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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

    Ostracon, fragment of the body of a red-brown ribbed pottery vessel, fabric is grey-black in section, interior covered with a dark-brown resinous deposit, exterior covered with a red-brown slip, which has flaked away in places, with faint traces of at least ten lines of Coptic text written in black ink, containing a portion of a letter.


  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 6thC-8thC
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 176 millimetres (max)
    • Width: 159 millimetres (max)
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Transliteration

        Faint traces of at least ten lines of Coptic text written in black ink.
      • Inscription Translation

        Translation by W.E. Crum: "Take the potsherds of the camelherds to master Sarapion and learn what they are (worth) to you. Give it to my brother Papnoute the steward, from Enoch, his father. And leave them in the place you told me of."
  • Bibliography

    • Crum & Bell 1922 p.91 bibliographic details
  • Condition

    fair (exterior worn)

  • Conservation

    See treatments 

    Treatment date

    24 April 2002

    Treatment proposal

    Examine surface. Remove salts and relay fragments, consolidate and desalinate if necessary.


    Spoiling and lamenating extensively, salts covering the entire surface. Script completely hidden, obscured.

    Treatment details

    Soluble salts removed with soft sable brush. The harder core of the salt pillars removed wih a scalpel. Consolidated lifting fragments 5% and 10% Paraloid B72 (ethyl methacrylate copolymer) in acetone applied with a micropipette. Consolidated lifting and lamenating areas with very thin sheet of Paraloid B72 (ethyl methacrylate copolymer) inserted into gap. Acetone applied to soften resin and slight pressure applied to obtain adhesion. Object completely immersed in tap water. Wash water changed on a daily basis when possible. Conductivity readings taken of both the tap water and the wash water. DATE WASH X10-4 TAP WATER measured in siemens 10-5/10-4 060302 5.1x10-4 070302 81.9x10-4 5.2x10-4 200302 41.6x10-4 5.4x10-4 210302 7.1x10-4 5,4x10-4 270302 8.6x10-4 5.4x10-4

    About these records 

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    Excavated 1913-1914 by Reginald Campbell Thompson on behalf of the Byzantine Research Fund.

  • Department

    Ancient Egypt & Sudan

  • BM/Big number


  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • O.Sarga 95 (text edition abbreviation according to Oates et al 2001)


If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: collectiondatabase@britishmuseum.org 

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Object reference number: YCA59164

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