Center for the Tebtunis Papyri

Founded in 2001, the Center for the Tebtunis Papyri (CTP) is an Organized Research Project governed by an advisory committee of faculty from the Departments of Classics, Near Eastern Studies, History, and Art History and the Graduate Group in Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology (AHMA). It cooperates closely with The Bancroft Library, where the papyri and the Center's office space are housed.

CTP creates scholarly focus and support for research and graduate and undergraduate training devoted to the important collection of Tebtunis papyri held at The Bancroft Library at Berkeley and promotes international collaboration in the decipherment and investigation of the unstudied texts.

The papyri in Berkeley's care were found in the winter of 1899-1900 at the site of ancient Tebtunis, Egypt, during excavations sponsored by UC benefactress Phoebe Apperson Hearst. The collection contains documents dating from the Third Century BC to the Fourth Century AD, and is the largest assemblage of papyri in the Americas. Most of the papyri are written in ancient Greek, but there are a few with Latin writing, and many of the unstudied pieces are written in Demotic Egyptian. The texts are predominantly documentary: ordinances, letters, petitions, accounts and lists, contracts, receipts, and the like--all providing significant evidence for social and economic history. Two of the literary pieces in the collection are especially noteworthy: a fragment of Sophocles' lost satyr-play Inachos, and a large fragment of "Dictys of Crete," the Greek original of a narrative that through its Latin translation transmitted the Trojan War myth to medieval Europe.

The Center's achievements and activities since its founding include:

  • Participation of undergraduates in papyrological research (including authorship of scholarly publications) through the Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program
  • Use of the papyri in undergraduate classes
  • Visits by undergraduate classes and off-campus groups
  • Participation of several Graduate Student Researchers per year
  • Support for graduate students participating in excavations in Egypt and traveling to papyrological conferences and collections
  • Use of papyri in graduate seminars
  • Sponsorship of postdoctoral scholars and visiting research scholars
  • Hosting and organizing the American Society of Papyrologists Summer Seminar in 2004, with a volume of the participants' papers forthcoming
  • Successful completion of cataloguing, digitization, and conservation under NEH grants to APIS (Advanced Papyrological Information System)
  • Continued leadership in the APIS consortium
  • Assisting libraries (as far away as Lund, Sweden) with the cataloguing of their holdings for the APIS Project
  • Renewal of the Tebtunis Papyri publication series, with one volume published in 2005 and several volumes in progress
  • Safe transfer of the Tebtunis collection to a temporary off-campus site and then back to a new dedicated space in the refurbished Bancroft Library (2005-2008)
  • Establishment of a papyrological research library within CTP as an official part of the collection of the Bancroft Library
  • Cooperation with experiments in Multi-Spectral Imaging performed by researchers from Brigham Young University, including collaboration in an NEH grant for 2009-2011
  • Recovery in 2005 of over 2000 Tebtunis papyri that were not sent from Oxford to Berkeley in the 1930s
  • Recovery in 2006 of several dozen valuable papyri obtained for UC by Phoebe Apperson Hearst in 1900-1904 but long stranded in Egypt, Germany, and Boston
  • Sponsorship of an annual outreach lecture by a distinguished papyrologist
  • Establishing collaborative projects with centers in the UK, Belgium, Italy, and individual scholars in the US and abroad
  • Instituting a joint papyrological seminar with Oxford (2008 in Berkeley, 2010 in Oxford)
  • Hosting APIS governance meetings (twice) and the International Workshop for Papyrology and Social History
Staff contact
Mailing address

c/o Todd Hickey, Bancroft Library, Berkeley, CA 94720 - 6000

In News

From grave to gallery: Exhibit at The Bancroft Library tells story of UC Berkeley’s ancient Egyptian artifacts, papyrus texts

A new exhibit, Object Lessons: The Egyptian Collections of the University of California, Berkeley joins papyrus texts from the library’s Center for the Tebtunis Papyri, or CTP, with ancient objects from UC Berkeley’s Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology — including a 4,000-year-old statue from the Great Pyramids of Giza, papyrus fragments from Sophocles’ lost play Inachus, and an 8-foot mummified crocodile from a reptilian god’s tomb. Side by side, the materials cast color and context upon each other, offering a wider, brighter peek into life in antiquity.