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To celebrate Vikings Live, we have replaced our Roman alphabet with the runic alphabet used by the Vikings, the Scandinavian ‘Younger Futhark’. The ‘Younger Futhark’ has only 16 letters, so we have used some of the runic letters more than once or combined two runes for one Roman letter.

For an excellent introduction to runes, we recommend Martin Findell’s book published by British Museum Press.

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  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Three fragments of papyrus inscribed in black ink on one side with parts of two letters in Coptic.

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 7thC
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 9.9 centimetres (top piece)
    • Width: 15.6 centimetres
    • Height: 8.3 centimetres (lower piece)
    • Width: 14.2 centimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Comment

        First letter of 11 lines and second, fragmentary, of 10 lines. Both concerned with complaint against a monk. Perhaps from archive of Pesenthius, bishop of Coptos in c. 598 AD
  • Bibliography

    • Crum 1921 no. 175 bibliographic details
    • Ede 1972- no. 39 bibliographic details
  • Condition

    fair (incomplete)

  • Conservation

    See treatments 

    Treatment date

    20 February 2013

    Treatment proposal

    Remove from unsuitable frames. Repair and remount between glass.


    The fragments are mounted between Perspex® and held in place with modern stamp hinges on the verso. The frame is unsuitable for handling and conservation. The poor quality wood frame is bound in Kraft® paper tape. The papyrus fragments are mounted on brown, short-fibred card: the verso of the papyrus fragments is therefore non-visible.

    The papyrus fragments are brittle, fractured, abraded and weakened by the Perspex electrostaticity. There are several turnovers and twisted fibres. The fragments contain writing on the verso, hidden by the backing card. The bottom fragment is actually made of two separate fragments joined together by a stamp hinge.

    Treatment details

    Documentation consisting in photographs at different stages of the treatment (before, during and after) and tracing of the fragment outline was undertaken. Observation under Mantis microscope (x10) was done several times through the treatment to check the state of the fragments. Documentation about collection history was researched and gathered.

    The inks were tested for solubility in water and in water and IMS (50-50). Lightly soluble in water, but less in 50-50 water-IMS.

    The fragments were then removed from their frame and backing using scalpel and micro-spatula. The stamp hinges were removed after light damping using water to dissolve the water-sensitive adhesive. The residual adhesives were cleaned using slightly moist cotton swabs.

    The surface of the papyri fragments was then cleaned with a soft brush, except for the weakest parts, that could have suffered from such a treatment. The fragments were humidified over damp blotters and Gore-Tex in a chamber until they could be realigned and repaired using pre-toned Japanese paper tabs and wheat starch paste. Twisted fibres and turnovers were laid down and pressed dry. Consolidation patches made of the thinnest Japanese paper possible were attached to the weakest areas to support them. The two bottom fragments were detached one from the other and not reattached together as no fibre match was visible. The fragments have then been pressed dry under lightest weights.

    Remounted between glass sealed with Filmoplast® tape and buffered with Micro-chambers paper strips along the edges.

    About these records 

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Ancient Egypt & Sudan

  • BM/Big number


  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • O.CrumST 175
Before conservation (Dec 2012)

Before conservation (Dec 2012)

Image description



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Object reference number: YCA72100

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