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

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Roman Tebtunis

 

imageBritish papyrologists Bernard P. Grenfell and Arthur S. Hunt excavated Tebtunis on behalf of the University of California in 1899/1900. Over 30,000 fragments of papyri and 1800 other objects as well as a few architectural elements from the site are now housed in Bancroft Library and Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology. Ancient Tebtunis is best known for the Ptolemaic period papyri recovered from human mummy cartonnage and (somewhat sensationally) from crocodile mummy wrappings in the Ptolemaic cemeteries, but Grenfell and Hunt's excavation of parts of the temple enclosure, Roman period town and cemeteries also yielded a phenomenal range of papyri and other finds. The texts and objects from these areas bear a more direct relationship to their find spots than the texts from Ptolemaic period mummies. Roman period official administrative documents were excavated in situ (perhaps from the actual administrative office in which they were stored), family archives were unearthed from private houses and priests' texts from their quarters in the temple enclosure. Even texts discarded in antiquity and excavated from trash heaps often bear relationships to the other texts with which they were thrown out.

Excavators have continued to work at Tebtunis intermittently for the hundred years since Grenfell and Hunt left the site. As a result, ancient individuals and families known from Berkeley's Tebtunis papyri are documented in over a dozen collections world-wide and occasionally fragments of the very same papyrus roll are distributed among multiple collections. The objects on display here are remarkable for the roles they once played in the lives of individuals; unless otherwise stated, all were excavated from the Roman period town.

 

Aerial view of Tebtunis (1934) Aerial view of Tebtunis (1934): temple enclosure at left, Roman town at right, Roman cemetery at bottom right.
Courtesy of Tebtunis–Bagnani Archive

 

 

 

Nude male stone sculpture said to be from temple enclosure Nude male stone sculpture said to be from temple enclosure, I–III centuries CE
Courtesy of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Berkeley, and the Regents of the University of California. Inv 6–20305

 

 

 

House-by-house census submitted by a woman in Tebtunis House-by-house census submitted by a woman in Tebtunis, Year 11 of the Emperors Septimius Severus, Caracalla and Geta (202/203 CE)

Twenty-eight surviving census records from Tebtunis provide vivid, matter-of-fact descriptions of Roman period households. The documents describe homes (sometimes in great detail) and name their tenants; the census records also frequently give physical characteristics (such as scars or hair color), ages, occupations and tax-statuses of household members and their relationships to one another.

The declarant in this document, Thenpetsokis, describes her house and its occupants. Thenpetsokis is without scar, 54 years old; her son and guardian, Ptolemaios, a keymaker is 33; her sister Helene, who is also the wife of her son, is without scar and 54 [close-kin marriage was common in Roman Egypt]; Helene has one daughter, Taorseus, who is 35; and additional children with Ptolemaios [there is a break in the papyrus]; the slave of Thenpetsokis, named Thermoutharion, is 8 years of age; and her niece's slave, is named Protus.

P.Tebt. II 480

 

 

Togate male stone sculpture with pigment Togate male stone sculpture with pigment, I–III centuries CE

Courtesy of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Berkeley, and the Regents of the University of California. Inv 6–20306

 

 

 

 

 

Stone statue head with back support Stone statue head with back support, I–III centuries CE

Courtesy of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Berkeley, and the Regents of the University of California. Inv 6–20311

 

 

ivory dice game counter game counter

Ivory dice and inscribed game counter, c. I–II centuries; c. 30 BCE–70 CE

Games of chance were popular throughout the ancient world, and six-sided dice and game counters have been excavated at sites throughout the Roman Empire. In contrast to the longevity of dice, game counters are only attested for about one hundred years (30 BCE–70 CE) and the rules of the game for which they were used are unknown. Typically a portrait, sometimes caricatured, occurs on the obverse and the name of the person portrayed is inscribed on the reverse with a Roman numeral between I–XV. The reverse here reads Bothuni[o?]n in Greek and is perhaps a nickname derived from bothunos("hole").

