Ancient Lives The Tebtunis Papyri in Context September 20 -December 3, 2000: Bancroft Library Gallery, Berkeley

Introduction | Tebtunis | Daily Life | Conservation Matters | Future Research | Symposium

Welcome to the online version of the exhibition Ancient Lives: The Tebtunis Papyri in Context, celebrating the first centennial of the archaeological and papyrological material found during the 1899/1900 excavations at Tebtunis. The exhibition accompanied a two-day conference with papers on past, present and future research on the artifacts and documents. This web site features selected images of the Tebtunis material featured in the exhibition, plus some extras. A few items in the exhibition are not shown here. Records with images are tagged.

How to use this site: Click on headings to bring up menus of exhibition material. Each menu leads to the exhibits from an individual display case. Click on thumbnails to call up 150dpi images in a separate window: as a broad indication of file sizes, thumbnails are one-tenth the size (height and width) of the images they link to. The larger papyri come in a choice of 150dpi and 72dpi images.

Ancient Lives: the Tebtunis Papyri in Context

Every few years, the press runs a story about ancient documents discovered in a library by some intrepid scholar. Such discoveries do happen, and at The Bancroft Library, we support this kind of work.

In the case of the Tebtunis Papyri, we do not know exactly what we have, but we know we have a lot of it. The ancient documents displayed in these cases were unearthed 100 years ago by an expedition funded by Phoebe Apperson Hearst, the first woman Regent of the University of California. Despite 100 years of work, only about five percent of the tens of thousands of fragments have yielded their secrets.

Scholars have found new or variant texts of Homer and Sophocles in the collection as well as hitherto unknown literary works. By far the largest number of papyri, however, provide detailed records of life in Greco-Roman Egypt: we have crop, tax, and land records, legal documents of all kinds, crime reports, and administrative records.

But the papyri are not the only evidence we have of life in ancient Tebtunis: in the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology, there are hundreds of artifacts that came from the same excavation as the papyri. In this exhibition, we have drawn on the Museum's collections to provide a tangible context for the written documents: the art, the coins, the mummies. This is the first time that these disparate objects have been publicly displayed together.

We look now to the future. Bancroft is intensely interested in promoting access and expanded use of the Tebtunis Papyri. Images of the "P.Tebts" are going up on the Web and we are anxious to secure funding to continue digging into this trove of material. We really would like to know what we have.

Anthony Bliss

For more information about The Tebtunis Papyri see:; for more information about the archaeological material from Tebtunis, see: . [an error occurred while processing this directive]