A number of ancient papyri from Oxyrhynchus, part of the Egypt Exploration Society’s collection, have been identified as part of the lot allegedly offered for sale by Professor Dirk Obbink to the American chain Hobby Lobby. The Society has issued a statement on the matter.

“On 25 June 2019 the Egypt Exploration Society (EES) posted a statement on its website that it was working with the Museum of the Bible (MOTB) to clarify whether any texts from the EES Oxyrhynchus collection had been sold or offered for sale to Hobby Lobby or its agents, and if so, when and by whom. This was in response to the online publication by Dr Brent Nongbri, following its release by Professor Michael Holmes of the MOTB, of a redacted copy of a contract of 17 January 2013 between Professor Dirk Obbink and Hobby Lobby Stores for the sale of six items to Hobby Lobby, including four New Testament fragments probably of EES provenance. This statement reports our findings to date.

“With the help of photographs provided by the MOTB, the EES has so far identified thirteen texts from its collection, twelve on papyrus and one on parchment, all with biblical or related content, which are currently held by the MOTB (see the attached list). These texts were taken without authorisation from the EES, and in most of the thirteen cases the catalogue card and photograph are also missing. Fortunately, the EES has back-up records which enable us to identify missing unpublished texts. For clarity, we note that the four texts specified in the handwritten list made public alongside the 2013 contract, which are probably the texts of that contract, remain in the EES collection, and two have been published as P.Oxy. LXXXIII 5345 and 5346.

“The Board of Trustees of the MOTB has accepted the EES claim to ownership of the thirteen pieces identified to date, and is arranging to return them to the EES. The EES is grateful to the MOTB for its co-operation, and has agreed that the research on these texts by scholars under the auspices of the MOTB will receive appropriate recognition when the texts are published in the Oxyrhynchus Papyri series.

“The MOTB has informed the EES that 11 of these pieces came into its care after being sold to Hobby Lobby Stores by Professor Obbink, most of them in two batches in 2010. In August 2016 the EES did not re-appoint Professor Obbink as a General Editor of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri primarily because of unsatisfactory discharge of his editorial duties, but also because of concerns, which he did not allay, about his alleged involvement in the marketing of ancient texts, especially the Sappho text. In June 2019 the EES banned him from any access to its collection pending his satisfactory clarification of the 2013 contract. Oxford University is now investigating, with EES help, the removal from University premises and alleged sale of EES texts.

“The EES is also pursuing identification and recovery of other texts, or parts of texts, which have or may have been illicitly removed from its collection. Systematic checking of the EES collection will be a long process because of its size. Meanwhile, our primary aim remains the authoritative publication for public benefit of the texts of all types in our collection.

“We cannot comment here on any broader legal issues arising from these findings, except to note that they are under consideration by all the institutions concerned.

EES papyri being returned by the MOTB (MOTB inventory number in square brackets)

Genesis 5:  P.Oxy. inv. 39 5B.119/C(4-7)b.  [PAP.000121]
Genesis 17:  P.Oxy. inv. 20 3B.30/F(5-7)b.   [PAP.000463]
Exodus 20-21:  P.Oxy. inv. 102/171(e).   [PAP.000446]
Exodus 30.18-19:  P.Oxy. inv. 105/149(a).   [PAP.000388]
Deuteronomy:  P.Oxy. inv. 93/Dec. 23/M.1.   [PAP.000427]
Psalms 9.23-26:   P.Oxy. inv. 8 1B.188/D(1-3)a.   [PAP.000122]
Sayings of Jesus:  P.Oxy. inv. 16 2B.48/C(a).   [PAP.000377]
Romans 3:  <related to P.Oxy. inv. 101/72(a)>.   [PAP.000467]
Romans 9-10:  P.Oxy. inv. 29 4B.46/G(4-6)a.   [PAP.000425 one part]
1 Corinthians 7-10:  P.Oxy. inv. 106/116(d) + 106/116(c).   [PAP.000120 three small fragments]
Quotation of Hebrews:  P.Oxy. inv. 105/188(c).   [PAP.000378]
Scriptural homily:  P.Oxy. inv. 3 1B.78/B(1-3)a.   [PAP.000395]
(parchment) Acts of Paul:  P.Oxy. inv. 8 1B.192/G(2)b.   [MS.000514]”.

The Oxyrhynchus Papyri are a group of manuscripts discovered during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by papyrologists Bernard Pyne Grenfell and Arthur Surridge Hunt at an ancient rubbish dump near Oxyrhynchus in Egypt (28°32′N 30°40′E, modern el-Bahnasa). The manuscripts date from the time of the Ptolemaic (3rd century BC) and Roman periods of Egyptian history (from 32 BC to the Muslim conquest of Egypt in 640 AD). 

