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The first phase of the imaging project took in papyri from vols. 59-65 of Oxyrhynchus Papyri. Most of the remaining papyri from vol. 50 onward were imaged over the Summer and Autumn of 1999, but at that stage our equipment still put severe limitations on what we could achieve. Many papyri could not be imaged because they were simply too large: our camera stand wasn't tall enough for us to get them in the frame! We have now gone back through vols. 50-66 and added these larger papyri to the online corpus.

One real problem case was P.Oxy. LV 3804-5: an 'Annual Account of Estate Steward' (3804) dating from the late sixth century, with a less coherent set of 'Estate Accounts' (3805) on the back. The steward's name is Theodorus, and he collected revenues within the rural estates of the wealthy Apion family. Unusually for ancient accounts, his figures are scrupulously accurate, and the document contains some interesting asides on boatbuilding, irrigation works, and oil manufacture.

The problem with this papyrus was always going to be the sheer size of the thing: 288(!) x 30 cm.

Papyrologists and monster

Where did it come from?

The papyrus was found in a box of material belonging to the collection, still rolled up. It had never been inventoried, but circumstantial evidence suggests that it was one of the "fine rolls three to ten feet long" from a large haul of Byzantine papyri brought back by Grenfell and Hunt from their first season of digging at Oxyrhynchus. It had been an adventurous time for them: writing in the Egypt Exploration Fund's Archaeological Report 6 (1896-7), Grenfell laments Bahnasa's decline ("now consisting only of a few squalid huts and four picturesque but dilapidated mosques") and reports on a nocturnal raid on the village by desert Bedouin who tried to force an entry into the excavators' hut. He vividly describes the find of the Byzantine rolls:

"The third and by far the greatest find [of 'archive' mounds], that of the Byzantine archives, took place on March 18th and 19th [1897], and was, I suppose, a 'record' in point of quantity. On the first of these two days we came upon a mound which had a thick layer consisting almost entirely of papyrus rolls. There was room for six pairs of men and boys to be working simultaneously at this storehouse, and the difficulty was to find enough baskets in all Behneseh to contain the papyri. At the end of the day's work no less than thirty-six good-sized baskets were brought in from this place, several of them stuffed with fine rolls three to ten feet long, including some of the largest Greek rolls I have ever seen. As the baskets were required for the next day's work, Mr. Hunt and I started at 9 p.m. after dinner to stow away all the papyri in some empty packing-cases which we fortunately had at hand. The task was only finished at three in the morning, and on the following night we had a repetition of it, for twenty-five more baskets were filled before the place was exhausted. This was our last great find of papyri. ..."

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