Guarding grapes and other tales from papyri

Mar 24, 2014 by Tom Robinette
Guarding grapes and other tales from papyri
University of Cincinnati 's Peter van Minnen edited the recently published 50th volume of the Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists. Credit: University of Cincinnati Creative Services

If you weren't careful, you might end up beaten by grape thieves skulking in the darkness.

A University of Cincinnati graduate student writes about the contractual obligations of vineyard guards and researchers from around the world contribute more stories from ancient times in the most recent volumes of the Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists (BASP).

UC's Peter van Minnen, associate professor of classics, has edited the international journal since 2006. BASP is an annual collection of articles and reviews pertaining to important discoveries from around the world in the field of papyrology – the study of ancient texts on papyrus and other materials.

The latest volume of BASP is the 50th in the series and the eighth to have been edited at UC. The recently published journal features 35 contributions from 26 writers from 11 countries. The previous year's volume features 44 contributions from 41 writers from 14 countries. Each of the past two volumes includes content in three languages.

In "Guarding Grapes in Roman Egypt (P.Mich. inv. 438)," UC graduate student Kyle Helms details what he deciphered from a roughly 3-by-5 inch shred of dark brown papyrus dating back to the fourth century.

In large, cursive script, the hired guard outlines his labor contract: "I agree that I have made a contract with you on the condition that I guard your property, a vineyard near the village Panoouei, from the present day until vintage and transport, so that there be no negligence, and on the condition that I receive in return for pay for all of the aforementioned time" an unknown amount of money, as the papyrus is broken off at the bottom.

In his contribution, Helms references another record of a vineyard guard who was beaten by "violent and rapacious" criminals while attempting to chase them from the .

Explore further: Grad student deciphers 1,800-year-old letter from Egyptian soldier

More information: www.papyrology.org/index.php/basp

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Papyrus, parchment and paper trails

Jan 24, 2014

In a pioneering project funded by the Mellon Foundation, scholars at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich are compiling a database of Arabic documents, many dating from the early years of Islam. The online ...

High-tech imaging reveals hidden past in ancient texts

Jul 07, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- It might simply look like a smudge, but even the slightest stain on the ancient writing surface of papyrus could obscure a revelation of a past civilization. Now, with the advent of high-tech imaging, some ...

Sequencing study lifts veil on wine's microbial terroir

Nov 25, 2013

(Phys.org) —It's widely accepted that terroir—the unique blend of a vineyard's soils, water and climate—sculpts the flavor and quality of wine. Now a new study led by UC Davis researchers offers evidence ...

Recommended for you

Ancient clay seals may shed light on biblical era

Dec 20, 2014

Impressions from ancient clay seals found at a small site in Israel east of Gaza are signs of government in an area thought to be entirely rural during the 10th century B.C., says Mississippi State University archaeologist ...

Digging up the 'Spanish Vikings'

Dec 19, 2014

The fearsome reputation of the Vikings has made them the subject of countless exhibitions, books and films - however, surprisingly little is known about their more southerly exploits in Spain.

Short-necked Triassic marine reptile discovered in China

Dec 17, 2014

A new species of short-necked marine reptile from the Triassic period has been discovered in China, according to a study published December 17, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xiao-hong Chen f ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.