Only an estimated 10% are literary in nature. Most of the papyri found seem to consist mainly of public and private documents: codes, edicts, registers, official correspondence, census-returns, tax-assessments, petitions, court-records, sales, leases, wills, bills, accounts, inventories, horoscopes, and private letters.

Although most of the papyri were written in Greek, some texts written in Egyptian (Egyptian hieroglyphics, Hieratic, Demotic, mostly Coptic), Latin and Arabic were also found. Texts in Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac and Pahlavi have so far represented only a small percentage of the total. Since 1898 academics have puzzled together and transcribed over 5000 documents from what were originally hundreds of boxes of papyrus fragments the size of large cornflakes. This is thought to represent only 1 to 2 percent of what is estimated to be at least half a million papyri still remaining to be conserved, transcribed, deciphered and catalogued.
It's hot in Greece. Anyone who has ever been to Greece in the summer months knows this. And it's always even hotter in an urban area because biology is sloppy and people are warm. It was equally hot in ancient Hellas, and the ancient Hellenes found a way to make the heat work for them: solar architecture. Technically the term 'solar architecture' refers to the integration of passive solar, active solar or solar panel technology with modern building techniques. In ancient Hellas, the only method was passive integration, but they were the first to do so!

The idea of passive solar building design first appeared in ancient Hellas around the fifth century BC. Up until that time, the main source of fuel was charcoal, but due to a major shortage of wood to burn they were forced to find a new way of heating their houses. With necessity as their motivation, the ancient Hellenes revolutionized the design of their cities. They began using building materials that absorbed solar energy--mostly stone--and also started orienting the buildings so that they faced south. These revolutions, coupled with an overhang that kept out the hot summer sun, created structures which required very little heating and cooling. It was Socrates who instigated the trend. In 'Memorabelia' he mentions:

"When someone wishes to build the proper house, must he make it as pleasant to live in and as useful as it can be? And is it not pleasant to have the house cool in summer and warm in winter? Now in houses with a southern orientation, the sun’s rays penetrate into the porticoes, but in summer the path of the sun is right over our heads and above the roof, so we have shade. It is in such a house that the owner can find a pleasant retreat in all seasons…which makes the house at once the most useful and most beautiful." [3.8.9]
 The Ancient Hellenes built entire cities which were optimal for solar exposure. In the fifth century BC, for example, a neighbourhood for about 2500 people was built in the city of Olynthus, an ancient city of Chalcidice. The city plan of Olynthus can be found above. The streets were built perpendicular to each other, running long in the east-west direction, so that each of the five houses on each side of the street could be built with southern exposure. A street plan oriented at the cardinal points was not new at the time, but the Greeks did more. It seems that not all houses were consistently built around a south-facing courtyard. The houses that faced south on the street and south to the sun were entered through the court, straight from the street. The houses that faced north to the street and south to the sun were entered through a passageway that led from the street through the main body of the house and into the court, from which access was gained to all other spaces.

Why is this important? In keeping with the democratic ethos of the period, the height of buildings was strictly limited so that each courtyard received an equal amount of sunshine. In winter, rays from the sun traveling low across the southern sky streamed across the south-facing courts, through the portico, and into the house, heating the main rooms. The north walls were made of adobe bricks one and a half feet thick, which kept out the cold north winds of winter.

Another obvious example of Ancient Greek solar planning was Priene, rebuilt in 350 BC and located in present-day Turkey. The city had about 4000 inhabitants living in 400 houses. Its buildings and street plan were similar to those in Olynthus, but because the city was built on the slope of a steep mountain, many of the fifteen secondary streets, running north-south, were actually stairways. The seven main avenues were terraced on an east-west axis.

After Olynthus, other cities followed, and eventually Socrates architectural design was being implemented as far away as central Bulgaria. Solar cities became the norm and the ‘modern choice’ and those who did not have the intelligence to construct their homes in such a way were considered primitives.

Greece’s Ministry of Culture issued a statement on Friday informing the public about the new discoveries made recently at the wreck site which once yielded the “Antikythera mechanism” off the island of Antikythera, south of the Peloponnesian peninsula.

The statement noted that ”bones were collected, which now need to be analyzed, (as well as) olive kernels, and bronze nails from the ship as well as a bronze ring, whose use remains unknown.”
Among the findings which were discovered were sections of the bodies of ancient amphorae, as well as the bases and the necks from the main bodies of the vases.

