The papyrus formerly known as “First Century” Mark, which is now second or third (or fourth) century Mark, has finally appeared. Elijah Hixson’s original post has now been updated several times and now includes a picture of the papyrus in question. (UPDATE: The picture has been removed from their site per the request of the Egypt Exploration Society. The EES has now made their edition of the papyrus and a picture available here.)
The image is not great, but I don’t see any processing number written on it. This is unfortunate, because that could have potentially confirmed that the piece came from the expeditions of Grenfell and Hunt and possibly pinned down a year of excavation. As far as assigning a date, there is really very little to go on, and we need to see better pictures. At first glance, it reminds me a bit (despite its upsilon) of P.Oxy. 3.412 (LDAB 2550), a fragment of a papyrus roll of the Kestoi of Julius Africanus, which is datable to some point between 227 and about 276 CE (contents establish the terminus post quem, reuse of the back of the papyrus for a will establishes the terminus ante quem). I’ll be curious to see the editors’ discussion of the handwriting.
In any event, in a follow up to their earlier announcement, the Egypt Exploration Society states emphatically that the papyrus did come from the work of Grenfell and Hunt, probably in 1903:
The EES also states that the papyrus was never for sale. Scott Carroll, however, reiterates that the papyrus was in fact for sale, so there is still some clarification that is needed on that point:
But back to the EES: They make reference to the inventory number: 104/14(b) and a connection to the 1903 season of Grenfell and Hunt. It would be great if someone at the EES or Oxford would publicly explain exactly how this particular numbering system works. Unlike the more common inventory numbers (which I discussed in an earlier post), this system, xxx/yy(z), doesn’t seem to be widely known. I had been under the impression that numbers in this format were associated with boxes of papyri that Hunt set aside in his Queens College office, but I’m not sure what the fate of those pieces was. At least some of them now seem to be in the Ashmolean.
In 2001, Martin L. West published a list of catalogued but unpublished papyri of the Iliad from Oxyrhynchus. Here is how he described them:
“Nos. 705-1544 are unpublished papyri from Oxyrhynchus in the Papyrology Room at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. The world will share my gratitude to the Egypt Exploration Society for allowing me to use them for my edition. In accordance with the Society’s wishes, I did not give any details of these papyri in the edition. I now have the Society’s permission to divulge the inventory numbers and summary details of those which I had occasion to cite in my apparatus. [A footnote to this sentence adds the following:] The datings given for these papyri are those assigned when they were first identified. Where no dating is offered, it is because none has so far been assigned.”
A couple interesting things here: 1) the preliminary datings–presumably this is where the possibility of a “first century” date for the Mark fragment emerged. 2) In West’s list, there are a lot of numbers in the xxx/yy(z) format, which, according to this statement are among the pieces in the Papyrology Rooms at the Ashmolean Museum. And there are several numbers in West’s list of unpublished Iliad papyri from Oxyrhynchus that are quite similar to that of the Mark fragment. One even has the exact same number. The format is West’s number, the Oxythynchus number, (date in lower case Roman numerals in parentheses, if a date is given), Greek number of book of the Iliad, line number:
857 P. Ashm. inv. 104/88(b): B 315-28
909 P. Ashm. inv. 104/153(a) (iii): Γ 146-60
910 P. Ashm. inv. 104/9(e): Γ 174-87
929 P. Ashm. inv. 104/36(c): Γ 355-64
951 P. Ashm. inv. 104/42(f): Δ 93-9, 121-8
962 P. Ashm. inv. 104/75(b): Δ 220-35, 254-71
986 P. Ashm. inv. 104/104(a) (iii): E 16-26
1054 P. Ashm. inv. 104/92(a): Z 199-210
1120 P. Ashm. inv. 104/9(a) (i-ii): I 4-33
1140 P. Ashm. inv. 104/14(b): I 422-8, 527-33
1292 P. Ashm. inv. 104/84(b): N 833-7
1320 P. Ashm. inv. 104/87(b) (i): O 1-14
1325 P. Ashm. inv. 104/55(a): O 156-61, 208-13
1334 P. Ashm. inv. 104/138(a) (ii-iii): O 389-400
1382 P. Ashm. inv. 104/141(a) (ii): Π 708-17
Other published pieces with similar inventory numbers include the following:
P.Oxy. 67.4564 = 104/62(a); Euripides (3rd or 4th cent. CE)
P.Oxy. 69.4721 = 104/78(d); Isocrates (3rd century CE)
P.Oxy. 71.4821 = 104/164(a) + PSI inv. 122; comm. to Odyssey (second cent. CE)
P.Oxy. 74.4979 = 104/82(c); medical text? (2nd or 3rd cent. CE)
P.Oxy. 78.5134 = 104/117(c); Isocrates (3rd cent. CE)
P.Oxy. 78.5155 = 104/6(f); Plutarch (3rd or 4th cent. CE)
P.Oxy. 81.5264 = 104/54(c); literary text (2nd or 3rd cent. CE)
P.Oxy. 82.5303 = 104/106(b); magical text (3rd cent. CE)
P.Oxy. 82.5306 = 104/3(a); document (4th cent. CE)
Without knowing the precise meaning of each of the numbers, there’s not much that we can say at this point, but I reiterate: If someone who knows the system at Oxford or the EES would care to share the connection between the inventory number and the Grenfell-Hunt excavation season, that would be great.
