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Oxyrhynchus: A City and its Texts, Virtual Exhibition: The Site

Conjectural site plans of Oxyrhynchus

The Papyrus Project holds a site plan representing a combination of data from Grenfell and Hunt‘s draft and revised site plans, plus Petrie's two close-up plans.

Draft plan of Oxyrhynchus: c.1900

This faded pencil drawing presumably served as the draft from which the revised map was prepared. It carries many details omitted from the revised map, and has proved vital in understanding aspects of the latter and of the Flinders Petrie plans.

The map is displayed with north at the top. Distance from top to bottom of the map is around two miles; the enormous zone which was to prove most fruitful in the search for papyri is marked ‘Roman mounds’, NW of the modern village and roughly in the centre of the frame. There were no houses here; this was the main ancient rubbish dump. The ancient town buildings, of which little is left and even less visible, lay closer to the modern village, roughly in a half-mile-radius semi-circle around it; see the modified map. Note the D-shaped mound not quite half a mile west of the modern village: this appears as a temple on the revised plan, but was part excavated by Petrie and found to be a huge theatre.

Just over half a mile north of the modern village, ‘slag’ is marked on this map; this area was investigated in excavations in the 1980s and proved to be an industrial zone with large numbers of pottery kilns.


The numbers on this plan identify the rubbish mounds as they appeared before the excavators began work; the key is provided by a black notebook.

Revised plan of Oxyrhynchus 1908

This plan was presumably prepared from the rough pencil version. Grenfell and Hunt intended to publish it but never did; it was eventually published in the fiftieth volume of The Oxyrhynchus Papyri in 1983.

Information absent from the draft map is the numbering system for the rubbish mounds; this was not understood when the plan was published in 1983, but the discovery since of a small black notebook provides the key.

The rectangular building labelled ‘Temple’, not quite half a mile west of Behnesa (for the scale cf. the earlier plan) is Petrie’s huge theatre.

Oxyrhynchus: plans of parts of the site: 1922

Sir Flinders Petrie excavated various parts of the site in 1922 and drew up plans. They show a colonnade, the city’s large theatre and a column he identified as ‘base of statue’.

F.Petrie, Tombs of the Courtiers and Oxyrhynkhos (1925), pl.XXXIX