Courtesy of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Berkeley, and the Regents of the University of California. Photographed by Madeleine Fang.
Inv. 6–20515 and 6–20514

 

 

Serapis  coin Serapis coin 2

Coin depicting Serapis on reverse
Year 1 of Antoninus Pius (= 138 CE)

Serapis was among a number of deities worshipped in Roman Tebtunis (P.Tebt. II 298, 299, 302). In contrast to his earlier iconography, Roman period Serapis was depicted wearing amodius (grain measure) on his head, symbolizing the bounty of Egyptian grain on which much of the empire was dependent.

Courtesy of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Berkeley, and the Regents of the University of California. Photographed by Madeleine Fang.
Inv. 6–22724

 

 

Detail of illustrated ostracon (pot sherd) depicting Serapis Detail of illustrated ostracon (pot sherd) depicting Serapis
I–III centuries CE

Courtesy of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Berkeley, and the Regents of the University of California. Photographed by Madeleine Fang.
Inv. 6–20563

 

 

Lead figurines of Serapis-Shay/Agathos Daimon Lead figurines of Serapis-Shay/Agathos Daimon
I–III centuries CE

It may have been through his connection with plentiful grain that Serapis gained association with the Egyptian god Shay and the Greek Agathos Daimon ("Good Spirit"); both were divine entities of good fortune or destiny commonly represented as snakes. The lead figurine on display here demonstrates this synthesis.

Courtesy of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Berkeley, and the Regents of the University of California. Photographed by Madeleine Fang.
Inv. 6–20522

 

 

Lead figurine of Aphrodite/Venus Lead figurine of Aphrodite/Venus
I–III centuries CE

Aphrodite/Venus was closely associated with Serapis' wife, Isis.

Courtesy of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Berkeley, and the Regents of the University of California. Photographed by Madeleine Fang.
Inv. 6–20508

 

 

wooden combwooden combWooden combs
I–III centuries CE?

Courtesy of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Berkeley, and the Regents of the University of California. Photographed by Madeleine Fang.
Inv. 6–20399 and 6–20459

 

 

Ivory hairpins Ivory hairpins
I–III centuries CE?

Courtesy of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Berkeley, and the Regents of the University of California. Photographed by Madeleine Fang.
Inv. 6–20462, 6–20465, 6–20466

 

 

 

Mummy portrait - Roman Mummy portrait painted in encaustic(?) on wood from Roman cemetery
110–140 CE

Grenfell and Hunt recovered eleven mummy portraits from Tebtunis. They form an important corpus because so few portraits in collections today are archaeologically (rather than stylistically) provenanced. Removed from its mummy upon excavation, this portrait depicts a youth wearing a white tunic with purple clavuiand a mantle. The original purpose of the clavuiwas to mark the senatorial or equestrian status of elite Romans. The subject holds a papyrus scroll and reed pen in his right hand. The date of the portrait is suggested by comparison to depictions of hairstyles of dated Roman coins and imperial statues.

Courtesy of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Berkeley, and the Regents of the University of California. Photographed by Joan Knudsen.
Inv. 6–21377

 

 

sculpture from Roman cemetery, 1900 Field photograph of sculpture from Roman cemetery, 1900

The two pieces of sculpture at the left are now in the Hearst Museum (see below). The female figure at the right is said to have been found together with the male figure at the far left; however, Museum records indicate that the piece was "left behind." The missing heads and other broken pieces of the Hearst Museum statues (below) have now been relocated.

Courtesy of Egypt Exploration Society, London.

 

 

Sculpture from Roman cemetery Sculpture from Roman cemetery
Said to be from III century tomb

Courtesy of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Berkeley, and the Regents of the University of California.
Inv. 6–20302 and 6–20303

 

 

Basket from Roman tombs Basket from Roman tombs
I–III centuries CE?

Courtesy of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Berkeley, and the Regents of the University of California. Photographed by Madeleine Fang.
Inv. 6–20416

 

 

Fiber sandal from Roman tombs Fiber sandal from Roman tombs
I–III centuries CE?

Courtesy of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Berkeley, and the Regents of the University of California. Photographed by Madeleine Fang.
Inv. 6–20421