TEXTS FROM ANCIENT EGYPT. Highlights from the Collection of the Leiden Papyrological Institute
Online exhibition on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the foundation ‘Het Leids Papyrologisch Instituut’.
Most texts from the collection of the Leiden Papyrological Institute are in Greek, but some are written in Egyptian (Hieratic, Demotic, Coptic) and in Latin. Take a look at examples of non-Greek writing. Ostraca (mostly pottery, but also limestone shards) formed a cheap alternative for papyrus. Pots were found in every household. Pots also break easily. The shards were then recycled as writing material. Tax receipts are generally written on ostraca. Written proof of a loan has always been important. Take a look at examples of loans of grain, wine, and money, and a loan on mortgage. Many papyrus documents are official. Examples of a registration of birth, an arrangement for overdue instalments and a receipt for payment in money and kind. The meaning of many letters escapes us, when the context is lacking, as is the case in these two private letters on papyrus, from the third and sixth centuries AD. Egypt largely consisted of desert. Wood was a relatively rare and expensive commodity. Wooden mummy labels were often shaped like tomb stones and hung around the neck of a mummy with rope. They mostly mention the name and age of the mummy. In antiquity people loved to read the authors we now call classic. Texts were copied on demand. The handwriting of literary papyri is neater and more regular than documentary writing. Some of our literary texts on papyrus: Homer, Hesiod, Plato, Euripides and a fable. Wax tablets are little planks hollowed out on two sides, and then filled with wax. A pointed stilus was used to write letters in the wax surface. The flat back end of the stilus was then applied to erase the text, rendering wax tablets the ideal notebook for children at school. All papyri, each in their own way, provide information on aspects of life in antiquity. For example the complaint of a private individual about the theft of dresses, and another text on a visit of Emperor Hadrian.Magic, religion and superstition were closely related in Antiquity. In this section we combined a drawing of a temple, a list of gods, magic, horoscopes, amulets and Christian texts.