This page includes a list of research projects our staff are currently involved with.
- The Oxyrhynchus Project
- The Ancient World in Silent Cinema
- Dynamics of Civilisation
- Network on Ancient and Modern Imperialisms
- The Keeling Colloquia and Lectures
- The Hawara Papyri
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The Oxyrhynchus Project
Papyrus was the writing material of the Greeks and Romans, but little has survived in the archaeological sites of Greece and Italy, because the ground is too wet. Egypt, on the other hand, offers ideal climatic conditions; and in the towns of Egypt, for a thousand years from Alexander the Great to the Arab conquest, Greek immigrants and their descendants formed a colonial ruling class that continued to speak, write and read Greek. Their books and papers have survived under the sand: random salvage from the houses, offices and libraries of these Greek-speaking communities. Systematic excavation for papyri began in the 1890s, and the finds proved revolutionary not only for the study of Hellenistic and Roman history, but also for the study of ancient Greek literature. The sand preserves a mass of documents of all kinds, of private and official letters, and of broken books: above all, fragments of works which have not otherwise survived at all, since they were lost in the Middle Ages.
Oxyrhynchus (‘the City of the Sharp-nosed Fish’), 100 miles south of Cairo, proved the most productive of the papyrus sites. The excavators of the Egypt Exploration Society found the papyri in rubbish mounds thirty feet deep; several hundred thousand pieces and scraps were recovered in ten years’ digging (1896/7 – 1907), and are now deposited in the Sackler Library, Oxford. The Department of Greek and Latin, UCL, in collaboration with the Faculty of Classics, University of Oxford, has long been involved in a research project that aims to publish this collection of papyri, with the generous support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy.
To date, some 5,200 items have been published, in 78 volumes. Publication proceeds at the rate of one volume per year. Collaborators from many countries are involved in this project.
Maria Wyke (UCL) & Pantelis Michelakis (University of Bristol)
This research project aims to produce the first large-scale, radically interdisciplinary and collaborative study of representations of ancient civilizations in silent cinema and to establish new understandings both of cinema’s fascination with the past and of the appeal of ancient civilizations in modern times.
In the first four decades of cinema, more than a thousand films were made across Europe and North America that drew their inspiration from the ancient civilizations of Greece, Rome, Egypt and the Middle East. Few of these films have ever been studied, and even fewer have received the critical attention of film historians, cultural historians or those working on the modern reception of ancient civilizations. Film histories and databases usually reproduce only their titles devoid of subject matter, cultural context and historical significance. While the strong cinematic interest in the ancient Mediterranean since the 1950s has resulted in a steady flow of publications, the breadth and persistence of fascination with ancient civilizations in the first decades of cinema has largely been ignored. The films in question, ranging from historical and mythological epics, to adaptations of Greek tragedy, Passion plays, cartoons, comedies and documentaries, suggest a preoccupation with antiquity that competes in intensity and breadth with that of Hollywood’s classical era. We have estimated that more than 400 of the films survive in archival collections in the UK and elsewhere. The large number of existing prints as well as production stills, screenplays, press books, reviews, and other ephemera constitute an enormous and rich volume of material that awaits integrated exploration and analysis.
The UCL Centre for Research on the Dynamics of Civilisation (CREDOC) seeks to understand the social phenomenon of 'civilisation' and to challenge the role it is being made to play in the modern world.
'Civilisation' describes a social phenomenon greater than the nation. It has been identified by materials, languages, institutions and habits that are spread over time yet remain linked to one another as an integrated system. Civilisation appears on the map of modern political debate, whether in international policy (where it is used to build transnational political structures) or in the popular idea of a 'clash of civilisations'.
Yet what is a civilisation? How do civilisations form, develop, endure and decay? And why does civilisation matter so much to us now?
The Centre is housed in the Department of Greek and Latin and is co-directed by Maria Wyke and Mike Rowlands (Anthropology).
The project is part of UCL Research Frontiers.
The Keeling Colloquia and Lectures
Together with the UCL Philosophy department, and through the generosity of a private donor, the Department organises a series of Keeling Memorial Colloquia on the relation between modern and ancient philosophy