WMF Britain Presents: The World’s Largest Archaeological Project, A Lecture on March 1st, 2016

The Past, Today                                                      

The World’s Largest Archaeological Project: Using New Technology to Crowd-Source Ancient Lives in Egypt with Dr Dirk Obbink of Oxford University 

Tuesday, March 1st 2016, 7pm, at the Royal Geographical Society, 1 Kensington Gore, London, SW7

Have you ever wondered what the Ancient Egyptians were really like – what they argued about, what they read, their ailments and shopping lists? If you have, then join the World Monuments Fund Britain for a fascinating lecture at the Royal Geographical Society in London on Tuesday, March 1st.

Excavations at Oxyrhynchus. Photo copyright the Egypt Exploration Society
Excavations at Oxyrhynchus. Photo copyright the Egypt Exploration Society

Dr Dirk Obbink, papyrologist and fellow at Oxford University, will talk about the ancient town of Oxyrhynchus, once home to the descendants of Greek immigrants who came to Egypt after Alexander the Great’s conquest in 332 BC.

Situated about 100 miles south of Cairo, the remains of this Greco-Roman town began to be investigated in 1897, when Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt, two Oxford fellows, started excavating the town’s rubbish dumps. What they uncovered among the centuries of pot shards and detritus was an incredible treasure trove – 500,000 papyrus fragments which opened a doorway to past lives. Works by Sappho, Homer & Sophocles, wills & tax returns, private letters, and even early versions of the gospels were among the papyri discovered at Oxyrhynchus.

A Fragment of Oxyrhynchus Papyri. Copyright Ashmolean Museum

Today this priceless collection of papyri is held by the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and their transcription continues. This is where we can all take part in the “world’s largest archaeological project.” Dr Obbink will explain how “using new technology,” volunteers around the world can take part in an online project to help match Greek letters on the papyrus fragments.

So, if you ever fancied being an archaeologist for the day, here’s your chance. Come along to this lecture on March 1st and learn more about real ancient Egyptians and how you can help illuminate their world.

This is the second talk in an important new World Monuments Fund Britain programme of issue­based events. This series of events will continue in April and May 2016.

Tickets cost £15 for WMF members; £20 non-members; £5 students. To book call 020 7251 8142 or book online at www.wmf.org.uk/activities 

by Tara Draper-Stumm

** For more information on how you can help transcribe the papyri of Oxyrhynchus visit www.ancientlives.org

** World Monuments Fund (WMF) is the leading independent organisation devoted to saving the world’s most treasured places. WMF Britain is the largest affiliated office of WMF and over 15 years has secured the future of many significant UK-­related sites. For more information see, www.wmf.org.uk.

** For further reading on the story of Oxyrhynchus see Peter Parsons, City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish: Greek Papyri Beneath the Egyptian Sand Reveal a Long-Lost World (Orion Books, 2007), available through Amazon and major book shops.



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