Teaching about Papyri

Facebook just informed me about a cool online exhibit at the University of Michigan library that explains how papyri are found, how they are studied, and some examples of nice papyri from their collection.  It seems like a great introduction to papyri for students–and a great way to flip the classroom.

P Mich VIII 491 recto
P. Mich. VIII.491 (From From Trace to Text, Online exhibit at University of Michigan library)

Here are some other cool links or books I know about papyri that could help:

Possible Lesson Plan to teach about Papyri/Greco-Roman Egypt:

  1. At home, students read through and look at the Michigan online exhibit and answer questions about papyrology
  2. In class, students go rotate through stations focusing on papyri.  Students would answer questions about selections from the Women and Society in Greek and Roman Egypt sourcebook, about transcriptions & translations (from papyri.info) of the documents in the Michigan online exhibit, and possibly some information about the Herculaneum papyri. One of the stations could be an online station with Ancient Lives where students attempt to transcribe papyri.
  3. At the end of class, the worksheet is collected and everyone engages in a synthetic discussion about how papyri are studied and what they can tell us about Greco-Roman Egypt.
  4. Students’ knowledge is assessed through questions on regular assessments or a reflection paper/blog post that synthesizes the ideas like in the discussion.

One thought on “Teaching about Papyri

  1. Facebook Comment from an actual papyrologist:
    Is this for a Greek class or a more civ-y class?
    For students who aren’t learning Greek, I’ve found that the Ancient Lives website is not particularly useful as a teaching tool. If you want to work through the idea of the squiggles meaning something, I’ve found that the best bet is taking a clear, legible literary papyrus from the Ptolemaic period, projecting it on the screen, and working through it together letter by letter. Even there, while they might with teamwork decipher the letters, many have trouble engaging if they don’t know the alphabet, the systems, etc. If they aren’t learning Greek, transcriptions from papy info might also not get them very far (or even if they do, since they probably aren’t familiar with the Leiden system).
    If it is for a Greek class, one thing that students seem to enjoy is a little time discussing the language of the papyri (and there are useful books to draw on for that, esp. Gignac or Evans/Obbink).

    A slightly edited version of my reply on facecbook:
    Right, the Greek vs. Civ class thing would affect it’s success a lot. I hadn’t really thought much about which class it could be for and just kind of thought about it in a vaccuum–though my thoughts were probably more along the lines of a Civ class.

    Regardless of how easily Ancient Lives teaches students that squiggles mean something, it would convey that papyrology has a learning curve and takes a lot of dedicated work…. though I’m not sure how much that is something you’d like to teach.


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