A New Article on the (ex-)Green Collection Sappho Papyri

Thanks to Mike Holmes for notifying me that the latest issue of Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik contains an article by Museum of the Bible curator Brian Hyland that reports what is now known about the purchase of the Green Collection Sappho fragments. The article expands on a preliminary report by Mike Holmes published here in January 2020.

The article is a detailed overview of Hyland’s efforts to get to the bottom of how Scott Carroll, Professor Dirk Obbink, and the Turkish dealer Yakup Eksioglu together brought these fragments from unknown origins into the Green Collection in late 2011 and early 2012. Perhaps the most interesting new evidence in the article are photographs of the “cartonnage” chunks that contained the Sappho fragments. As Hyland notes, it is remarkable that all the Sappho fragments are placed in an orderly fashion right on the surface of the chunks. I reproduce one of Hyland’s figures here:

Image source: Brian D. Hyland, “A Note on the Provenance of the Sappho Fragments P.GC. inv. 105,” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 218 (2021), 1–16.

The clear and sensible fashion in which the Sappho fragments are placed on the surface of the “cartonnage” is very reminiscent of the Green Collection 1 Samuel papyrus that also came from “a Turkish dealer“:

I’ll have more to say as I digest the data in this article.

This entry was posted in Dirk Obbink, Green Collection 1 Samuel, Green Collection Sappho, P.Sapph. Obbink. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to A New Article on the (ex-)Green Collection Sappho Papyri

  1. Greg Matthews says:

    JSTOR only archives to 2017 for this journal.

  2. “Nothing seemed suspicious at the time”. I believe the second part of the sentences must have gone lost: ‘to those who decided not to think about the massive problems under their noses.’ Mainly male noses, as it is often the case.

  3. David Meadows ~ rogueclassicist says:


  4. Susanna Kinzig says:

    First of all: Thank you for all the wonderful research you have been doing on the Sappho-papyri. I love your blog (although I am devasted by what has happened with Dirk Obbink).
    I am doing research on the (ex-)Green-Collection Sappho Papyri and stumbled on the “ex-“. I read Sampsons excellent articles, where he states, that the Green-Collection Sappho Papyri were part of the papyri, that were given back to Egypt by the Greens: “The Museum of the Bible’s recent announcement acknowledges the “insufficient reliable provenance information” of its papyri — including its Sappho fragments” ( Sampson in https://theconversation.com/lovers-of-sappho-thrilled-by-new-poetry-find-but-its-backstory-may-have-been-fabricated-151176). But he refers to a link (https://www.museumofthebible.org/newsroom/update-on-iraqi-and-egyptian-items) where the MOTB does not say anything about the Sappho-papyri.
    Since you also say “ex” I wanted to ask, where that information comes from, that the papyri were given back to Egypt.

    • Thanks for the kind words. You’re right that the MOTB has not (to my knowledge) said anything publicly about the return of the Sappho papyri specifically. But I have assumed (along with most others, I think) that the Sappho fragments would have been included in roughly 5000 pieces sent to Egypt earlier this year (https://brentnongbri.com/2021/01/28/museum-of-the-bible-papyri-in-egypt/). By the time that material was delivered to Egypt, it was already known that the Sappho fragments in the Green Collection had been bought from the Turkish dealer Eksioglu, who could not provide a plausible story for the origin of the fragments. They would thus be among those that Steve Green described as having “insufficient reliable provenance information” and thus returned to the probable country of origin. As far as I know, Hobby Lobby / the Green Collection / Museum of the Bible now only have about a dozen or so papyri in their holdings: the Bodmer Psalms codex, the (legally bought) Oxyrhynchus distribution pieces, and a couple others.

  5. Susanna Kinzig says:

    And I should add: I could not find any number of payri in Candida Moss’s and Baden’s book “Bible nation” either (I am still reading it, so it might pop up somewhere…). It only says, that they hold about 40 000 pieces without specifying it (p. 59 and p. 172), although there seem to be 10 000 to 15 000 books among it (Trobisch, p. 60).

  6. David Meadows ~ rogueclassicist says:

    I was curious whether the returned items were even identified before being returned … very curious whether there are some items known as missing from other collections made their way into the 5000

    • My guess is that many of the pieces were returned without their contents being identified. I don’t know that a fully qualified specialist in documentary papyri (as opposed to literary papyri) ever had a look at the collections in OKC or DC.

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