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October 11, 2011

Papyrology Collection

Table of Fractions and Arithmetical Problems, (Early) 2nd century CE
Papyrology Collection, University of Michigan
© The Regents of the University of Michigan
Source: Advanced Papyrological Information System (APIS), MLibrary Images

Featuring a wide range of papyrus documents, the University of Michigan’s world-famous Papyrology Collection was begun from Francis Kelsey’s excavations at Karanis, Egypt in the 1920s and 1930s. This collection now contains around 12,000 pieces, of which 1500 have been studied in detail to date. Many examples of the University's collection are available digitally online, via the Advanced Papyrological Information System (APIS).

On exhibit now in the Papyrology Collection's physical location (807 Hatcher Graduate Library South) are select examples that have been chosen to demonstrate the breadth of this collection. The oldest item is a sheet from The Book of the Dead, dating from the 11th century BCE, in the New Kingdom period. Also displayed are "recycled" papyrus sheets including a mummy cartonnage painting of Isis and foot wrappings. These sheets, like many others, once served as tax documents or other government forms and were re-used for mummy wrappings (as papyrus was cheaper than linen), at times stuccoed and painted over. Other documents include a birth certificate for a Roman citizen, a sheet from Homer’s Iliad, and a letter from a Roman fleet recruit to his mother. For more information check out the Learning About Papyrology section, which includes how papyrus is made and fun games like Papyrus Puzzles. For a fascinating review of the excavation and conservation of papyri, Leyla Lau-Lamb provides detailed presentations of the techniques she employs to bring illegible and curled up papyrus sheets to a flat and legible state on her website.

Posted by rmassare at October 11, 2011 10:00 AM


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