Variant Readings

P.Oxy. 83.5345: A Picture and Still More on Inventory Numbers

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In 2001, Martin L. West published a list of catalogued but unpublished papyri of the Iliad from Oxyrhynchus.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“Nos. 705-1544 are unpublished papyri from Oxyrhynchus in the Papyrology Room at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.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.