In 1896, two undergraduate students unearthed an underground cache of over 200,000 pieces of papyri. The collection includes letters and other documents dating from 500 BC to 1000 AD. Despite over one hundred years of work, researchers have only managed to transcribe two percent of the ancient texts. They need help to transcribe the rest…YOUR help.
A Treasure Trove of Ancient Texts?
In 1896, Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt discovered an ancient dump near the Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus. With the help of locals, they proceeded to uncover a treasure trove of papyri, digging as far down as twenty-five feet in some cases. The papers, which dated back to Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt, included letters, documents, receipts, loans, work contracts, gossip, and other things. After a decade, Grenfell and Hunt brought the recovered papers back to Oxford University where they have remained ever since.
For over a century, researchers have worked to transcribe the documents. In the process, they have made numerous important discoveries, including a lost play by Euripides entitled Melanippe the Wise, lost works from the poet Sappho, and lost letters from the philosopher Epicurus. Amazingly, they also found tiny fragments of a “lost gospel” which appears to describe Jesus exorcising demons.
However, the process has been slow and many of the ancient texts remain unstudied to this day. In fact, Oxford University researchers estimate that only two percent of the documents have been successfully transcribed. Now, they are seeking the help of outsiders to help decode the rest of the works.
Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis
You don’t need to know Greek in order to help. You merely need to visit Ancient Lives and use pattern recognition tools to match letters to symbols. The site will then store your translation and wait for others to view the ancient text. By having multiple people study each fragment, scholars hope to weed out mistakes and discrepancies.
If you have time, please stop by Ancient Lives and lend a hand. Who knows? You might find yourself reading a lost play or a lost letter. You might even find something really important…something that changes history as we know it.