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Additions to the Tebtunis Papyri Collection
The Bancroft Library
In the winter of 1899-1900, Phoebe Apperson Hearst funded an excavation of the ancient Egyptian village of Tebtunis on behalf of the University of California. More than 35,000 fragments of papyri, including priceless pieces of ancient Greek and Egyptian literature and documents illuminating the daily life of the village’s inhabitants over 1,700 years ago, were uncovered. The boxes include fragments of Euripides’ "Phoenician Women" and Homer’s "Odyssey," an ancient medical handbook, and the papers of an influential prophetess of the local crocodile god.
Literature from antiquity usually tells us about elites. The papyri give us evidence about other strata of society, a much wider range of people than we'd know about if we only had the classical authors to go on. There's a fundamental humanity here. When we read these, we encounter shared hopes and fears, joys and disappointments, even though there are 2000 years separating us.