Calling All Egyptology Geeks: Help Decipher Ancient Papyri

By Veronique Greenwood | July 29, 2011 12:43 pm

Is that an alpha or a beta?

Sometimes you need a little help from your friends. Taking a leaf from reCaptcha‘s book, archaeologists from the Egypt Exploration Society and Oxford University have taken a voluminous store of ancient Egyptian papyri online in a bid to have web users transcribe the fragments, which come from a lost city known to its inhabitants as the City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish.

The papyri were discovered in the early 20th century, and among them have been a lost version of the gospel, in which Christ exorcises demons, and literary works by Euripides and others. But other texts in the cache, which dates from an era three centuries after the birth of Christ when Egypt was ruled by Greeks, appear to consist of household notes, records of contracts, and other mundanities (including a loan taken out by a sausage maker), prompting the team to call their project Ancient Lives. Want to find out what else was going on in 300 AD Egypt? Just zoom in on a scrap, type out the Greek letters, and click save—once they are transcribed, translators can get to work. Join in here.

(via Wired)

  • Brian Too

    In the sample above, I start out with:


    But then I get lost. I’m working with a Greek symbol set so that’s probably part of my problem, but I can’t make further matches on their software keyboard either. Also, since I don’t know ancient Egyptian, I cannot correct within a known wordspace.

    Is it just me or does a substantial portion of the writing above look cursive? Especially on the second line.

  • Subcomputer

    In the interface, when you hover your mouse over the “keyboard” it shows examples of script forms, you can see it doing “Π” in the article image. The tutorials could definitely be improved though, as they really could do a simple intro on reading cursive and script forms in general. I suppose they’re hoping for volunteers who already are familiar with the relative forms of the script.

    They also need to vet their pieces a little better; I’ve already gotten three fragments with no visible text, and two images of rulers.

  • Valerie

    This is more of a jigsaw puzzle. Think of it that way. You do not need to know the language.

  • monster beats headphone

    Hi 80beats. your blog very very useful.
    Thanks for your share.


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