike earlier finds from
site D, these did not include homiletic or
magical texts.3) On the other hand, letters
were quite numerous. Although mostly
incomplete, they confirm the evidence of
the Greek and Arabic texts in testifying to
the wide range of interests and contacts
which connected the monastery with the
outside world. Particularly intriguing is
a letter on papyrus, which appears to deal
with a disciplinary problem, the author
quoting biblical passages to convince his
correspondent (N.98093). Only a few words
remain of what must have been a long pas-
toral letter addressing the monks of Naqlun
(Neklone; N.98062-63, on paper). Most
other letters, predictably, concern "business"
in the worldly sense (N.98005; N.98031,
both on paper; N.99038, on papyrus).
Among literary texts, mention should
be made of the badly ruined remains of
a Sahidic parchment codex, which must

u See earlier reports by K. Urbaniak-Walczak, in JJP 23 (1993), 157-162, and PAM VIII, Reports 1997 (1996), 98-102.
2) W. Godlewski, PAM X, Reports 1997 (1998), 114-116.))
3) It may be remarked here that the group of texts, which was provisionally classified as "literary" in PAM VIII, Reports
1997, op. cit., 102, contains both magical and liturgical material. I briefly reported on this ensemble during the ninth
"Journee d'etudes coptes" in Montpellier, 3-4 June 1999; cf. my forthcoming study on change and continuity in Coptic
magic, which deals with magical text N.93078.