Conference talks: 29th International Congress of Papyrology

Event Description

Team members Petra and Eline are giving papers at this conference, which is held every three years and which this year takes place in Lecce, Italy.

Take a look at the website of the conference, where you can find the programme.

Petra’s paper: 

Editing Arabic Papyri: A Special Challenge

In the last twenty years Arabic papyrology has seen a marked surge in terms of editions and studies based on papyri, the development of (internet-based) tools and the number of scholars involved. The field has become more diversified, with scholars interested in different disciplines, including linguistics, history and literary studies, as well as different regional specialisations – besides Egypt, also the Iberian peninsula, Central Asia, Arabia, and Persia – and even different languages, with besides Arabic, Coptic and Greek, Pahlavi, Sogdian and Aramaic also now attracting attention. And these different texts are written on very different materials, from textiles, leather, stone, parchment to, most importantly, paper, and there is thus no reason not to extend the field chronologically into the 21st century.

Arabic is thus perhaps not the right identifier, while papyrology, even in the wider sense applied in classical papyrology, does not cover the kind of work Arabic papyrologists now typically engage in. So how does Arabic papyrology relate to the longer and better established field of classical papyrology? Why do Arabic papyrologists feel they can learn something and have a contribution to make at the International Congress of Papyrology?

This paper will, through my personal experiences in the field and that of my contemporaries, illustrate how Arabic papyrology is finding its place in the academic
study of documents. It will ask where and why Arabic papyrology joins Arabic studies or is considered a way in to study the Islamicate world, and how it can
benefit from classical papyrology and all its well-established insights. On the one hand we struggle with the same questions concerning the choice between applied papyrology and philology, the relation with archaeology and history. On the other hand, Arabic writing is unsuited to some of the editing conventions that were developed for papyrology, forcing us to develop idiosyncratic traditions. And Arabic papyrologists also position themselves consciously in discourses peculiar to Islamic or Arabic studies. How has this affected the development of the field and what special challenges does it face? I will relate these issues to developments in the field of Arabic studies and Arabic papyrology.


Eline’s papers:

A Coptic letter from the governor of Egypt? The case of P.Ryl.Copt. 277

The Coptic document P.Ryl.Copt. 277 has been identified by its editor, Walter Crum, as probably belonging to the correspondence from the Arab-Muslim governor of Egypt Qurra b. Sharik to Basileios, administrator of Aphrodito, of the early eighth century. Although the document does not mention any personal names, it can be reasonably claimed that it belongs to this archive. However, I take issue with Crum’s statement that “it is indeed probable that the present letter is from the governor himself” and offer a new interpretation of this document. Recent scholarship of the language distribution of Early Islamic Egypt suggests that it is highly improbable that the office of the governor of Egypt would have issued a Coptic letter. Analysing the content, language use, structure and lay out of the document and using evidence from the other documents in the archive, I argue that this document is a partial translation of a Greek or Arabic letter from the governor. The translation was probably made in the office of Basileios and the document was intended to communicate the orders of the governor to the inhabitants of Basileios’ region.

The Nessana papyri on their way to The unpublished fragments in the Morgan Library & Museum

The Morgan Library & Museum in New York houses the papyri excavated at Nessana, including a large number of unpublished fragments, in Greek, Arabic, and Christian Palestinian Aramaic. Records and images of these unpublished fragments will be available via, together with the images of the published documents from Nessana. I will present the process and results of my examination of the Nessana papyri at the Morgan Library & Museum, with particular attention to the unpublished fragments.


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