Charlotte Higgins has just published a long story in The Guardian on Dirk Obbink. It is a very nice compilation of what we know and how the stories of the Sappho papyrus and the stolen Oxyrhynchus papyrus intersect. It also contains some new revelations:
- Dirk Obbink has been “suspended from duties” at Oxford since October 2019
- “The alleged thefts [of Oxyrhynchus papyri] were reported to Thames Valley police on 12 November. No one has yet been arrested or charged.”
- Mike Sampson (University of Manitoba) has analyzed a Christie’s brochure in pdf format obtained from “an academic source” that offers the London Sappho papyrus for sale; Sampson has determined through the pdf metadata that there were attempts to sell the papyrus privately in 2013 and 2015
- The Christie’s brochure is said to contain images of the cartonnage from which the Sappho papyrus fragments were extracted. Recall that Professor Obbink’s stories about the origins of the Sappho papyrus have changed over time; first it was said to have come from mummy cartonnage, then later from “industrial” cartonnage. The Christie’s brochure contains “images that purport to show how the two different types of cartonnage – mummy cartonnage and industrial cartonnage – were confused. One picture shows a brightly painted blue-and-red piece of mummy cartonnage lying in a ceramic basin beside a brown mass of what appears to be flattened papyrus, described as ‘cartonnage’. The caption recaps the final story reported by Obbink – that the two items were muddled up in a ‘confusion of processing’. However, in the opinion of Sampson, it ‘defies belief’ that the entirely different objects could have been confused.”
- “Perhaps Sampson’s most telling finding, though, is that parts of the Sappho manuscript were shown in public when they were supposedly still undiscovered in a wodge of industrial cartonnage. According to his study of the PDF’s metadata, the photographs of the materials sitting side by side in the ceramic basin, prior to ‘processing’, were taken on 14 February 2012. And yet there is video footage of Scott Carroll brandishing 26 small fragments of the Sappho, those that ended up belonging to the Greens, a week earlier, on 7 February 2012.”
Check out the full story at The Guardian‘s website.