The Ramesseum Papyri
- Richard B Parkinson, Assistant
Ancient Egyptian pharaonic culture
- Bridget Leach, papyrus conservator
- Oriental Faculty, University of Oxford
- Manchester Museum, University of Manchester
- Ägyptisches Museum
und Papyrussammlung, Berlin
- Seminar für Ägyptologie und Koptologie, Georg-August-Universität Goettingen.
- Seminar für Ägyptologie, Universität zu Köln
- CNRS, Ramesseum project
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The Ramesseum papyri have been described as the ‘most precious single find of papyri’ from pharaonic Egypt. The texts span a wide range of genres and dates, including the best known Egyptian literary work, The Tale of Sinuhe, and form the archive of the owner of the tomb in which they were found, probably a priest. Most are liturgical texts or texts of healing that may reflect the priest’s professional activities and the collection was probably built up from various sources over a number of generations.
The papyri are very fragmentary and fragile. Because of this and the problematic nature of the original editions in the 1950s, they have been largely unstudied as a group. Inspired by recent work by a French-Egyptian (CNRS) team under Mme Nelson who are re-excavating the Middle Kingdom cemetery in which they were found, this project is working towards a full re-evaluation and publication of the papyri, largely by commissioning, enabling and coordinating the necessary research from specialists in various institutions to enable a better understanding of this unique ancient library.
The project aims to re-establish the texts of these papyri within their associated material culture, social practices, archaeological contexts and landscapes.
It will further the publication of the Museum’s collection and encourage new editions and translations of the archive, through an Online Research Catalogue which includes a complete new digital photographic record of all the papyri in London and Berlin, and further publications.
Excavating the papyri
The papyri were discovered by archaeologist Flinders Petrie (1895-6) in a thirteenth Dynasty shaft-tomb from about 1700 BC, part of a Middle Kingdom cemetery at Luxor.
This cemetery was later covered by the funerary temple of Ramesses II (known as the Ramesseum). The majority of the papyri (136 items) are now held in the British Museum, with a number of others in the Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, Berlin. The 'magical equipment' found in the robbed tomb shaft with the papyri is now in Cambridge, Manchester and Philadelphia.
Recitals of one the poems in the papyri have been commissioned to explore the relationship between manuscript and performance, and increase our understanding of the possible emotional impact of these ancient works of art.
The Tale of Sinuhe (P. Ramesseum A verso) has been recited twice by Gary Pillai and Shobu Kapoor.
R. B. Parkinson, ‘Among the Temples of Millions of Years’, in E. MacTavish, Made in Egypt (Canterbury: ELC MacTavish, 2005), pp.59-62
B. Leach, ‘A Conservation History of the Ramesseum Papyri’, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 92 (2007), pp. 1-16
R. B. Parkinson, Reading Ancient Egyptian Poetry: Among Other Histories (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell 2009)
R. B. Parkinson, 'What "Makes The Gun Go Off"?: The Role of the Voice in Two Middle Kingdom Poems', in E. Meyer-Dietrich (ed.), Laute und Leise: Der Gebrauch von Stimme und Klang in historischen Kulture (Reihe Mainzer Historische Kulturwissenschaften 7; Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag 2011) pp. 13–35
P. Meyrat, Les papyrus magiques du Ramesseum. Recherches sur une bibliothèque privée de la fin du Moyen Empire (Thèse présentée en vue de l’obtention du titre de Docteurs ès lettres; Université de Genève 2011)
R. B. Parkinson, The Ramesseum Papyri (British Museum Online Research Catalogue 2012)
R. B. Parkinson, The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant: A Reader’s Commentary (Lingua Aegyptia Studia Monographica 10, Hamburg: Widmaier Verlag 2012).