The types of amphorae are identified as those which were typically used on the island of Kos and in Southern Italy in ancient times. The Greek Ministry noted

"This scientific mission of October 2019 completed the first five-year research program. Based on the results of the latest research, preparations for the new five-year program, starting in May 2020, will begin immediately with the continuation of excavation research in various areas of the wreck, where there are good indications that impressive new findings will come to light. The mission was concluded with great success despite adverse weather conditions and the limited length of time for the rescue research."

A large team of Greek scientists carried out the delicate mission of recovering the antiquities from the site which once uncovered the unique type of ancient brass computing mechanism, known as the “Antikythera machine,” which could predict the positions of the stars.

This latest research at the famed shipwreck site was made possible by support from the Athanasios Laskarides Public Benefit Foundation.
The wreck of The Mentor, which sank in 1802 while carrying the “Elgin Marbles” from Athens to Britain, has yielded more valuable ancient treasures to divers of Greece’s Ephorate for Underwater Antiquities.

The divers who were working under the direction of chief archaeologist Dimitris Korkoumelis recovered a gold ring, a pair of gold earrings and three chess pieces. They also recovered intact cookware, along with other wooden and iron items which were most likely ship fittings.

In 2015, the wreck yielded to marine archaelogists three amphorae handles from the 3rd century BC and a small stone vessel. The following year divers recovered ancient coins, jewellery, and Egyptian statues.

The Mentor was carrying for Lord Elgin, the world-famous statues that had recently been stripped from the Parthenon and were on their way to Britain, when on September 15, 1802, a heavy storm caused the ship to sink near Aflemonas on Kythera island, south east of the Peloponnese.

The 16 boxes in the hold of The Mentor contained not only the famous marbles but other treasures of the ancient world.

The sinking ship’s crew of 12 were rescued by the crew of a passing vessel, the Anikitos, which was sailing under the Austrian flag.

Lord Elgin organised a salvage mission and with the help of the people of Kythera and sponge divers from the islands of Simi and Kalymnos, he recovered the Parthenon marbles and these were sent on to London where they are now housed in the British Museum.

The recovery effort proved so costly that it nearly ruined Thomas Bruce, the seventh Earl of Elgin.

For more images, please go here.
Short on time today, so you're getting a theological tidbit about, you guessed it, the origin of snakes! It comes from Aelian's On the Nature of Animals.

Claudius Aelianus (Κλαύδιος Αἰλιανός), commonly called Aelian, was born at Praeneste around 175 AD. He was a Roman author and teacher of rhetoric who spoke Greek so perfectly that he was called "honey-tongued" (meliglossos). He preferred Greek authors, and wrote in a slightly archaizing Greek himself. "On the Nature of Animals" (Περὶ Ζῴων Ἰδιότητος) is a collection of seventeen books. 

Aelian has written some really weird things, among them the origin of snakes: 

"The spine of a dead man, they say, transforms the putrefying marrow into a snake. The brute emerges, and from the gentlest of beings crawls forth the fiercest. Now the remains of those that were fine and noble are at rest and their reward is peace, even as the soul also of such men has the rewards which wise men celebrate in their songs. But it is from the spine of evil-doers that such evil monsters are begotten even after life. 

The fact is, the whole story is either a fable, or if it is to be relied upon as true, then the corpse of a wicked man receives (so I think) the reward of his ways in becoming the progenitor of a snake. "

You all know I like modern inventions bringing to light more of ancient history, so of course I am interested in this ground-breaking project that has recently shed new light on Scotland's Isle of Arran’s ancient past.

A cutting-edge archaeological project using innovative technology has revealed around 1,000 previously unknown archaeological sites on the Isle of Arran. The project, undertaken by archaeologists at Historic Environment Scotland (HES), used airborne laser scanning, also known as lidar, to document the land surface in 3D. The survey is the largest of its type so far in Scotland and has detected the remains of ancient monuments on the island.

Previously unknown ancient archaeological sites which have been discovered include prehistoric settlements and medieval farmsteads, as well as a Neolithic cursus monument — an exceptionally rare find on the west coast of Scotland. Dave Cowley, Rapid Archaeological Mapping Manager at HES, said:

"This survey has shown us that there are double the number of ancient monuments on Arran than we previously knew about. This new 3D technology has allowed us to undertake a rapid archaeological survey, over weeks rather than months or years, and allowed us to discover sites that might even have been impossible to find otherwise. We have been able to see how densely settled parts of Arran were, and the medieval and post-medieval shieling sites that were discovered have told us how upland areas were used by shepherds. This is an exciting time to be involved in the development of remote sensing and archaeological mapping. We are exploring the benefits of new technology and new datasets to record Scotland’s historic environment and inform our knowledge of the past. As a result, we are enriching the information through which we tell Scotland’s story. And Arran is just a first step. As this technology become more widely available, we expect to find tens of thousands more ancient sites across the rest of Scotland – working at a pace that was unimaginable a few years ago."

