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01.03.2010 11:37

Papyrus in international database opens door to antiquity

Jenny Björkman Informationsavdelningen / Communications Department
Schwedischer Forschungsrat - The Swedish Research Council

    In today's Web-based society more and more information is just a click away. In a recently completed project at Lund University Library in Sweden, a collection of papyrus has been catalogued and made available via the international site APIS.

    In a private letter from the 100s, a soldier writes to his siblings to inform them that he has been promoted to 'principalis.' He writes with Greek letters but misspells it as 'prinkiparis,' that is, confusing 'l' and 'r,' a mistake we recognize to this day. The misspelling shows that he probably was not a native speaker of Greek. This letter and a number of others can be read in papyrus form at Lund University Library, but with this new initiative regarding the collection, it is now possible to find it on the Net in the international database APIS.

    "This material was previously stored in a vault, but this cataloguing makes it available to researchers all over the world," says Karin Kulneff-Eriksson, who directed the project.

    It is important to support research infrastructure in the humanities and social sciences. It involves both making material available and cataloguing it, but also conserving the material in the best way. The collection in Lund is Sweden's largest collection on papyrus, comprising some 800 papyruses from ancient Egypt. They date from a couple of centuries before the common era up to the 500s and deal with just about any subject.

    "Quite a lot consists of just fragments with just one or two letters left, but other parts are long texts. But I have regarded it as important to get everything into the database - for one thing, since we really cannot know what future researchers will want to study."

    The material tells us a great deal about ancient Egypt. We can study not only the language - primarily Greek, since much of the material is in Greek - but we can also get glimpses of everyday life via the private letters preserved here, or via receipts, legal contracts, etc. The cataloguing and digitizing moreover opens doors to studies by scholars other than papyrologists, that is, those who study papyrus.

    "Only a small portion of this collection has been the object of study previously, but it will now be possible to examine the entire collection. Researchers can sit anywhere in the world and study the material whenever they like," says Karin Kulneff-Eriksson.

    There are already a couple of new studies done at UC Berkeley based on the Lund collection, but more are in the pipeline. What is interesting about APIS is also that it includes links and references not only to the Lund material but also to a very large quantity of material around the world. This paves the way for many new studies in which the material can be analyzed in a way that was previously not possible.

    APIS stands for Advance Papyrological Information System, and it was important to Karin Kulneff-Eriksson to perform the cataloguing in collaboration with them.

    "They are an international organization dedicated to making papyrus material available, and by working together with them and using their cataloguing system, we were able to link our material - which was photographed in its entirety - to their material, which available on the Web free of charge, an important feature that makes it a accessible as possible."

    What's more, research on papyrus and on material from antiquity is truly international, and the Swedish material is now available internationally. The collection can now be accessed via APIS, where ultimately all images from the Lund material will be found together with catalog cards, and via Lund University.

    More information about the project will be provided by project director Karin Kulneff-Eriksson (karin.kulneff@gmail.com).

    Pressofficer Jenny Björkman; jenny.bjorkman@rj.se; +46-8 506 26 433


    Weitere Informationen:

    http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/projects/digital/apis/ Link to APIS and the Lund papyruses


    Merkmale dieser Pressemitteilung:
    Geschichte / Archäologie
    überregional
    Forschungsprojekte
    Englisch


    In a private letter from the 100s, a soldier writes to his siblings to inform them that he has been promoted to 'principalis.' He writes with Greek letters but misspells it as 'prinkiparis,' that is, confusing 'l' and 'r,' a mistake we recognize to this day. The misspelling shows that he probably was not a native speaker of Greek.


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