The Center for Tebtunis Papyri logoContexts--Graeco-Roman Egypt header

 

This is an archived exhibit of The Bancroft Library, University California, Berkeley.

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The Papyri

 

papyrusPapyrus was the most important writing material of antiquity. It was used by various cultures around the Mediterranean from 2500 BCE until it began to be supplanted by vellum (specially treated animal skins) about 400 CE and eventually by the gradual introduction of paper from China in the 10th century. The last known use of papyrus was in a papal bull, dated 1057.

Papyrus the writing material was made from the papyrus plant, a large aquatic sedge that flourished on the banks of the Nile in ancient Egypt. When one wanted to produce a sheet, one peeled the stem of the plant and took thin strips (about 30 cm. long) from the pith of the plant. One layer of these strips was then laid out with the plant fibers running vertically, and a second layer with horizontal fibers was placed across it. When the strips were hammered, the juices of the plant would cause the them to join together, making a sheet of papyrus. Twenty such sheets would be pasted together to form a roll of about 3.20 meters (10–11 feet) in length. Whole rolls were used for books and official reports; the text was written in columns. For smaller documents one simply cut off a part of a roll.

The papyri discovered at Tebtunis include literary and documentary texts. Between 1902 and 1938, a total of 1094 texts (less than 5% of the total number of fragments) were published either in full (with translation and commentary) or briefly described. Grenfell and Hunt themselves played a major part in the publication of the papyri, which were retained in Oxford before being transferred to Berkeley.

 

wooden writing tablet Writing
Roman era (1st – 3rd centuries)

This wooden writing tablet, wooden ink pot with lid and one of the reed pens were found in Roman tombs, while the second reed pen was discovered at the Roman town site.

Courtesy of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Berkeley, and the Regents of the University of California; photographed by Joan Knudsen.
Inv. 6–21419 a and b, 6–20512, 6–21420, 6–20404

 

bankink receipt papyrus Banking
A receipt issued by a bank recording the payment of a loan of 3,500 silver drachmas.
22 April 141 CE. (No link to larger image.)

The fourth year of Imperator Caesar Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius, Pharmouthi 27, by a draft of the bank of Sabinus in the Treasuries' quarter. Isidora daughter of Herakleides son of Meledemos, with her kinsman Apion son of Apion as guardian, (notifies) to Tamystha daughter of Origenes son of Origenes with her son Ptolemaios son of Ptolemaios as guardian (that she, Tamystha, has received) the loan of the capital sum of three thousand five hundred drachmas of silver, total 3,500 dr., for one year from the present month Pachon, at the interest of 1 drachma per mina a month, which sum she shall repay in the month Pharmouthi of the coming 5th year of Antoninus Caesar the Lord with the interest accruing upon it, 420 drachmas, in accordance with a contract of mortgage upon the right (?) to a sum which Tamystha has made, and which was drawn up through the record?office.

 

Roman coin Roman coin Roman coin roman coin Roman coin

 

 

 

Money

These five tetradrachms were all minted in Alexandria and were in circulation in the Roman era (1st – 3rd centuries CE).

  1. Siver tetradrachm of Ptolemy IX Soter II.
    (Inv. 6–22301)
  2. Tetradrachm, year 3 of the Emperor Nero (57 CE).
    (Inv. 6–22611)
  3. Tetradrachm, year 3 of the Emperor Vespasian (71 CE).
    (Inv. 6–22649)
  4. (and 5) Tetradrachm, year 19 of the Emperor Hadrian (136 CE).
    (Inv. 6–22561)

Courtesy of the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Berkeley, and the Regents of the University of California; photographed by Joan Knudsen.

 

A section of a field–by–field register of the land around the village of Kerkeosiris Surveying the Land
A section of a field–by–field register of the land around the village of Kerkeosiris
February 134–121 BCE (No link to larger image.)

For each plot, this register gives the geographical relationship to other plots; the name of the landholder and his patronymic; the fiscal category to which the plot belongs; the area; and the rent paid to the crown per aroura (if any). The data provided allow one to "map" the territory of the village. The text belongs to the ancient archive of Menches, the village scribe of Kerkeosiris; this portion of it was first published by Dorothy Thompson.

P.Tebt. IV 1116, col. IV

 

Magical amulet text against fever Medicine & Magic
3rd century CE

Magical amulet against fever addressed to a deity called Kok Kouk Koul and preceded by a magical word(ablanathanablanamacharamaracharamarach). The word is repeated with the successive omission of the first and last letters, so as to form an inverted triangle that reads the same across or down one side and up the other.

P.Tebt. II 275

 

Amulets from Tebtunis Amulets from Tebtunis
Faience, Third Intermediate Period (11th – 7th centuries BCE)

Udjat eye amulets were worn in life and death to protect individuals against malevolent powers. The abundance of amulets found at Tebtunis dating from the New Kingdom through the late Roman era testifies to the endurance of the practice.

Courtesy of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Berkeley, and the Regents of the University of California; photographed by Joan Knudsen.