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The Oxyrhynchus Papyri Project: an AHRC 10th Anniversary film

To celebrate the AHRC's 10th Anniversary, this film looks back to the year 2005 when the AHRC first became a Research Council. One of the first projects we funded as a Research Council was the Oxyrhynchus Papyri Project.

The Oxyrhynchus Papyri is a collection of papyri excavated in the late 19th and early 20th century from the rubbish dumps of the ancient city of Oxyrhynchus in Egypt. The collection, which consists of around 500,000 fragments of papyri, was initially a random mass of everyday papers that the citizens of the city had thrown away - including private letters, shopping lists, tax returns, horoscopes, and government circulars.

The Oxyrhynchus Papyri Project is currently led by Professor Nikolaos Gonis from University College London. In this film we hear how the project, which is seeking to conserve, transcribe and publish the entire Papyri collection, has been running for over 30 years – funded for the last decade by the AHRC.

AHRC funding is allowing the continued conservation, preservation, transcription and publication of the papyri. Crucially, the AHRC’s funding has also allowed time and resources for the researchers to engage the general public in the research. From exhibitions and open days, to projects that allow the public the chance to transcribe fragments online, the project is committed to providing access to the collection to anyone and everyone with an interest in this ancient jigsaw puzzle.

In a lively anecdote that features in the film, Oxyrhynchus expert Professor Peter Parsons tells how in 2012 a special volume of Papyri was published to coincide with the London Olympics. One of the fragments was a contract which asked the father of a young wrestler to throw match for a small fee. Not in the Olympic spirit of course but, like a great deal of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, it can’t help but capture the imagination.

Publish date Runtime
21/01/2015 6.08