History of Papyrology - beta

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addres P.O. Cairo
Kefr Meir
March 18 1901

My dear Smyly,
You will probably have been expecting
for some time to hear from me, but I have waited
to write until there was something good to report and
if has taken till now . We are just entering on
the 14th week of our excavations,2 the greater part
of the time having been devoted to Ptolemaic cemeteries,
but until the last week with extraordinarily
bad luck. Not taht we have failed to find
papyrus mummies; they have turned by the
hundred. At Dimeh there thwo splendid
cemeteries of them, one 3d cent B.C., the other other
second, sometimes 10 or 15 in a tomb, but
practically all had completely decayed__
as seems inevitable save when the tombs are
very shallow, the mummification very good and
the desert of a particular kind.3 Down to a
a week ago the cemeteries of 3 different
sites (Kom Ushim, Dimeh and Rubayyat)
had proved almost a blank. The last week

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however we have been digging a fourth
Ptolemaic cemetery which has got papyrus
mummies, and though here too much has
decayed we have raised about 20 out of it
in good or very fair condition.4 So at least there
is something solid, and, as we have still two
more cemeteries near here (Rubayyat where we are
camped) to dig, we are, I hope, far from the end yet.5
But it will take a good deal to compensate us for
the reallly herculean efforts we have made. It
has been an exhausting season. While on the
north side of Birket el Ḳurûn for two months
we had to have everything, even fresh water, brought
over by boat from the south side (1 1/2 hours)
and owing to gales were occasionally left
in the lurch, though we never actually had a
water famine.6 The scene of the work varied
from 2 to 7 miles [sic] distance from the camp
which had to be pitched on the edge of the
lake in a swamp.7 Hunt got a touch of
malaria in January, but a week in Cairo
set him all right again.8 The last month since
we have been at Rubayyat has been much

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more comfortable; we are on the edge of the
cultivation and civilisation instead of 16
or miles or more from it by land.9 The cemetery
we are digging at present is however 4 miles
off10 which makes a fatiguing day of it. I start
off at 6.30 a.m. and dont return till 6.30. p.m.
In order to get on fast, I have 130 workmen now
partly Arabs, partly fellahîn, who tend to
quarrel a good bit.11 One of the periodical fights occurred
the other day, and I descended into the arena to part
them with the result that my shoulder is still stiff
from the vigour with which I belaboured the
heads of both parties!12
Despite the heat which will soon be rather
excessive, we expect to go on digging till
April 20,13 so it will be May by the time
I am back probably.14 I hope the Press sent
you ^or Mahaffy proofs of the Amherst vol. (the Ptolemaic
portion).15 Could you kindly return them
to Oxford by the end of April. We have to
finish the vol. was soon as we get back, so
it will be June before we can start

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the crocodiles.16 Has anything good turned up
in the papayri you have?17
The bad luck which has attended us this year
will partly be made up by other discoveries.
Jouguet has been digging at Medinet Madi
and though he didnt find anything there, the
natives got hold of a good ^Ptolemaic cemetery about
6 miles away, so he was able to cut in
and find some papyrus mummies.18 He came
to pay us a visit in Dec. and we became great
friends.19 But nature did not design a Frenchman
of the Midi for either a scholar or an excavator20
At Illahun also last autumn one of the Museum inspectors
(a native) dug up a few papyrus mummies,
mostly in rather bad condition and late (I noticed
one dated in the 50th year of Euerg. II).21 Jouguet
had when we were in Cairo got hold of these, but
now that he has found some of his own, he may be
less keen, and I will try and arrange with the
Museum people that they should be sent over for
Mahaffy and you.22 But of course I can promise
nothing He (M.) will have to restrain his
impatience again about our finds of this year

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for they wont get published till 1903— if then.23
Returning to England so late this year, we
shall be more pressed for time than ever
this summer, and there is I fear little chance of
our visit to Dublin coming off. But you
will I hope come to Oxford.24 It is a great pity
you cant visit us out here. To get up at 5.30
ad be out 12 hours every day would do you
a lot of good.

Love to Mahaffy

1. In correspondence from the field, Grenfell indicates the location from which his letter has been posted. His correspondence from the Oxyrhynchus excavation is thus labelled "Beni-Mazar" (the location of the closest postal facilities) and not "Behnesa." Here Grenfell gives two locations, possibly because he was uncertain whether the first had postal service. "Kafr Meir" presumably corresponds to Kafr 'Amira, ca. 8 km southwest from Grenfell and Hunt's campsite at ar-Rūbīyāt (so Google Maps; consulted 1 1 November 2016). "Edwa" is al-'Idwa, ca. 14.5 km southwest of Rüblyät; though its post office seems to have been constructed only in 1905 (cf. W. Garstin, Report upon the Administration of the Public Works Department in Egypt for 1905 [Cairo 1906] 108), its presence on a rail line suggests access of some sort to mail service. Garstin writes of the post office as "available for other villages."