West has a similar list of unedited Oxyrynchus papyri in his new Odyssey, which he puts in the Sackler library at Oxford (Praefatio vii: “Fragmenta Oxyrhynchica inedita elicui cccviii, Oxonii in
Bibliotheca Sackleriana conservata, quae ut inspicerem benigne concessit Societas Aegypto Explorandae”). Intriguingly, we also have two here with the same number (256 and 324), which seems to confirm that these aren’t unique identifiers (referring to a box instead?). There’s also a 104/14 (a), for whatever that’s worth (490). I might tentatively suggest they’re grouped by date – almost all of them are possibly second century, which goes for the dated Iliad ones as well (though this doesn’t hold up as well with those published elsewhere).
Here’s a list of the Odyssey papyri:
252 P. Oxy. inv. 104/55 (b) (s. ii–iii): α 97–104.
(*)256 P. Oxy. inv. 104/138 (b) (s. ii–iii): α 169–181, 238–243.
292 P. Oxy. inv. 104/31 (b) (s. iii): γ 46–55.
296 P. Oxy. inv. 104/158 (c) (s. ii): γ 141–145.
314 P. Oxy. inv. 104.130 (b) (s. ii–iii): δ 160–168.
(*)324 P. Oxy. inv. 104/38 (b) (s. ii): δ 260–268.
327 P. Oxy. inv. 104/148 (a) (s. ii–iii): δ 355–373.
329 P. Oxy. inv. 104/100 (a) (s. iii): δ 474–477, 516–556.
382 P. Oxy. inv. 104/63 (a) (s. ii–iii): ζ 322–331.
453 P. Oxy. inv. 104/130 (c) (s. ii–iii): ν 197–202.
484 P. Oxy. inv. 104/136 (a) (transcr. M. Malouta; s.i–ii): ρ 67–77.
(*)490 P. Oxy. inv. 104/14 (a) (s. i–ii): ρ 202-211.
504 P. Oxy. inv. 104/30 (a) (s. iii): σ 265–269, 279–281, 292–293, 300–306.
514 P. Oxy. inv. 104/146 (a) (s. i–ii): τ 342–347.
542 P. Oxy. inv. 104/90 (d) (s. ii): ψ 288–300.
h55 P. Oxy. inv. 104/164 (a) (s. ii): comm. ad ο 82–91.
Thanks for this! Very helpful. I think the last item in your list must be P.Oxy. 71.4821.
My pleasure! It’s not 4821, though – that’s his h23:
h23 P.S.I. 1464 + P. Oxy. 4821 (M–P 1210.4, 1211.001; s. ii): comm. ad
μ 122–206, ο 83–91
Yes, the Papyrology Room that used to be part of the Ashmolean Museum is now part of the Sackler Library (which used to be the Ashmolean Library before the Sackler Foundation paid for its renovation). That’s where most of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri are, including most (all?) of the unpublished ones.
Unfortunately I’ve no idea how this particular system of inventory numbers works exactly or what (if anything) it says about the excavation seasons during which a given papyrus was found. The fact of two papyri having the same such inventory number is not necessarily an issue in that a given folio of the Oxford Gazette (where most of the unpublished fragments are still kept) can contain fragments from more than one papyrus.
When it comes to wondering about ‘delays’ and the like, it would be helpful to consider that the collection consists of tens of thousands of individual fragments, which have been published with next to no interruption since the late nineteenth century. The first papyrus published after the war, in 1948, had the serial number 2208; now we’re close to 5400. On average it’s just short of a papyrus a week – which I hope we can agree is not a long time at all, especially since there has never been a team of paid-up papyrologists working specifically and exclusively on publishing the Oxyrhynchus Papyri.
Knaxzhib notes a papyrus a week as a rate of publishing – but if the “week” a papyrus of the Iliad or any other papyrus was identified was 17 years ago (or decades before), why the delay between identification and publishing?
Could the preliminary identifications be released, publically debated, and then later formally released in the Oxyrhynchus series?
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Assuming the Iliad fragments have not been published then it is at least 17 years since they were identified, and the potential exists that they were identified many years (decades?) before 2001. Why is there such a delay in the publication process if they are already identified? But the larger question is what else has been identified many years ago and not yet published?
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Here is a note from a handout I received in 2007/8 in Obbink’s papyrology seminars. It looks like it’s reprinted from somewhere but no source is mentioned: “The inventory numbers in general follow a set pattern, of the form 20 3B.37/D(3)a. Here ’20’ is the number of the present cardboard box; ‘3B’ refers to Grenfell and Hunt’s third campaign at Oxyrhynchus; ’37’ is the series number given within that year to the metal packing box; ‘D’ indicates a layer of papyri inside that box. A few inventory numbers have the form A.B.3.2./A(6); these refer to a separate series of boxes’
Yes, this is from the preface to Volume 44 of The Oxyrhynchus Papyri; see here: https://brentnongbri.com/2018/05/24/so-called-first-century-mark-wow-with-a-coda-on-oxyrhynchus-inventory-numbers/
Sorry yes I rather stupidly posted that without chasing the links, and see that at best this might refer to ‘a separate series of boxes’ – perhaps a change in biscuit tins?! At any rate, if I learn anything of this alternative inventory system, I’ll be sure to pass it along
Thank you for your input on this and your post, Brent.
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