The Ramesseum Papyri

R. B. Parkinson

Search this Catalogue

Advanced search

The modern history of the papyri (continued)

Ibscher worked his way through the box and by 1909 ‘a confused mass … constituted what was left of the find’ (Gardiner 1955a: 3); he took the last manuscript in hand in 1937 (1955a: 15). The conservation of the group was completed some time before the Second World War and they were returned to England, where they occupied various temporary locations until the war was over. It was a long and heroic endeavour, resulting in the 155 frames now in the British Museum and 18 frames in the Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, Berlin. Some papyri could be mounted in their current frames largely in the order of the original manuscript: this means that the sequence of frames contains the majority of the text in sequence; sometimes, however, some fragments that were initially unplaced by Gardiner and Ibscher remain out of sequence, while occasionally it was possible to cut out the gelatine on which an initially misplaced fragment was mounted and move it to its correct position. From passing references, it seems that some papyri were initially mounted in other temporary frames before being mounted and numbered as they are now, and so some early references to frame numbers do not always correspond with the current ones (e.g. Gardiner 1955a: 16 mentioning 10770.1–5 as ‘Frames 28–33’; see Leach 2006: 230).

In addition, one should note that the technique developed for the find by Ibscher provides a further puzzle: P. Berlin 10131 is a frame of six fragments that are mounted with a similar technique (Leach 2006: 228 n. 25; Parkinson 2009: 147 n. 22); they contain administrative entries with a year date and check marks, and have ruled guide-lines, and could well belong to the Ramesseum group, although there is apparently no archival evidence about their acquisition by the Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, Berlin to confirm or disprove this possibility.

Gardiner considered the texts in the papyri to be of ‘mediocre quality’ and he ‘ardently desired to delegate the exacting task to others’ (1955a: 4). Paul Smither had been designated as editor but died in 1943; his edition of the Semna despatches on P. Ramesseum C was published posthumously in 1945, and Gardiner’s planned full publication of the Ramesseum papyri was never achieved. Gardiner himself published P. Ramesseum D in his monograph on onomastica of 1947, and Smither’s friend John Barns took up the editorship and started on an edition of five papyri, having made significant — but far from definitive — arrangements of the fragments with fibre-matching. However his career moved in other directions, and Gardiner once again lost an editor, ‘the hardest blow of all’ (1955a: 5–6). To fulfil his obligation of a publication, Gardiner decided to issue a volume of plates with an introduction. This included photographs of all the substantial fragments, although quite a few ‘scraps’ were considered ‘unworthy of publication’ and some papyri were excluded as being published elsewhere or too fragmentary: P Ramesseum A–B, C rto, D–E, 1 and 3, 17, 19. The volume contained transcriptions for some but not all of the papyri and brief descriptions of the contents (Gardiner’s published remarks are summarised in the catalogue entries here). With the condition of a publication fulfilled, the remaining bulk of the papyri were donated in 1956 to the British Museum jointly by Gardiner and by the British School of Archaeology in Egypt. Around this time Gardiner published separately P. Ramesseum E and 6 (1955b, 1957), but lacked interest in the other types of text contained in the papyri. A significant number of the papyri thus remained not only unedited, but unpublished in transcription, adding to the vicissitudes to which the find has been subjected. These and all subsequent and ongoing studies are listed in the bibliographies of the individual catalogue entries here.

  • 1
  • 2