The lidar data is available from the Scottish Government Remote Sensing Portal. Shona Nicol, Head of the Geographical Information Science and Analysis team said:

"It is great to see HES making such exciting use of the increasing amount of remote sensing data becoming available which will help to play a part in keeping Scotland at the forefront in this field."

Research and technological advances like this create possibilities for discoveries in other part of the world, including the areas that made up ancient Hellas.
A room of classics students is about to get a lesson in ancient literature via a very unexpected method: Instructor Brandon Bourgeois — clad in black, a gold medallion depicting the face of Medusa slung around his neck — is ready to rap.

3,000 years ago, a Greek poet whose name was Homer composed a flow for his feta, he was a real rov-uh.
He spun and spread a tale of lust, war, rage and revenge.
A tapestry, a masterpiece, words stitched together without a pen.
A story — rather gory in detail:
10 years of bloody battle waged by Greeks over a female — hell, you heard-uh Helen.
She sailed to Asia with a prince named Paris already married to a Spartan king named Menelaus.
Ran to his brother — the great king Agamemnon: “What happened to my queen?!” The brotha told him to stay strong: “We out for blood!
“Grab your weapons, spread the message to all the kings in Greece. We’ll have your Helen home in no time, a matter of weeks.”

The lyrics are his hip-hop adaptation of the prologue to The Iliad, delivered as a rap lecture in staccato bursts to music Bourgeois composed using Apple’s GarageBand app. It’s his way of making the classic poem — one of the foundational texts of Western civilization — relevant to a modern audience. But it’s also more than that. For centuries, The Iliad passed from generation to generation by spoken word.

Homer lived in the eighth century B.C. and told a story that dated from the 12th century B.C., Bourgeois said. It wasn’t until the third or fourth century B.C. that scholars in Alexandria committed the sprawling epic to the page.

Bourgeois believes that the oral tradition that kept The Iliad alive bears remarkable similarities to modern rap. Both tell tales of everyday life, hardship, violence, love lost and gained. Both are histories.

"Homer is at the end of a long line of bards just like him,” Bourgeois noted. “And he happens to be the best at it. He happens to do things with the stories that no one else has done before. It’s like having Jay-Z. Jay-Z’s not the first rapper ever, but he’s in the tradition."

Bourgeois arrived this summer at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences as a freshly minted assistant professor of classics. His primary area of research focuses on Roman political tradition.

Bourgeois acknowledges that the classics have long been considered the domain of white scholars. The glory of Greece and Rome have even been invoked by white supremacists to allege their superiority. But he notes that the classics have also been used as a tool for emancipation.

Frederick Douglass was inspired and informed by a primer on classical oratory that he spirited from the room of his owner’s son. Enslaved Africans across America in the 18th century absorbed the classics to promote insurgency.

And it didn’t end there. Bourgeois added that Black Panther Party co-founder Huey Newton reportedly taught himself to read by reading Plato’s The Republic; Newton’s autobiography,

It’s hard to imagine that Bourgeois would end up as a classics professor, much less an accomplished rapper, based on his early academic aspirations. The son of a nurse and a pharmaceutical executive, Bourgeois headed to the University of Chicago as an economics major.

"I wanted to be filthy rich. I wanted to be one of those guys that you would see in a limo or something, and people would shout down the street, ‘Die, you capitalist pig.’ I wanted to be that rich."

There was only one problem: He hated economics. His path began to change thanks to a fraternity friend who spoke 16 languages and dabbled in classics. That led Bourgeois to courses in the subject and, ultimately, a PhD from Ohio State University.

Bourgeois’ ability to translate The Iliad into rap lyrics comes from more than his knowledge of ancient tomes. He was an avid actor in high school, even becoming the national president of the Junior Thespian Society. He also plays guitar and plinks the piano when he visits his parents.
Those diverse talents and interests have coalesced into his performance project, which he calls Hype 4 Homer. His ultimate goal is to render the entire Iliad in rap — what he calls “The Trilliad” (“Trill” is hip-hop slang for true).

"The project is not just a marriage between hip hop and ancient Greek poetry,” he said, “but a marriage between Homer and I."