Friday, April 22, 2005

Infra-Red Brings Ancient Papyri to Light

Oxyrhynchus, situated on a tributary of the Nile 100 miles south of Cairo, was a prosperous regional capital and the third city of Egypt, with 35,000 people. It was populated mainly by Greek immigrants, who left behind tons of papyri upon which slaves trained in Greek had documented the community's arts and goings-on. A vast array of previously unintelligible manuscripts from ancient Greece and Rome are being read for the first time thanks to infra-red light, in a breakthrough hailed as the classical equivalent of finding the holy grail. The technique could see the number of accounted-for ancient manuscripts increase by one fifth, and may even lead to the unveiling of some lost Christian gospels. Material ranges from the third to the seventh centuries B.C. and includes work by classical writers such as Sophocles, Euripides and Hesiod. But many of the manuscripts have decayed and blackened over time. "The material will shed light on virtually every aspect of life in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, and, by extension, the classical world as a whole."

3 Comments:

At April 23, 2005 5:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a note on the "gospels" comment: The Canon was officially fixed (most people within the church had accepted the books far earlier) at around 400AD, so any new Christian writings found will not be Scripture. New Testament scripture was selected on very strict criteria, including apostolic authorship or authorship by someone who was close to the apostles, the amount of Old Testament scripture they quote, and whether it was widely recognized as scripture among the church.The point being that whatver is dug up will not ever be scripture, unless the whole church comes together and agrees that it is.
Also, the word "gospel" only refers to the biographies of Jesus.

Elnathan

 
At April 24, 2005 12:55 AM, Blogger Jude the Obscure said...

Apropos of nothing - Oxyrhynchus translates as 'little snouted thing' and was a pass through thoroughfare in the ancient world. Cute name aye? Lucky it's in Greek.

 
At April 26, 2005 2:53 PM, Blogger Rune said...

Very interesting. This I think is their official webpage: http://www.papyrology.ox.ac.uk/index.html

I hope they publish their findings on their webpage as they get them.

 

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