Thursday, April 05, 2012

The Ramesseum Papyri

The British Museum Blog

With photos.

For many years before joining the British Museum as a curator in the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan, my life was tied up with the so-called ‘Ramesseum papyri’: a library of ancient Egyptian papyri that were discovered in 1895-6 under the temple of Ramses II, now known as the ‘Ramesseum’. As a school boy I had bought Alan Gardiner’s 1955 partial publication of some of the papyri and my doctorate was a commentary on one of the poems preserved in them, The Eloquent Peasant.

The 24 papyri are an almost unique surviving example of an ancient Egyptian library that was buried in its owner’s tomb around 1680 BC, but although some of them have been much studied they are extraordinarily fragmentary and fragile. Over the years, Bridget Leach, the Museum’s papyrus conservator, and I have helped many students and scholars examine them, and every time we have worried about their extreme fragility. And so we were eager to have a full visual record made in high resolution colour, so that the papyri could also be studied remotely without being disturbed too often, as well as enabling a global audience to access them.

The British Museum

This online research catalogue brings together for the first time all of the surviving Middle Kingdom papyri from a 13th Dynasty shaft-tomb at Luxor that was later covered by the funerary temple of Ramses II, known as the Ramesseum. This unique library is now held in the British Museum (136 frames of papyri) and the Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, Berlin (38 frames). Associated objects from the tomb are held in the University Museum, Manchester, the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

No comments: