If Euripedes papyri, so help me...
April 17, 2005 2:10 PM   Subscribe

Oxford University has just announced that they and Brigham Young University have developed a technology to read the previously illegible papyri of Oxyrhynchus collection. More info here and here.
posted by Kattullus (26 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
That is too cool. Forget DVD backup, I'm burying my documents in the desert. Can't wait to read some new Classics.
posted by stbalbach at 2:25 PM on April 17, 2005


I'm particularly excited about the extended fragment of Archilochus, one of my favorite poets. When are we going to get to see the actual texts? Ah, they say "next month."

*waits*
posted by languagehat at 2:37 PM on April 17, 2005


And not before time.

But let us not forget the work being done on Herculaneum. Also here, here, here.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:42 PM on April 17, 2005


In some cases clear, legible writings have been found on fragments that researchers believed were completely blank.

Very exciting, thanks for this.
posted by mediareport at 2:57 PM on April 17, 2005


this is pretty fucking exciting. I was reading about it at slashdot, and somehow missed that Brigham Young was involved.
posted by Busithoth at 3:11 PM on April 17, 2005


Wow. This is incredible. Hopefully, these'll all be translated and put up on the web? A boy can dream...
posted by klangklangston at 3:34 PM on April 17, 2005


[this is good]
posted by cali at 4:08 PM on April 17, 2005


Of related interest: Archimedes Palimpsest, where multispectral techniques recovered details of Archimedes' calculus-like Method of Mechanical Theorems.
posted by raygirvan at 4:16 PM on April 17, 2005


"Oh, Septimus!--can you bear it? All the lost plays of the Athenians! Two hundred at least by Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides .... How can we sleep for grief?"


This'll help my insomnia! Thanks for the link.
posted by stray at 9:27 PM on April 17, 2005


C'mon, somebody find the Second Book of Aristotle's Poetics.
posted by dhartung at 9:53 PM on April 17, 2005


I. "If you have to explain a joke, it's not funny."

II. "If I cut my finger on a piece of paper, that's tragedy. If you fall into an open manhole and die, that's comedy."

I'm sure there are more.

But seriously folks, this is pretty exciting stuff.
posted by mwhybark at 10:12 PM on April 17, 2005


There is an irresistible irony in the participation of Brigham Young University, in that Joseph Smith perpetrated fraudulent translations of the Bible and his so-called Book of Abraham.
posted by QuietDesperation at 10:25 PM on April 17, 2005


If you want to know more, there's a series of Radio Four programmes about oxyrhynchos.
posted by johnny novak at 2:06 AM on April 18, 2005


From the Oxyrhynchus list of papers

1266 Examination for Membership of the Gymnasium 98

Here's betting it's a piece wondering why they spent all that money joining the gym and only went twice.
posted by ciderwoman at 4:08 AM on April 18, 2005


Let's hope it's not all just financial records.

In 3,000 years, someone's going to be digging through our trash heaps and wondering why the feces of our infants was so precious that we encased it all in permanent plastic bundles. What'll confuse them even more is all the copies of The Davinci Code they'll find....
posted by Jon-o at 6:39 AM on April 18, 2005


In 3,000 years, someone's going to be digging through our trash heaps and wondering ...

Brings to mind Walter Miller's "A Canticle for Leibowitz".
posted by ericb at 8:50 AM on April 18, 2005


This is indeed exciting. Oh, and, languagehat, a few weeks ago we got a significant new Archilochus text from Oxyrhynchus: image and translation, Java applet to display partial preliminary reconstructed edition. It will be interesting to see how much we get, how quickly, and in how usable a form, in the case of the texts read by this new technique.
posted by Zurishaddai at 12:48 PM on April 18, 2005


Also, Scotsman article (nothing really new here).
posted by Zurishaddai at 12:52 PM on April 18, 2005


Of course, it's quite possible Greece's literary reputation will suffer as a result, especially if the recovered texts turn out to be the ancient equivalents of The Purpose-Driven Life, Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, and Chicken Soup for the _____ Soul.
posted by gigawhat? at 1:43 PM on April 18, 2005


Languagehat: Oxyrhynchus Online has a few fragments online, and many links that I haven't explored yet.

There's not much poetry, but there is an interesting fragment from Revelations placing the number of the Beast at 616, and not 666 as later texts claim.

I don't know why, but I find this terribly amusing.
posted by kanewai at 2:45 PM on April 18, 2005


Slate has a little piece on the technology.
posted by Zurishaddai at 12:08 PM on April 19, 2005


The "classical holy grail" or unholy hype?

"Some of the papyrologists on the "PAPY list," the listserv where many papyrologists from around the world make announcements, ask questions, etc., were openly derisive of the article [published in the Independent on April 17, 2005]....So as of right now, the rest of the papyrological community is waiting to hear Dirk Obbink at Oxford either back up or disavow the claims made in the article. At the very best, the Independent's reporters are covering some kind of new imaging breakthrough in an extremely hyperbolic fashion. And at the worst, they're trying to make a major story out of 20-year-old news."
posted by ericb at 4:45 PM on April 20, 2005


A thing of beauty is (now) a joy forever

"My new heroes are the Brigham Young researchers whose scanners have unveiled ancient fragments of Sophocles, Euripides and the earliest Gospels." [Salon | April 19, 2005 - requires free registration for day pass]
posted by ericb at 4:46 PM on April 20, 2005


Thanks for the hype link, ericb. I just came to post it myself. See also the discussion. It's true that the basic technology has been around for a while, and it's proving quite hard to get a trustworthy fix on what exactly, if anything, is new or worth all these hopes.
posted by Zurishaddai at 10:40 AM on April 21, 2005


Cautious optimism from a papyrology email list:

Ariel Loftus: I too went to a presentation a few weeks ago by Roger McFarlane from BYU where the results of multi-spectral imaging were very dramatic. Roger showed a Greek papryus that had been previously published as Latin, but could be read in its entirety as Greek with some Latin words. He suggested that the technology could also be used on unrolled scrolls because it can be used to read through layers - the technology has been developed for industrial uses, whereas previous imaging techniques were from the medical field, apparently this makes all the difference. My impression was that the BYU team is interested in having people try the technology.

Jeff Fish: The team from BYU photographed the Herculaneum papyri a few years ago, and most of us didn't think the results would amount to much, since various techniques had already been tried on the papyri, including photography in the infrared range. We were amazed by the success of the project, which seems to have been brought about by a combination of expertise and state of the art equipment. In places we could read long stretches of text we didn't know were on the papyrus at all. Whatever lies behind the article in the Independent, if the BYU team are getting similar results with the with the Oxyrhynchus texts, we have much to look forward to indeed.
posted by Zurishaddai at 10:58 AM on April 21, 2005


Finally, the scoop from on high
posted by Zurishaddai at 7:47 PM on April 21, 2005


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