Ancient Lives

User instructions

Oxyrhynchus Online

Festival of the Lost Cities


Project Credits

ancient lives

ANCIENT LIVES (the site is currently down and will be re-launched in early July) is a collaboration between a diverse group of Oxford papyrologists and researchers in the Departments of Classics and Astrophysics, the Imaging Papyri Project, the Oxyrhynchus Papyri Project, the Egypt Exploration Society and the Citizen Science Alliance, a collaborative body of universities and museums dedicated to allowing everyone to make a meaningful contribution to scientific research.

ancient lives website

The ANCIENT LIVES project mounts images of Greek papyri fragments online and asks volunteers to participate in the work on them. Many of these papyri have remained unstudied since they were discovered more than a century ago. You can help expedite the process of transcription and cataloguing. Our goal is to increase the momentum by which scholars have traditionally identified known and unknown literary texts, and the private documents and letters from Graeco-Roman Egypt. No one pair of eyes can see and read everything. Your results will be tabulated with those of thousands of others' contribution to the same effort.


The papyri come from the Oxyrhynchus Collection in the Sackler Library, Oxford (owned and overseen by the Egypt Exploration Society, London) and from other collections. Experts have been studying these papyri for over a century, but much remains to be done, transcribed, and corrected. We aim to transcribe as much as possible of the original papyri, and then identify and reconstruct the text. The texts will eventually be published and numbered in the Egypt Exploration Society's Graeco-Roman Memoirs series, in numbered volumes entitled The Oxyrhynchus Papyri.

ancient lives website

These are the main ways in which you can participate:

1.) Go to the site and log-on. You can explore on the homepage, and save your work. You have to register as a user and get a login and password before you can submit any work. You can contribute findings, engage in discussion, and leave feedback under the 'TALK' section.

2.) Have a go at transcribing papyri fragments. These are supplied after you register and login. If you don't want to transcribe one, click on 'NEXT' and go on to the next one, and so on. To transcribe, click on the Greek letter you see in the papyrus, then click on that letter on the keyboard. The system saves your work every 20 seconds. When you click on 'NEXT', the system submits your transcription, and moves that image to your 'LIGHTBOX'.

3.) Help us by MEASURING the papyri fragments. Use the extendable online ruler. Further instructions are available here.

A more detailed set of instructions is available here. However, we recommend that you go to the site and visit the online tutorial.

If you want to see more pictures of the papyri and especially if you want to learn more about the context of the papyri, go to Oxyrhynchus: A City and its Texts exhibition on the website.

For more information about the ANCIENT LIVES project, contact Dirk Obbink (Classics) on +44 (0)1865 276 212, mobile +44 (0)791 350 3269, e-mail or Chris Lintott (Astrophysics) on +44 (0)1865 273638, mobile +44 (0)7808 167288, email

For information about the website and how it works, contact James Brusuelas (Classics) on +44 (0)752 732 4943, e-mail

Some of the finds made already include:

The project was supported by grants from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, The British Academy, and the John Fell Fund, and is indebted to the Oxford University Departments of Classics and Astrophysics and the Egypt Exploration Society, London who oversee the Oxyrhynchus Collection in the Sackler Library, Oxford as part of a wide range of scholarly and outreach activities.

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