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Oxyrhynchus City

The Papyri

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The diggers (page 5 of 7)

It was only in the late nineteenth century that people began to realise what the dumps might offer. Egyptian peasants had made finds by chance, and sold them to western museums; scholars began to wonder what could be got by systematic excavation. And so it was in 1897 that the City of the Sharp-nosed Fish came back to life.

[photo of Grenfell] [photo of Hunt]

The excavators were two men in their late twenties, operating from Oxford and financed by the Egypt Exploration Society of London. Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt had become friends when scholarships took them to Queen’s College, Oxford (they were off mountaineering together in the Tyrol in the summer holidays of 1889). By 1895, now on graduate scholarships, they were in Egypt. They were to spend the rest of their lives pioneering a new branch of classics: papyrology.

[Grenfell and Hunt]

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