Resurrecting Early Christian Lives: Digging in Papyri in a Digital Age


Our team proposes to study papyrus documents from Egypt found in trash heaps: scraps giving us rich evidence of human activity in the ancient Mediterranean. They allow us to retrieve lost poetry, new gospels, and everyday writings: letters, contracts, census returns, homilies, recipes. Half a million fragments await study in the Oxyrhynchus collection alone. Building on data from our crowd-sourcing transcriptions of this material in Greek, we will study a range of papyri relevant to early Christianity. We will develop a transcription tool for Coptic, the late version of Egyptian used by Christians. We will complete a web-based interface to allow scholars to edit the results of the transcriptions; these tools allow us to look in detail at complex networks of identity and authority and examine how Christians saw their new religion as part of their other identities (Greek, Egyptian, Roman, merchant, monk). Our tools and our results will be made available to other developers and scholars.

Principal Investigators

Philip Sellew, University of Minnesota, US, NEH
Dirk Obbink, Oxford University, UK, AHRC/ESRC