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Four Papyrus Fragments

5th century - 6th century
1) 3.1 x 18.8 cm 2) 3.3 x 16.8 cm 3) 3 x 15.6 cm 4) 3.1 x 4.3 cm

Not on view


In the ancient Mediterranean, the most common writing material was made from papyrus, a marsh plant that flourished in the Nile River valley. Sheets for writing were fabricated by layering the tissues at right angles, giving papyrus fragments the appearance of woven cloth. Although this made the material sturdy, it was still vulnerable to damage from moisture and insects, so the greatest finds come either from arid regions, such as southern Egypt, or from exceptional hoards such as the Dead Sea scrolls, which were buried in jars at Qumran.
Some papyri are our earliest versions of religious and literary texts, while others are prized precisely because they are ordinary practical documents of everyday business. These fragments appear to be part of a lease, to judge from the mention of the building of a portico, and the payment of rent and taxes.
J. Hanson

Acquisition History
Accessioned from materials transferred from the Byzantine Institute to Harvard University.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Byzantine Collection, Washington, D.C.