2. "Excavations," 1900-1901 (n. 3) 4, gives the start of the season as 17 December 1900, corroborating Grenfell's calculation here.

3. Cf. "Excavations," 1900-1901 (n. 3) 4-5, which mentions four cemeteries (three for humans, one for crocodiles). In his letter to Smyly, Grenfell is presumably referring to the "numerous well-tombs of the early Ptolemaic period" (p. 4) and the cemetery "[n]ear the town on the north-west ... of a later period (second or first century B.C.)" (p. 5). In the EEF report, it is only in connection with the first of these nekropoleis that mummies are counted; the tombs there had "one or more chambers, each containing sometimes one or two, often five to ten." For all four cemeteries, see further M. Capasso and P. Davoli, eds., Soknopaiou Nesos Project I (2003-2009) (Pisa 2012) 16 (noting also p. 11). Smyly 's Hellenistic interests may account for Grenfell' s silence about the other work that was undertaken at or near the site; see "Excavations," 1900-1901 (n. 3) 5-6.

4. Cf. "Excavations," 1900-1901 (n. 3) 6-7, which does not state the number of mum- mies (only that they were "numerous") and reads more positively. The EEF report indicates that the cemetery in question is near "Manashinshâneh" ("perhaps [ancient] Tanis," p. 6); for this location and further discussion, see P. Davoli, L'archeologia urbana nel Fayyum di età ellenistica e romana (Naples 1998) 165, and K. Muhlestein and B. Jensen, "The Mummy Portraits of Fag el-Gamous," Studia Antiqua 12 (2013) 54-56. Note also J.G. Keenan, "Deserted Villages: From the Ancient to the Medieval Fayydm," BASP 40 (2003) 138 (on Old Shāna and New Shāna). Hunt's packing list (n. 8) curiously makes no mention of "Manashinshâneh"; it may be that the objects recovered there are subsumed in the "Rubayyat" listing. "Fourth": Grenfell is counting sites with Ptolemaic nekropoleis, not individual cemeteries.

5. "Excavations," 1900-1901 (n. 3) 7, indicates that Grenfell and Hunt worked only one additional cemetery (the Roman one at ar-RūbIyāt).

6. For these logistical difficulties, cf. A.E.R. Boak (ed.), Soknopaiou Nesos: The Uni- versity of Michigan Excavations at Dime in 1931-32 (Ann Arbor 1935)

7. "7 miles": An oblique reference, presumably, to Grenfell and Hunt's work at "Yâkûta" (MedTnet Qûta), concerning which see "Excavations," 1900-1901 (n. 3) 6. For the site, (inaccurately) described by Grenfell and Hunt as "six miles west from the lake," see Davoli (n. 19) 325-327.

8. Hunt's illness unsurprisingly goes unmentioned in "Excavations," 1900-1901 (n. 3). Less than a year earlier he had "caught the influenza" in Cairo (24 April 1900 letter from B.P. Grenfell to E.J. Goodspeed, Edgar J. Goodspeed papers, box 4, folder 9, Special Col- lections Research Center, University of Chicago).

9. "16 miles": Cf. "Excavations," 1900-1901 (n. 3) 4. Presumably Grenfell is referring to a land journey around the east end of the Birket Qārūn.

10. "Excavations," 1900-1901 (n. 3) 6, gives the distance as "[a]bout five miles."

11. By way of comparison, the maximum number of workmen at Bahnasā during Grenfell and Hunt's first season there was 1 10; cf. Grenfell, "Oxyrhynchus and its papyri" (n. 3) 7. Grenfell no doubt means "Bedouin" when he speaks of "Arabs"; for the employment of Bedouin and fallāhīn on excavations, cf. S. Quirke, Hidden Hands: Egyptian Workforces in Petrie Excavation Archives, 1880-1924 (London 2010) 91-92.

12. Grenfell' s use of physical violence would seem to stand in contrast to his mentor Petrie 's practice; see M.S. Drower, Flinders Petrie: A Life in Archaeology, 2nd ed. (Madison 1995) 180-181. Drower (p. 430) credits Petrie with revolutionizing "the attitude of an excavator towards his workmen, by insisting on supervising them personally, and substituting for the kurbash [hippopotamus-hide whip] a sympathetic and personal rela-tionship and a system of rewards for care and vigilance."

13. Beyond bringing warmer temperatures, April is also the usual month of the khamsīn. Grenfell refers to this hot, dusty wind by its Italian name (sirocco) in letter 2 (p. 5).

14. Grenfell was back in Oxford on 4 May 1901 (IE TCD MS 4323, no. 46).

15. A reference to P.Amh. II, the preface of which acknowledges Smyly, not Mahaffy, for "many valuable suggestions on the Ptolemaic texts" (p. v). For John Pentland Mahaffy (1839-1919), see W.B. Stanford and R.B. McDowell, Mahaffy: A Biography of an Anglo-Irishman (London 1971). "The Press": Oxford University Press.

