Monday, April 18, 2005

New old books; an exciting discovery

Here's some remarkable news from today's The Independent:
For more than a century, it has caused excitement and frustration in equal measure - a collection of Greek and Roman writings so vast it could redraw the map of classical civilisation. If only it was legible.

Now, in a breakthrough described as the classical equivalent of finding the holy grail, Oxford University scientists have employed infra-red technology to open up the hoard, known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, and with it the prospect that hundreds of lost Greek comedies, tragedies and epic poems will soon be revealed.

Wow. In the past four days, Oxford scholars have discovered previously unknown writings by classicists Sophocles and Euripides, among others. And them seem to think it very likely that they'll uncover some lost Christian texts, as well.

The papyrus fragments were discovered in historic dumps outside the Graeco-Egyptian town of Oxyrhynchus ("city of the sharp-nosed fish") in central Egypt at the end of the 19th century. Running to 400,000 fragments, stored in 800 boxes at Oxford's Sackler Library, it is the biggest hoard of classical manuscripts in the world.

And now, finally, people are reading them. Some scholars estimate that deciphering these texts could increase the volume of classical Greek and Roman writings we have now by a whopping twenty percent.

Amazing. I can't wait to see what else they discover in those moldy old rags.


Kate Allan said...

Wow! Did a bit of Sophocles at school. Oedipus Rex and Antigone and all that. Very dramatic stories.

Brenda Coulter said...

Yeah. Wouldn't it be something if they found some "brand new" works of that calibre?

Thanks for commenting, Kate.