Papyrus Fragment, Coptic Legend, after 2nd Century A.D.
Papyrus; 14CM X 8CM
Con/ See below
Reference/ Ex David MacDonald collection. Purchased in the 1970s from an Estate Sale of an English gentleman acquired in his "Grand Tour" prior to WWI
When first arrived, this fragment was within a manky old frame with a brown paper backing and, most likely, considering its age, not acid free. Hands trembling, Sheri very carefully manged to free the the extremely fragile fragment from it's original backing without any damage whatsoever. Now available in a new and more modern frame on certified acid free archival paper.
What is the legend on this papyrus?
Even Dr. MacDonald was stumped as it is inscribed in Coptic. He kindly explained to me that Coptic is a very old language and that very few are able to read such text, especially on papyrus!
Coptic literature is the body of writings in the Coptic language of Egypt, the last stage of the indigenous Egyptian language. It comprises mostly Christian texts dating after the 2nd century AD. Is the legend on this fragment a Coptic translation a verse in the New Testament? Or just a simple requisition of wine or other provisions for the local monastery? Sadly, we will never know.
The Importance of Papyrus in the Ancient World and How was it Made
You may believe that the wealth of ancient Egypt was in gold, pearls, or rare incenses such as frankincense and myrrh, but it was not. It was papyrus. From the 2nd century BC - 3rd-4th century AD, Egyptians' manufactured papyrus in literally tons per year for the insatiable Roman market as a source for their writing.
Papyrus is made from the stem of the papyrus plant, Cyperus papyrus. The outer rind was first removed, and the sticky fibrous inner pith cut lengthwise into thin strips of about 40 cm (16 in) long. The strips were then placed side by side on a hard surface with their edges slightly overlapping, and then another layer of strips laid on top at right angles. The strips may have been soaked in water long enough for decomposition to begin, perhaps increasing adhesion, but this is not certain. The two layers possibly were glued together. While still moist, the two layers were hammered together, mashing the layers into a single sheet. The sheet was then dried under pressure. After drying, the sheet was polished with a rounded object, possibly a stone, seashell, or round hardwood. For God's sake, even Julius Caesar himself wrote his Conquest of Gaul on papyrus sheaves!
Now, having all that said, this is a very rare papyrus in an acid free frame that will be a a gem for your ancient collections; On your wall, desk, or Man Cave. Should anyone ask about it? You can just simply shrug your shoulders and say, "Oh, it's nothing really special. Just a Coptic manuscript from the Second Century AD."