On Mon, Apr 18, 2005 at 08:38:12AM +0200, Wieland Willker wrote:
> I think this is one of those sensational newspaper articles which
> mix up almost everything.
Probably. If you read closely it's obviously been an ongoing
project for several years (and I remember seeing infrared photos
of the _Beowulf_ manuscript back in graduate school 15 years ago),
so while the Oxyrynchus papyri are certainly a good thing to study,
it's not like this is _really_ a huge new breakthrough.
> Multispectral analysis is a relatively new tool that certainly helps
> to read faded or normally illegible letters. I am sure that we can
> expect several new readings from papyri already known.
Looking at stuff that hasn't been examined yet will be useful -- the
original excavations dug up hundreds of boxes of stuff; basically
they were digging up an entire town archive, all the stuff that got thrown
out periodically. Most of the literary stuff is the equivalent of
scrap paper that was used to draft letters or petitions or something on,
and it's very very fragmentary... but even fragments can give us
Given an excavation in the right areas in Egypt, there are probably
quite a few more old rubbish papyrus dumps out there, but of course
if they're only dug up and not studied, it's not really much of a net
advance in knowledge.
When enlightened men go on arguing for a long time, there is a distinct
possibility that the question is not clear.
--Voltaire, _The Age of Louis XIV_