P.Oxy. 31.2604: Writing Exercises and Palaeography

Elijah Hixson has drawn attention this morning to a new volume of The Oxyrhynchus Papyri series that is set to appear. Elijah focuses on a potentially interesting new copy of the Gospel According to Mark, but I must admit that the item that really caught my eye in the description of the new volume was this one:

“There is also a glimpse of the anonymous copyists to whom we owe our texts, practising the various graphic styles from which their customers could choose.”

I wonder if this is another piece similar to P.Oxy. 31.2604, an example of a copyist writing the same hexameter line in different styles of writing that we generally associate with different periods of time:

POxy 31 2604 small

A portion of P.Oxy. 31.2604, a writing exercise; image source: P.Oxy Oxyrhynchus Online

ⲃⲱⲙⲟⲛ ⲟ ⲅ’ⲏⲯⲉ ⲑⲉⲟⲓⲥ ⲍⲁⲙⲉⲛⲏⲥ ⲇⲉ ⲡⲩⲣⲟⲥ ⲕⲉⲭⲩⲧⲟ ⲫⲗⲟⲝ

“He fired an altar to the gods, and a powerful flame of fire poured out.”

As the editor of the piece notes, the hexameter line is a Greek equivalent of the English phrase “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,” a sentence that contains all the letters in the alphabet.  So this hexameter line is ideal for a display of writing skills.

In the first two lines, the hexameter is written in different sizes of a “chancery” hand that is generally associated with the third century CE, while the final line is written in larger majuscule capitals usually associated with the first or early second century CE. So much of palaeographic dating is based on the assumption that graphic difference is always indicative of temporal difference. Examples like this that demonstrate that such an assumption isn’t always safe. I will be curious to see the new Oxyrhynchus exercise.

And while I’m on the topic of the problematic nature of palaeographic dating, I’ll also point out that Christian Askeland has just uploaded an important new chapter on the dating of Coptic literary manuscripts. It is available at his academia.edu site here.

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Matthew and Levi (and James)

A kind of random question via e-mail sent me down a rabbit hole yesterday. The question was this: Does Origen say that Matthew and Levi were not the same person? The answer turns out to be more complicated than I thought. Continue reading

Posted in Textual criticism | 3 Comments

Excavating the Oxyrhynchus Philo Codex

In my previous post, I mentioned that the Oxyrhynchus Philo codex (LDAB 3540) was published in a number of different outlets. There are also some tantalizing hints about the archaeological context of the fragments. Here is the data on the pieces that have (so far) been published: Continue reading

Posted in Antiquities Market, Codices, Find Stories, Maurice Nahman, Oxyrhynchus Papyri | 5 Comments

The Oxyrhynchus Codex of Philo of Alexandria

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P.Oxy. 82.5291, a fragment of a leaf of a papyrus codex containing works of Philo of Alexandria; image source: POxy: Oxyrhynchus Online

It might not look like much at first glance, but one of the scraps published in the 2016 volume of The Oxyrhynchus Papyri (volume 82) belongs to a quite fascinating codex. I’m talking about P.Oxy. 82.5291, a small corner of a papyrus leaf with the remains of four lines of writing on each side. This fragment is part of the so-called Oxyrhynchus Philo codex. This book contained several of the works of the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria. Philo wrote in the first half of the first century CE, and according to most palaeographers, this codex was probably copied in the third century CE. So, it provides a reasonably early witness to the text of Philo’s works. Continue reading

Posted in Codices, Oxyrhynchus Papyri | 3 Comments

Palimpsests among the Tura Codices

A question concerning papyrus (rather than parchment) palimpsests came up recently in the comments over on Bart Ehrman’s blog. I thought I would post here a good example of a papyrus palimpsest, namely the papyrus codex containing the commentary on the Psalms by Didymus the Blind. This codex was discovered in Tura, Egypt in 1941 (I discussed the discovery of the books here and linked to some actual black and white archival film of the site of the discovery in 1941 here). Whoever constructed the codex containing the commentary on the Psalms used recycled papyrus. The papyrus was first used for a document. At some later point, the document was rotated 90 degrees and cut into sheets. The ink that was originally on the papyrus had been washed off, but whoever cleaned the papyrus did a kind of spotty job. Here is an image of one of the leaves of this codex kept at BYU. The horizontal writing is Didymus’s commentary, but in the background you can see traces of the earlier writing (which is oriented perpendicularly to the writing of the commentary). Can you see the Greek letters nu (N) and kappa (K) in the upper margin?

Didymus Palimpsest

Tura Codex V, Commentary on the Psalms by Didymus the Blind; image source: BYU Library Digital Collections

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A Working List of Funerary Sculpture Attributed to Oxyrhynchus

Liverpool World Museum 1970 160

Limestone head of a woman, attributed to Oxyrhynchus; World Museum, Liverpool, 1970.160

As I have been looking into a set of sculptures attributed Oxyrhynchus (in previous posts here and here), some patterns have emerged in terms of acquisition. It seems that the best thing to do is to make a list of pieces that have been attributed to Oxyrhynchus (modern Bahnasa and its environs). This will not include all sculpture attributed to Oxyrhynchus–just the limestone pieces of adults or children in framed niches (or which appear to have been removed from framed niches). So, I’ll use this post to create a running inventory of such pieces, adding (when possible) dates of acquisition, the dealers from whom the pieces were purchased, and the precise stated provenance. Entries in bold have a secure archaeological provenance. A map below shows the locations. Items without a hyperlink are illustrated below the list. Additions and corrections are welcome.

Last updated 18 May 2018 (with thanks to Kathy Zurek-Doule of the Brooklyn Museum). Continue reading

Posted in Antiquities Market, Find Stories, Oxyrhynchus Sculpture, William Matthew Flinders Petrie | 2 Comments

A Bit More on Sculpture Attributed to Oxyrhynchus

In an earlier post, I discussed a set of limestone sculptures usually described as funerary reliefs found at Oxyrhynchus. One of the pieces was a portrait of a woman acquired by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in 1972. I noted that she resembles a more fragmentary piece in the Brooklyn Museum. A bit more searching has turned up some of the other examples of this type of sculpture. Continue reading

Posted in Antiquities Market, Oxyrhynchus Sculpture | 1 Comment