Papyri Currently on Display
From Trace to Text: Highlights from the University of Michigan Papyrus Collection
This exhibit provides a behind-the-scenes look at the work of papyrologists: how they conserve scraps of often badly damaged papyri, decipher traces of ink, read and translate the resulting text, edit and interpret its contents, and make this available to both scholars and the general public. Modern technology, such as digitization and multi-spectral imaging, is aiding papyrologists in all of these efforts. Texts on display are some of the highlights of the collection. They include a wonderful drawing of an elephant, a letter from a newly enlisted soldier to his mother, and, of course, some pages of P 46, the Epistles of St. Paul (one of the most famous texts of the collection). The exhibit is free and open to the public and runs from September 22 to December 22, 2010 and is located in the Audubon Room on the first floor of the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library.
These resources provide the next best thing to studying actual ancient documents, which is unfortunately not possible for the majority of students. While students of Latin or Greek will find opportunities here to read ancient texts via digital images, knowledge of these languages is not a prerequisite to using these resources. Most of these pages can be enjoyed by students with minimal familiarity with ancient civilizations.
Early education in Graeco-Roman Egypt was a lot more informal than education is today. Students would be provided with an education to suit the demands that later life was expected to place upon them. For instance, a child who was expected to become a tradesman or woman would be sent to apprentice with a master craftsman. Another child, expected to follow in his father's footsteps as an engineer might be provided a private tutor so that he might learn his letters and arithmetic. Some parents would send their children to village "schoolhouses" where they could attain an education that was appropriate to their social status.
This exhibit brings together examples that show how documents can help scholars reconstruct people's lives in ancient Egypt in the ten centuries after Alexander the Great arrived in 332 B.C.E. After Alexander's conquest, Egypt became a Hellenistic (Greek) kingdom under the dynasty of the Ptolemies. Three centuries later, when the Romans defeated the Egyptian queen Cleopatra, Egypt became part of the Roman Empire and later Byzantine Empire.
In antiquity people felt keen anxieties regarding document security just as we do in the modern age. Learn more about how ancient people used clay seals to protect their sensitive documents and how modern conservators can break those seals to reveal the contents with a minimum of damage to the document.
The art of papyrus making has been dead for a thousand years. Now, based on ancient methods, a local paper maker rediscovers the process of making a paper-like material from the stem of the papyrus plant. Follow along in this photo exhibit!
From birth certificates to magic spells, many things were written down in the ancient world. This informative exhibit features many photographs of objects and texts from the University of Michigan's holdings, used to illustrate the process and various uses of writing in ancient Egypt.
A rare collection of documents tracing the development of the Bible from ancient Egyptian manuscripts to the modern printed book is periodically on display at the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library.
This is the online version of the exhibition Oxyrhynchus: A City and its Texts, celebrating a hundred years of publication of The Oxyrhynchus Papyri. The exhibition accompanies a three-day conference with papers on the ancient city. The Exhibition was held in July and August 1998 in the Eric North Room, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Certain exhibition items will be published with fuller discussion in the conference proceedings.
This Roman era papyrus contains the sort of musical notation used by instrumental musicians in antiquity. The papyrus is a fragment from what was probably a collection of melodies for performance, perhaps intended for the ancient aulos, a woodwind not unlike a modern oboe; or, less likely, the ancient kithara, the performance version of a lyre.
The Kelsey Museum has a unique collection of excavated musical instruments from its work on Roman period sites in Egypt, as well as a complement of artifacts both excavated and purchased that relate to musical instruments and the people who played them. We are also fortunate in the generous loan of papyri from the University Library that include actual musical notation, as well as documents of the lives of musicians in Roman Egypt. Supplemented with material on display in the permanent displays, this exhibition provides insight into an important aspect of ancient life.