The Tebtunis Papyri in Context
|September 20-December 3, 2000
Bancroft Library Gallery, Berkeley
Every few years, the press runs a story about ancient documents discovered in a library by some intrepid scholar. Such discoveries do indeed 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 the collection contains, but we know that it is a great deal. 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 brought together.
Anthony Bliss, Curator
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