Papyri Images

In January 2014, during a special cataloging initiative in the Luther College Archives, a work study student came across a collection of ancient papyri that had been donated by professor Orlando W. Qualley.  These papyri were purchased by Dr. Qualley during his time in Karanis, Egypt on an archeological excavation with the University of Michigan in 1924-1925. Descriptions provided by Graham Claytor, Department of Classical Studies, at the University of Michigan.

P.Luther 1: Tax List, II CE (Front)

P.Luther  1: Tax List, II CE

This fragment is part of a list of taxes paid in kind. The crops mentioned are wheat and beans, while some of the land is called “unwatered,” meaning that the Nile’s annual inundation had not reached it.

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P.Luther 2: Private Letter, I-II CE (Front)

P.Luther 2: Private Letter, I-II CE

This fragment preserves the middle-center corner of a letter sent from a man named Kastor to someone whose name begins Heg-. The contents are mostly lost, but one can make out parts of the standard opening prayer for the recipient’s well-being.

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P.Luther 3: Composite Roll Including Two Rent Receipts for the Farming of Sacred Land, Theadelphia, early III CE (Front)

P.Luther 3: Composite Roll Including Two Rent Receipts for the Farming of Sacred Land, Theadelphia, early III CE

Four individual sheets of papyrus have been glued together in antiquity to form a composite roll. The two sheets on each end are fragmentary, but the middle two contain receipts issued to the same man, Isidoros, son of Aphrodisios, who was therefore probably the original owner of this papyrus roll. Both receipts were issued by “Sarapion, former market controller, superintendent of the property of the gods” and record the receipt of rent paid by Isidoros for sacred land which he held under lease from a local temple. The temple’s land was located around the village of Theadelphia in the Fayum region of Egypt.

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P.Luther 4: Decian Libellus, Theadelphia, ca. 12 June – 14 July, 250 CE (Front)

P.Luther 4: Decian Libellus, Theadelphia, ca. 12 June – 14 July, 250 CE

This papyrus is an example of a “Decian Libellus,” a certification of sacrifice according to the empire-wide decree of the Roman emperor Decius (ruled 249-251 CE).  About 45 of such libelli are known today and most of them, including this example, were issued to residents of the village of Theadelphia.  This concentration has prompted speculation that the Theadelphia examples come from a single large discovery in this village, which was thereafter dispersed on the antiquities market.  

This libellus was submitted by a man named Aurelius Sarapammon, who says that he has “sacrificed, poured the libations, and tasted the offerings,” in accordance with the decree.  His claim is certified by two local officials who were in charge of administering these official sacrifices.  Aurelius Sarapammon was the servant of Aurelius Appianus, a well-known aristocrat from the provincial capital of Alexandria.  Appianus had many estates in the Fayum and we know from other texts that Sarapammon was a donkey driver who worked on his estate in Theadelphia.

Translation:

“To those who have been selected to take charge of the sacrifices, from Aurelius Sarapammon, servant of Appianus, former exegetes of the most-illustrious city of the Alexandrians, and however he is styled, residing in the village of Theadelphia.   Always sacrificing to the gods, now too, in your presence, in accordance with the orders, I sacrificed, poured the libations, and tasted the offerings, and I ask that you sign below.  Farewell.

(2nd hand) We, Aurelius Serenus and Hermas [saw you sacrificing …”

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P.Luther 5: Letter About Purchases, V CE (Front)

P.Luther 5: Letter About Purchases, V CE

This fragment appears to come from a letter, although the address is missing, perhaps on the center.  It mentions purchases, a donkey, and someone’s “blessed sons,” a euphemism for the deceased that was common in Christian circles.

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P.Luther 6: Marriage Contract, Late VI-VII CE (Front)

P.Luther 6: Marriage Contract, Late VI-VII CE

This is a marriage contract dating to a transitional period in Egyptian history, perhaps during the last years of Byzantine rule, the short Sassanian occupation (618-629), or even the early years of Arab rule in the middle of the seventh century.  Despite these political upheavals, residents of Egypt continued to live their day-to-day lives and this papyrus documents a marriage in the countryside.  The contract opens with an invocation of the “holy, life-giving, and consubstantial trinity,” then identifies the parties to the contract, one of whom was originally from the city of Hermopolis in Middle Egypt, but was now living elsewhere.  The name Daniel in the document perhaps refers to the husband or one of the male relatives of the wife.

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P.Luther 7: Inventory or Account of Goods, III CE (Front)

P.Luther 7: Inventory or Account of Goods, III CE

This fragment contains a list of goods with prices, which may have formed part of an inventory or account.  The goods listed are not mundane items, but suggest a certain degree of affluence.  They include purple and scarlet dye (for clothing), necklaces, drugs made from date fruit, wreaths, and a ball made from dried papyrus.  Some of these items may have been used by women, while the papyrus ball was perhaps for a child.

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P.Luther 8: Lease, V CE (Front)

P.Luther 8: Lease, V CE

This fragment preserves part of a lease of agricultural properties and includes the signatures of the lessees in the last three lines.  Since the lessees were illiterate, however, another man wrote on their behalf.

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P.Luther 9: Tax List, VIII CE (Front)

P.Luther 9: Tax List, VIII CE

This is a tax list from the very last period of Greek writing in Egypt, some hundred years after the Arab conquest of North Africa. While the new rulers of Egypt spoke Arabic and the majority of the inhabitants spoke Egyptian, much of the administration continued to be conducted in Greek, as this papyrus attests. One payment is made by a priest named Samuel.

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