April 17, 2005
One Man’s Rubbish, Another Man’s Canon
This is pretty darn cool news that must have classicists jumping up and down. The Independent reports that, using infrared imaging technology developed for satellites, Oxford University scientists are now able to decode a horde of hundreds of papyrus manuscripts discovered in the 19th century in ancient garbage dump in Egypt. The “Oxyrhyncus Papyri” were blackened, decayed, worm-eaten and illegible to the naked eye, but the new technology makes them readable. Fragments of previously unknown texts by Sophocles, Euripides, and Hesoid have already been discovered, and the find is expected to yield five million words of texts, “mainly in Greek, but sometimes in Latin, Hebrew, Coptic, Syriac, Aramaic, Arabic, Nubian and early Persian,” and to expand the known canon of Ancient Greek literature by 20%.
April 20th, 2005 at 12:08 pm
This’ll be quite interesting! FWIW, Oxyrhynchus wasn’t completely useless even before this—there were actually quite a few papyri legible to the naked eye, found during excavations dating back to the 1880s. There’s a pretty good overview at Wikipedia.
April 20th, 2005 at 5:08 pm
Looks like this might be a case of exaggerated un-news:
(Yes, the source is a PC techie website, but apparently a newswriter there is studying papyrology.)