this issue
previous article in this issuenext article in this issue

Preview first page
Document Details :

Title: Narratives of Discovery
Subtitle: Petrie, Grenfell and Hunt, and the First Finding of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri
Author(s): MAZZA, Roberta
Journal: Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists
Volume: 59    Date: 2022   
Pages: 221-258
DOI: 10.2143/BASP.59.0.3290994

Abstract :
This article analyses contemporary sources concerning the first discovery of papyri at el-Bahnasa in 1896-1897 and argues that later accounts about the first season at the site depend too heavily on the official narratives written by Grenfell and disseminated in archaeological reports and newspaper and magazine articles that aimed to sensationalize the achievement in order to foster subscriptions to the Egypt Exploration Fund, which sponsored the excavation. A close reading of more private archival material shows that the choice of excavating at Oxyrhynchus was less a decision of Grenfell and Hunt and far more the result of negotiations between different actors. Close readings of the journals of Flinders Petrie, who was the holder of the excavation concession, demonstrate that surveys he conducted before the arrival of the two papyrologists with the help of the brother of the local shaykh, Ahmed Sayed, were conducive to the great haul of papyri. While mainstream portraits of Grenfell and Hunt tend to mythologize their discoveries at Oxyrhynchus, this article argues that this event needs to be framed in the wider colonial context and read as a collective complex achievement, with long lasting and not always positive consequences.

Download article