The place to discuss extinct languages.
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In a breakthrough described as the classical equivalent of finding the holy grail, Oxford University scientists have employed infrared technology to open up the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, and with it the prospect that hundreds of lost Greek comedies, tragedies and epic poems will soon be revealed. The 400,000 fragments of papyrus that were discovered in ancient dumps outside the Graeco-Egyptian town of Oxyrhynchus at the end of the 19th century comprise the biggest hoard of classical manuscripts in the world. But the fragments were in such bad shape, they were unreadable. Then, scientists had the idea of using multi-spectral imaging techniques developed from satellite imaging to make the writing reappear. The fragments responded to the infrared spectrum, and as if by magic long lost works of Sophocles, Euripides, Hesiod, Lucian and others have been recovered. Scholars even think they might uncover some lost Christian gospels. The works are mainly in Greek, but there are also Latin, Hebrew, Coptic, Syriac, Aramaic, Arabic, Nubian, and Persian texts, all adding up to an estimated five million words. Scholars think that when they have been through the whole hoard, the number of great literary works will increase by 20%, and the number of lesser works will double. . . . . . . (Independent News and Media (UK), 17 Apr 2005)
I'm interested in those Persian texts. Allegedly, all the texts written in Persian, apart from inscriptions, meaning on soft materials, date only to the 6-7th century AD. If the texts on the papyri at Oxyrhynchus are older, then they are the oldest Persian ones. And I'd like to see them!
- Latina Ἑλληνική संस्कृतम् पाळि עִבְרִית پارسيک الفصحى 文言 Norrœnt
So far I can't find very much on that Persian question. I'm wondering if the Oxyrhynchus papyri were dumped by people trying to save them from the burning of the Library of Alexandria. My theory is probably way off the mark in time. It's odd that history can't decide on who actually burned the Library. Was it Omar or someone else?
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