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Welcome to Ancient Lives

Hi, I’m James Brusuelas, a Research Associate of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and member of the Ancient Lives team. Welcome to Ancient Lives!

This is a new area for the Zooniverse; Ancient Lives is putting hundreds of thousands of images of Greek papyri fragments online. Many of these papyri have remained unstudied since they were discovered more than a century ago, and the team is asking you to help expedite the process of transcription and cataloguing. Our goal is to increase the momentum by which scholars have traditionally identified known and unknown literary texts, and the private documents and letters that open up a window into the ancient lives of Graeco-Roman Egypt.

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What do we find in the Oxyrhynchus collection?

In recent volumes of THE OXYRHYNCHUS PAPYRI, among personal and private papers, we find Aurelius the sausage-maker who takes out a loan for 9,000 silver denarii, a work contract giving the terms of employment of a public herald in sixth century Oxyrhynchus, Hymenaeus sends a letter via his ‘Ethiopian’ slave, and an edict of the Prefect Vestinus from 62 CE.

As for literary texts, in addition to a previously unknown uncanonical gospel, we have identified a papyrus of the Presocratic philosopher and poet Empedocles on the anatomy of the eye, Dictys of Crete’s prose re-telling of the Trojan War story, new fragments of ancient novels Lollianos’ Phoenician Tales and Achilles Tatius’ Leucippe and Clitophon , new letters of the philosopher Epicurus, various dialogues of Plato, and soon to be published: Euripides’ lost play Melanippe the Wise, the elegies of Theognis, Herodotus’ Histories, Menander’s Misoumenos, and various plays by Aristophanes.

Because of the huge number of images involved, and since no one pair of eyes can see everything, researchers at Oxford and the Egypt Exploration Society, who own and oversee the collection, are inviting volunteers to help catalogue and transcribe the text using a simple web interface. So take a look – and explore Ancient Lives.

Coming Soon…

Once this project gets going, you’ll have a lot more to read than just another Zooniverse blog…