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."