What is Papyrology?

What is Papyrology?

The word papyrology refers to the fact that papyrologists often study texts written on ancient papyrus. Papyrus is an ancient Egyptian writing material made from the papyrus plant, and from which we get the modern word "paper". (To learn about the manufacture of papyrus, see How Ancient Papyrus Was Made). In addition to the thousands of texts written on papyrus, papyrologists also study writings on other materials, such as pot-sherds, wax tablets, wood, linen, and parchment. The University of Michigan Papyrus Collection has examples of various writing materials which can be viewed on the Ancient Writing Materials page.

Although most of our texts come from Egypt, papyrologists generally study documents which are written in Greek. That is because Greek was the official language of the government during the time period of interest to us. Although papyrus was used for thousands of years, from 3000 BC to 1000 AD, most of the texts studied by papyrologists come from the time period between the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great (c. 330 BC) and the Arab conquest of Egypt (c. 600 AD).

Next: Why Study Papyrology?

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Last modified: 03/11/2014