Papyrus, manufactured in Egypt from a marsh plant, Cyperus papyrus (see books, greek and roman), was the most widely used writing material in the Graeco‐Roman world. The object of papyrology is to study texts written on papyrus in Egyptian (hieroglyphs, demotic, Coptic), Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Latin, Pahlavi, and Arabic. Greek papyrology also deals with Greek texts written on parchment (see palaeography). Nearly all Greek papyri have been found in Egypt, preserved in the dry sand (see oxyrhynchus). Outside Egypt, Greek papyri have been found at Herculaneum, at Dura‐Europus, in Palestine, and one text has come from Greece: the carbonized Orphic commentary found in a burial at Derveni near Salonica; see orphic literature; orphism. Today the sites which produced most of this material have been more or less exhausted; the most promising source of papyrus texts is now mummy cases made of papyrus cartonnage, i.e. layers of discarded papyri, sometimes reinforced with linen cloth, covered with plaster and painted; they often contain Egyptian (demotic) and/or Greek texts of the Ptolemaic or Augustan periods. To date, an estimated 30,000 papyrus texts have been edited, while substantial quantities of unpublished texts, mostly documents, remain in collections in Europe, Egypt, and North America. They cover the period from the mid‐4th cent. bc to the early 8th cent. ad, during most of which (332 bc to ad 641) Greek was the official language in Egypt.
Subjects: Classical Studies.