16. "The crocodiles": A reference to the Ptolemaic papyri recovered from the Tebtunis crocodile mummies; these texts would be published in P.Tebt. I (1902), a volume for which Smyly would receive equal editorial credit alongside Grenfell and Hunt. P.Amh. II, which bears a 1901 date on its title page, appeared late in that year; in the 17 January 1902 edition of the (London) Times it is listed among the "New Books and New Editions" (p. 10).

17. A reference to crocodile papyri from the Tebtunis excavation that had been sent to Smyly. Smyly may have replied to GrenfelTs query, for IE TCD MS 4323, no. 46, 5 May 1901, expresses regret that Smyly's "crocodiles" are not "more interesting."

18. For Jouguet, see, e.g., G. Husson, "Pierre Jouguet (1869-1949)," in Hermae: Scholars and Scholarship in Papyrology 1 (Pisa 2007) 143-152, and A. Merlin, "Notice sur la vie et les travaux de M. Pierre Jouguet, membre de l'Académie," Comptes rendus des séances de V Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres 94 (1950) 392-406. The cemetery "about six miles away" - Google Maps (consulted 16 November 2016) indicates that the distance is actually about 6 km - was Kõm Medinet GuTān. Jouguet, "Fouilles du Fayoum: Rapport sur les fouilles de Médinet-Mâ'di et Médinet-Ghôran," BCH 25 (1901) 384-385, describes the impetus for his "change of venue" as follows: "Le nazir d'une esbeh voisine m'avait apporté les débris d'un sarcophage et un fragment de cartonnage en papyrus, où par une déchirure on lisait quelques mots d'un document grec. Il était clair qu'ils provenaient d'un cimetière de la région. Il fallait donc avant tout découvrir ce cimetière et l'arracher aux pillards. Des bédouins qui travaillaient à la fouille me conduisirent presque aussitôt à Médinet-Ghôran.

19. 34 Cf. Jouguet (n. 33) 380-381, n. 1 (end), "[J]e n'oublierai jamais les journées heu- reuses passées chez eux [Grenfell and Hunt] à Kôm-Oushim [where Grenfell and Hunt started their season; cf. p. 1 of the letter], ni les conversations, par lesquelles ils m'initiaient amicalement à leurs recherches." It seems odd that Husson (n. 33) makes no mention of the relationship.

20. 35 Jouguet was born in Bessèges in the Gard département ; see, e.g., Merlin (n. 33) 393. Its other implications aside, Grenfell's judgment here would seem to be rash: Jouguet would later occupy a "place eminente au sein des papyrologues fondateurs" and be honored in the same breath as Hunt (Husson [n. 33] 148).

21. The 50th year of Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II was 121/120 BC.

22. 37 Jouguet would retain control of these papyri, which are currently divided between Paris and Cairo; see the website of the Institut de Papyrologie de la Sorbonne, which notes, "[L]e fonds Jouguet contient aussi des documents provenant d'El-Lahoun (Ptolémaïs Hor- mou) confiés pour étude par G. Maspero, dont une partie fut rendue, après étude, à l'Egypte avec quelques documents provenant de Ghoran et Magdôla," http://www.papyrologie.par- is-sorbonne.fr/menul/jouguet.htm (accessed 17 November 2016). See also P.Lille I, p. 2. Smyly, however, would end up being involved in the publication of some of them: The introduction to P. Lille 1 states, "[N]ous sommes tout particulièrement obligés à M. J. Gilbart Smyly, professeur à l'Université de Dublin; pendant un séjour à Lille, il a revu une grande partie des originaux et nous a fait profiter de son expérience, de sa science et de sa méthode avec une libéralité dont je lui garde un affectueuse gratitude" (p. 5). None of the published texts date to the 50th year of Euergetes II (in this regard note also W. Clarysse and H. Hauben, "Ten Ptolemaic Granary Receipts from Pyrrheia," ZPE 89 [1991] 47-68

21. Cf. "Excavations," 1900-1901 (n. 3) 7, "The first instalment of our finds, which are now all at Oxford pending a subsequent division with the Gizeh Museum, will probably form the annual volume of the Graeco-Roman Branch for 1902-3." Grenfell's "1903" is echoed in a letter to Smyly of 5 May 1901 (IE TCD MS 4323, no. 46). In the event, he and Hunt would not publish any of the papyri from their 1900/1901 excavations. According to MS 4323, no. 46, the number of good or fair "papyrus mummies" recovered during the season was about 30, "besides pieces of many others."

24. IE TCD MS 4323, no. 46, sent by Grenfell from Oxford and dated 5 May 1901, reiterates the impossibility of a Dublin visit, at least before autumn. It does, however, indicate that Smyly was planning to come to Oxford that July (he would in fact appear in August; cf., e.g., IE TCD MS 4323, no. 71).

Cite this page: Center for the Tebtunis Papyri. Document 68. History of Papyrology. https://histpap.info/letters/68/.