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History of the Library: the Library of Tebtunis Temple in the Roman Period?

In 1931 Carlo Anti discovered in a cellar of structures at the temple enclosure wall at Tebtunis in the Fayum a great mass of papyrus manuscripts; many from the same find were acquired by contemporary collectors. The Anti excavated find is preserved in Florence, and the larger part of the remainder is in Copenhagen; a joint project with an international editorial board now oversees the publication of the documents.

The manuscripts are in Egyptian scripts (hieroglyphic, hieratic and demotic) and in Greek, and date principally to the second century AD; they may have become waste paper by the time of their deposition in the third century AD. They provide a detailed impression of the contents of a temple library in the latest period at which Egyptian scripts were still in regular use.

It is estimated that the find comprised remnants of around five hundred manuscripts:

The painstaking task of editing and publishing these fragmentary manuscripts is already transforming modern appreciation of ancient Egyptian writing and knowledge in the Roman Period. The documents published or cited in preliminary reports so far include the following extensive and important manuscripts:



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